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Saint Patrick, Historical Jerk?

It’s St. Patrick’s Day!

This is the day we celebrate Irishness by drinking green beer, wearing green clothes, and vomiting green vomit.

I’ve never much cared about St. Patrick’s day, but there’s a pretty sizable Irish population in my area, so I tend to be surrounded by people who actually do care about it. However, I learned just within the past couple of years that I apparently have some Irish ancestors. Maybe I should get in on the nationalism and celebrate the life of this St. Patrick guy!

Unfortunately, problems arise.

St. Patrick wasn’t Irish, for one thing, so there goes my nationalistic fervor right off the bat. He was British, under Roman rule at the time (roughly 400 C.E.). When he was 16, Irish raiders attacked his family’s estate and kidnapped him into slavery. He spent the next six years or so in Ireland as a slave/shepherd.

After six years of hanging out with sheep as a slave, Patrick turned to Christianity for comfort. At this point, God supposedly spoke to him in a dream, telling him to leave Ireland. Which is pretty weird, actually. Not the “deity giving advice in a dream” part, but the fact that apparently a slave had the option to just leave. Why the hell did he need a dream to tell him that in the first place?

Regardless, he walked what is purported to be about 200 miles to the coast, where he escaped to Britain. Presumably, God also set up a boat ride for him.

Back in Britain, Patrick kept having wacky dreams.  This time an angel told him to go back to Ireland as a missionary. God didn’t tell him this time, because that would just be embarrassing, after telling him to leave Ireland and all. Wouldn’t want to seem inconsistent.

So Patrick went to priest school for a little while, then it was back to Ireland, to convert the heathens and drive out the snakes, while making himself a tidy profit in the process!

Of course, there never were any snakes in Ireland in the first place. They couldn’t get there, what with it being an island in a cold climate, and them being reptiles with poor cliff-climbing skills. New Zealand , Iceland, Greenland, and Antarctica don’t have any snakes for similar reasons.

So what’s the deal with St. Patrick driving the snakes out of Ireland, like the old myth goes? Simple, the “snakes” were Druids.

Menacing Druid with his pet snake!

St. Patrick was just like any other missionary. He was there to drive out the Druids and other pagans so he could impose Christianity on the country. In other words, he was a dick. Luckily, it’s not like the introduction of Christianity to Ireland has ever caused any problems, right?

How about the holiday itself, though? Maybe we can celebrate it despite St. Patrick being sort of a douchebag. Well, the important thing to know about it is that it falls during Lent, and historically allowed people to get away with eating meat and getting super-drunk during a time when they were supposed to be fasting sadsacks. It also borrowed a lot from the bitchin’ fun pagan parties that Patrick was complicit in eventually wiping out.

So go ahead with the green beer and debauchery, by all means! But do it for the Druids. They’re the ones who threw the good parties in the first place.

One Comment

  1. Justin wrote:

    I remembered someone telling me that the snakes were druids. Funny, they didn’t look druish. However I couldn’t seem to find an exact reference for it. Very good point of view. I sort of took the other side. Not that I had anything against druids. I mean, if you were enslaved somewhere, it would take a lot of nerve to go back. It was probaby his way of healing, but then again…after reading your post it could have been revenge. http://cowparts.blogspot.com/2012/03/what-is-st-patricks-day-or-irish-i-were.html I think we all have the capacity to be jerks every once in a while.

    Saturday, March 17, 2012 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

2 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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    [...] I Almost Forgot:  Hanna did a great piece about vegan-friendly drinking options, including this link (which I adored, even though it’s not entirely current, and I have NO clue who the person [...]

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