A Final Word on Saint Patrick

A Final Word on Saint Patrick

There is enough presumption concerning my article, Pagans and Saint Patrick’s Day: The Real Meaning of the Holiday, that I feel I should say a final word on Saint Patrick to clear a few things up. I actually had to go back and read the article again, just to confirm that I did not, in fact, refer to the Christianization of Ireland as a genocide, compare as-such to the Jewish Holocaust, or state that St. Patrick was the leader of an invading Christian army. Nope. None of that is in there. So, basically, if anyone wants to argue with my very personal account of my relationship with St. Patrick’s Day, we should, perhaps, stick to what I actually said. That won’t be nearly as frustrating for either of us as arguing about points I never made.

All I really want to say in this regard is that St. Patrick was never the leader of an invading Christian army. That’s a simple fact. I never asserted, or thought, anything of the sort. If truth be told, St. Patrick himself probably didn’t accomplish nearly as much as he’s credited for, but was rather the beneficiary of centuries of clever marketing by the Catholic Church following his death. He was, after all, the first bishop of Armagh, Primate of Ireland, and as such was very useful in converting the Irish people to Christianity. The subjugation of a people does not have to happen at the point of a sword. It’s very helpful to give native people their own saints, and the Catholic Church did exactly that with Patrick.

No, the subjugation of the Irish people was a gradual process, which could perhaps best be summed up as an assimilation supported by the weight and authority of the early Catholic Church (which only grew in weight and authority in the centuries following Patrick’s death). That it is said St. Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland should not be taken to mean he literally drove out the Pagans at the point of a spear. What that means is that St. Patrick is largely credited with bringing Christianity to Ireland (whether deserved or not), and the “driving out the snakes” bit is a metaphor for the supplantation of native Pagan religions with Christianity (ie, driving out the heathen gods). No. There were no armies. There were no battles. There was no holocaust. That is not what is meant when I refer to subjugation.

St. Patrick was traditionally reviled in my ancestry not because of anything he actually did himself, but because of the stories attributed to him. The IDEA of St. Patrick, more than the person of the actual man, was very much used as a tool of subjugation. The native religions of Ireland were deemed evil and blasphemous by the Church, and the image of St. Patrick was used as a metaphor in the suppression of them. When I refer to the blood of my ancestors, I refer to the bloodlines and traditions that were suppressed at the insistence of the Christian church. It says all that needs to be said that when people hear I am of Irish descent, they most often assume I am Catholic. It most often doesn’t occur to them that there were beliefs in Ireland that preceded Christianity.

In closing, it is true that I compared my reaction to the Christian cross to that of Jewish people to the Nazi swastika, but that doesn’t mean I was comparing the subjugation of the Irish people to the Nazi genocide of the Jews. Sometimes people mean exactly what they say, and all I meant is that I have an aversion to the Christian cross in much the same way that a swastika makes a Jew angry (though for different reasons, obviously). In my life, and in the lives of my ancestors, the Christian cross is a symbol of a people who have always insisted that those of us from different spiritual paths stop being who we are and start pretending to be who they insist we must be. Any non-Christian who has ever run afoul of angry Evangelicals can relate to that. If you yourself are an angry Evangelical, you can perhaps be excused for not understanding what it’s like to be on the opposite side of all the hateful rhetoric. Let it suffice to say that it’s not all pleasant.

Okay, all that said, I’m off to the races. I love you, one and all. Even the ones I disagree with. I love discussion and debate, and encourage everyone to continue having at it.

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Trish
Trish
5 years ago

Claire, You dont need to defend yourself <3, just stand in the truth and that is enough <3 Yes they tried to kill our spirit, burn our books and make us forget our stories, our ancestors, our power…but they havent succeeded, our fire burns and we are sharing our stories around the hearth again…the embers are starting to blaze again. The Trees The Tall ones remember …In the turning of The Wheel it comes round again, we are all woven into this weave, we are all the grandaughters of the witches they could not kill. Blessings to you Claire, and all the strong women in your line <3

Dwight Chandler
Dwight Chandler
5 years ago

Dear Claire,

I do not claim to be a Pagan or to fully understand the teachings; however, I am a seeker of truth and I appreciate the time and effort that you have expended educating people on the truth. You are magnificent! Please keep up the good work.

Thank you,
Dwight

Dawn
5 years ago

Claire,
I too, am like Dwight. I am a truth seeker and am very interested in learning the ancestry/history of Paganism, and how other religious beliefs played their part in the historical timeline. Being of Scottish and Irish decent, this has always been a need for me to learn about.
My friends and myself have made our own study group, as to enlighten ourselves about Paganism and to enrich our lives with spirituality. As we are all eager to research and learn, your articles brought light to us all. Thank you for your teachings, and account of St. Patrick, and how it ties into your families history.
You write eloquently, concise, and in a clear manner. I felt your article to be a wonderful starting point of research. My group will be reading your articles, and many others, so that we may discuss and grow our knowledge together.
Looking forward to reading more. Thank you for all the time you give. The 4 of us appreciate your writings.

