St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland.
The fact that he wasn’t Irish and wasn’t named Patrick
didn’t seem to thwart this in the slightest… According to the Catholics,
Patty’s real name was Maewyn Succat. "Patrick" was the Roman Catholic
name he adopted later in life. He was born at Kilpatrick, near Dumbarton, Scotland, in the year
387. The name changed when he was in his twenties. According to church records, Maewyn died in
Saul, Downpatrick, Ireland,
on March 17th, 493. He would
have been 106.
When he was sixteen, Maewyn was captured by pirates and then sold as a slave
to a chieftain named Milchu in Dalriada, Ireland.
For the next six years, he tended sheep in the valley of the Braid where Maewyn
began hearing voices.
Understandably, these voices told him that this whole slavery gig wasn’t really
all that great, and that he should escape back to England.
For some reason, Patrick interpreted these voices as "angels" instead
of "common sense." Either way, he ran away from his master, persuaded
the captain of a boat into permitting him passage back to England,
and finally returned home at the age of twenty-two. Since he credited God and angels for his
release, he became focused upon being holy and pure in order to thank the
powers that be for his freedom.
As Patty had such a predilection toward the idea of conquering, ahem, saving the souls of Ireland,
Pope St. Celestine I gave Patrick a mission to "gather the Irish race into
the one fold of Christ." (i.e., convert who you can and kill the rest). In
433 Patrick landed at Wicklow Head in Ireland
to begin his conquest of the evil, loathsome, heathenous Druids that were
living blissful, jovial lives unaware that they were, in fact, wretched and
miserable without Christ.
Over the years, Patrick went about raising the dead, healing
the sick, and doing all your run of the mill "saint" stuff. In return
for all this astounding work, God promised Patrick that he could be judge of
all of Ireland–instead
of Christ–when the Apocalypse came. As a special favor to Patrick, God also
agreed to send a massive tidal wave to demolish all of Ireland
and kill every Irishman so they wouldn’t be tempted to join the Antichrist in
the End Times. Now isn’t that sweet? I guess we should all drink up while we still can.
Evidently, Patrick went up on a mountain and prayed for forty days. (Why is
it always forty days?) It is said that
his prayers were so powerful that they drove all the snakes out of Ireland.
The difficult part of this tale is not in ascertaining whether or not it is
true, but in figuring out who in their right minds would believe it.
Like all islands its biosphere is unique. Australia
(another island) is famous for its peculiar and inimitable flora and fauna. The
same is true of Ireland. A reptile expert will tell you that snakes and other reptiles would not
flourish in the cold, damp weather of Ireland
even if they did make it there from the mainland. Furthermore, ecologists state
has frozen-over many times since the big Ice Age. This would kill off any residual snakes that
may have been lurking there.
In all likelihood the whole tale is some sort of allegory for
"cleansing" Ireland of Druid worship. (Druid priests were known for tattooing snakes upon their forearms, dontcha know?) And
although there is now a huge population of Catholics in Ireland,
he was never successful at eliminating all of the pagans. The annual Druidic Wickerman festival in Ireland
which pre-dates Patrick, attracts hundreds of thousands of people every year.
So, I guess not all the snakes are gone.