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Separating St. Patrick's Day's Facts, Fictions

Todd Kelley
Commentary Editor

St. Patrick’s Day is coming. In celebration, beer will be consumed, people will sing Irish folk music; perhaps a river dance will be in order. So, why can't I get excited?

Always the malcontent, I cannot be happy about this holiday. I cannot celebrate the eradication of my heritage. So many rumors exist about this holiday, sifting truth from fiction quickly becomes impossible.

Patrick, born Maewyn, no doubt lived a life worthy of praise. Unlearned and an escaped slave, he rose to become a saint. Many things do not add up though.

Folklore says Patrick made excellent use of the shamrock. He used the native plant to educate the barbarians on the idea of trinity. While that story has a certain charm, I am confused.

Brigid (a catholic saint and deity of the druid religion) was a triple aspect goddess in the Irish pantheon before Patrick came around. If that were true, why would Patrick have to teach the idea of a triple aspect god?

Catholic stories say that St. Brigid worked closely with St. Patrick during his missions in Ireland. Oddly enough, the Catholic Church nicknames her the same thing the druids did. That represents something, though no one seems to know what.

This all leads to the biggest legacy of Patrick. Many people refute the claim that he rid Ireland of serpents. Literally speaking I agree; symbolically I can see a difference.

Serpents have been used by many religions to represent wisdom. In Christianity, the manipulative and wily Satan used the serpent's form to trick Eve. From Greek mythology, we get snakes twined around a rod, a symbol associated with medicine.

   In Ireland, druids were known for their multi-layered education. Druids played the roles of advisers, healers, spiritual leaders, bards and lawyers. Most importantly, druids were the historians of the oral Irish traditions. With their eradication, much of Irish history followed.  

   Groups exist that give us information to Irish history. Many groups, though they have ancient sounding names like Ancient Order of Druids, debate over whether they should call themselves neo-druids. Neo-druids, they claim, stem from the lack of knowledge that we have. They give accounts of Druidism, but the Wiccan revival groups cannot be cited for good information. This leads us right back to the fact that we can only cast about and cling to what little remains.

   I consider myself a seeker of truth. I want to know what happened. I am left with a shamrock and a misrepresented leprechaun.

   People laugh at jokes about adolescent Irish girls getting pregnant and beaten by their fathers. I am not saying that we have not earned that reputation. I just wonder what really happened to my past.  

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©The Voice 2006
Revised
03/10/2006 10:57:53 PM— http://www.uamont.edu/Organizations/TheVoice/3_20/stpats.htm