Skip Ford
1 month ago
Reply to  Dawn

Dawn may your days be beautiful. Paganism is a very broad subject and can take a lifetime to learn all the aspects. I have studied theology and was one of the reasons I left Christianity and became a pagan. I say Pagan even though it consumes many attributes of many different following. I sort of pick and choose what I believe according to what I believe in my own mind. Just as I am my own god and all my actions are based on my own decisions and I can not so to speak blame their god or the devil or whatever entity one so chooses. I am responsible for my own actions. I always believe for every action there is a reaction and it’s just a never-ending cycle which is why I tend to avoid many people as they fail to see what their actions will cause as they act without logic and observation. Sorry about getting off on a tangent there. I love your approach as you wish to learn but if there is one thing I could recommend is to always have an open mind and always question. It makes the learning process fun and exciting and never feel a question is stupid. The best to you on your Pagan journey.

Geo
Geo
5 years ago

Well written and very illuminating. Many thanks:)

Kenneth Bledsoe
Kenneth Bledsoe
5 years ago

That cross disgusts me as well. I see it as 2000 years of population control, greed, lust, murder, … blood money, subjugate people- boys to go die for them, women and the poor with no rights- the inquisition… It just goes on and on.

James Bost
James Bost
3 years ago

I was always taught the cross was evil symbol my dad always said if Jesus did die on a cross wearing one around your neck would be the same as wearing the Casing from a bullet that killed a loved one.

Skip Ford
1 month ago
Reply to  James Bost

Got a good point there James!.

Wil
Wil
2 years ago

I have always heard the metaphor and have studiously worn black on St Patrick’s day and spirited the motto ‘return the snakes to Ireland’ through my decades as a practicing pagan… That said, I was in Ireland last year for an extended stay and talked to many locals, both Pagan and Catholic, including those walking Patrick’s pilgrimage at Croagh Patrick. None of them had ever heard anything of the sort related to St Patrick and the removal (conversion) of Pagans. They all honestly and sincerely tell you “no, he drove the snakes out… the real snakes… its why we dont have any snakes here… they were terrible once, and dangerous, and now there are no snakes on the island”. I honestly dont know what to make of it except to say its what the Irish of all backgrounds tell me… and there is plenty of Paganism still alive in the country even among the most devout Catholics.

Greg
Greg
2 years ago

You have highlighted a point that has bothered me for a long time, conservative Christians who have the attitude of “I am better than you. I don’t understand or like what you do, therefore you are wrong, and must be punished, severely.” It amazes me how much some people get their-undies- in-a-bunch when someone else “doesn’t pray the right way”.

Skip Ford
1 month ago
Reply to  Greg

Greg, I have felt the same way and even though I respect every religion I love to ask the so-called Christians who in most cases are by name only and not by actions they prophesize can’t seem to supply the answers. They always seem to end up saying it’s because of God’s way which is a cop-out as they cannot answer the question. What many people fail to realize is Christianity is not that old compared to other Pagan religions. In truth, Christianity cannot present anything that is truly their’s as they stole everything, turned everything inside out and upside down to conform to their beliefs to get people to covert. It’s just a big money-making organization that cares little for the human race. I soon learned the only way they get their followers is by bashing others into submission and the fear of missing everlasting life. Maybe a bit harsh for respecting all religions but sometimes the truth hurts.

Skip Ford
1 month ago

I don’t celebrate the Christian Holiday but do go to some events as I love the music and the Irish dancers. I love the bagpipes and the I am learning to play the flute as well. I just love Irish music. I have read numerous articles where many of the Irish fail to celebrate the holiday because of the Christian conquest over Ireland. Last few years I have avoided the holiday altogether. When it comes to the Christian conquest I love relating it to the Native Americans who when the English settlers came to the shores of America that they would kill anyone that got in their way as they were given their god-given right to the land. They called the natives heathens and slowly set about converting them and those that did not convert or escape were sold into slavery to work the sugar cane fields of the English colonies in the Caribbean. There were a few great Native American quotes with the feelings about the Christian conquest of America and one was Chief Pontiac who stated “They came with a Bible and their religion- stole our land, crushed our spirit … and now tell us we should be thankful to the ‘Lord’ for being saved. There is one I forgot who wrote it but it said, “that if their god was so great and had this bible how come they were not granted one.” The Christian religion has pillaged and plundered countless civilizations all the while preaching love and kindness which is why they must turn the other cheek as they are as so embarrassed for the lies they must profess.