It happens every year, and this year St Patrick’s Day falls on a Friday, so you can bet it’ll be even worse. This is the day people dress up in green, yell “Erin go Bragh!,” drink gallons of green beer (if you can call the swill they drink in most American bars beer), and wear “Kiss Me I’m Irish” buttons.
It’s all fun and games. Everybody’s Irish for a day, right?
After all, Americans will accept any excuse to go out en masse and get drunk and act like fools. Hel, I bet the U.S. is the only country in the world that celebrates another country’s independence day, namely Cinco De Mayo.
I, however, will not be celebrating. If I drink, it will be to soothe the depressed feeling I feel every year on this day. I will not wear green—I will intentionally wear black. I will wear black in remembrance of the crimes done against the indigenous people of Ireland by the Catholic Church and embodied in the St Patrick myth.
For there are few blacker crimes in history. And frankly, all the joviality around the crimes committed against the peaceful Celtic people of Ireland make me sick. I’ve even been known to shed a tear on St Patrick’s Day—or rather Irish Lament Day, as I call it.
Do you know the stories? Good ol’ St Patty forced the snakes out of Ireland and thus forever “saved” the people.
As proof just look around the island. Other than a few pets, there are no snakes. Certainly no breeding population in the wild. So the story about good ol’ St Patty must be true…
Wrong. First, Ireland has no snakes. Never did. At least not for over 10,000 years. The ice age that receded around 10,000 years ago made Ireland and Great Britain inhospitable to snakes. After the glaciers receded, there was a land bridge for a while between continental Europe and Great Britain and Great Britain and Ireland. However no snakes made it across to Ireland.
Three types of snakes did make it to Great Britain, but the land bridge between Great Britain and Ireland covered over with water 1500 years before the bridge between Europe and Great Britain. In short, the snakes had a lot longer to get to Great Britain and a shorter distance to travel.
And today a snake would have to swim through 50 miles of ocean to get to Ireland. That might be possible for a sea snake, but sea snakes live in tropical waters, not in the frigid waters around Ireland.
So no snakes? Then what is the legend referring to if there are no snakes in Ireland? Do you understand the legend? Does it even make sense?
Let’s look back at good ol’ St Patty and see if I can explain this heinous crime. Padraig (his Irish name) was a fifth-century bishop in the Catholic Church. He was Bishop of Ireland and is now the Patron Saint of Ireland, along with Brigit of Kildare. Brigit is most certainly a call back to Brigid, the Goddess of fire in Celtic Mythology. The Christianization of Brigid into Brigit gives us a clue about Padraig and the crime he is credited with committing.
There are more hints when we look at the historical record and discover disagreements over the specifics of Padraig’s life. Some scholars claim that there were two Padraigs and history combined them into one. In other words, these scholars are claiming that Padraig’s legacy derives more from myth and legend and less from historical facts about his actual life. This can happen with people as centuries go by, particularly regarding religious figures. It’s not that Pardraig didn’t exist, it’s just that he picked up attributes from others as his story passed between generations over time. The actual facts of his life became clouded by myth.
Padraig became bigger than life. People need a hero, and they will even turn a criminal into a hero if they have no other choice.
I believe that is what happened. As the years after his death passed, he became more important as a figure than he had been as a man. People gave him credit for things he hadn’t really done, and soon enough he became a metaphor for the Catholic Church itself. If anyone in the Church did anything, Padraig was given credit.
Neither Padraig, nor the Church, ever drove rattlesnakes or boa constrictors out of Ireland. The snakes are a metaphor for those ubiquitous and powerful serpents found in diverse mythologies throughout the world. From the staff of Hermes to the praxis of Kundalini, snakes coiled, entwined, and ascending appear in a variety of shamanic and pagan traditions as symbols of duality, transcendence, awakening, and knowledge.
In Greek mythology, the serpents appear coiled about the caduceus, the legendary staff of Hermes. Legends held this staff could send a waking person to sleep, and wake a person who slept. Applied to a living person, it would grant him a gentle death, and when applied to the dead, it could raise them from the grave. In tantric yoga, the coiled serpent ascending represents the flow of Kundalini, up through the chakras along the spinal column and bursting from the topmost “crown” chakra, or Sahasrara, in a flood of divine vision and awareness. From the ancient Mayans to Egypt, Greece and China, you will find the serpent or snake as a powerful, potent, and sacred symbol.
Throughout ancient history, all over the world, serpents have been central figures in indigenous and mystery religions, symbols of power and awakening, associated with the mysteries of life and death. Not until the advent of the Christian religion were serpents ever associated with deception or evil, and it is no coincidence. These associations were manufactured in direct tandem with the concept that all belief systems outside this semitic-origin monotheism were false and wrong.
In Ireland, the Church associated snakes with the practice of the Celtic paganism. Hence, the Church “drove out the snakes.” Padraig was the metaphor for the Church—so the myth goes that Padraig drove out the snakes.
Padraig is the symbol of the Church’s treachery.
Why do I call the Church’s action treachery? Because the Celtic people of Ireland were some of the most advanced people of their age.
By the time the Romans arrived in Northern Europe, the Celtic people had built roads that extended all throughout Europe. They had established an advanced society and culture which required care for the infirm in their midst and allowed women to own properly independently. They had an established system of currency and economy, and built settlements throughout Europe. Their decentralized social structure spread the balance of power between cooperating local towns and settlements, a concept not seen again until the formation of these United States of America.
As pioneers of diplomacy in foreign relations in their own right, the Celts traded with other cultures far and wide. The Irish specifically never fought wars of aggression. While they fought to repel invaders, they never sought the conquest of other peoples
Some even say the Celts traveled to the Far East, built the temples in the mountains and taught the monks their spiritual practices. Indeed, I was told by a reliable source, who has visited these temples and made personal friends among Tibetan monks, that if you go to some of these remote temples in Tibet, you’ll find statues of tall, fair-haired men with blue eyes.
The society that worshiped the Celtic gods was not aggressive, though they were unashamedly strong and unafraid of violence. They were intelligent, industrious, evolved far beyond contemporaneous European societies in many ways, and clearly comprehended deep and abiding spiritual truths …
All gone because Padraig (the Church) drove out the snakes.
If you listen to people talking about Ireland, it sounds as if visiting the island is a spiritual experience in and of itself. The land, they say, is powerful. And now the knowledge of the land and how to live as one with that power is lost … because Padraig (the Church) drove out the snakes.
Ever wonder why the Irish drink so much? I know, it’s a stereotype, but it’s true. According to a report from the World Health Organization, Ireland has the second highest rate of binge drinking in the world. Why is that?
I don’t know for sure, but I can imagine that feeling the spiritual power of the land in your soul while being told that nature herself is compromised by evil, which is what the Catholic Church teaches, could have something to do with it. Perhaps it’s this complete lack of understanding of the power they feel emanating from the land. The feeling that it is beautiful and spiritual and good—all the while being told it’s evil, horrible, the “work of the devil.”
Imagine feeling such power emanating from the land where you live and work, all your life, while being taught from childhood that if you acknowledge that power or revere it, you will suffer eternal torture in the afterlife. That’d be enough to drive even the strongest man or woman to drink.
And why are the Irish people cut off from the power of the land? Because Padraig (the Church) drove out the snakes!
The Church gladly disposed of the spiritual enlightenment which was the heritage of the Celtic people. They disposed of their strength, their love and relationship with the land, their history and culture, and their very soul. “Padraig” drove off the “snakes” and condemned the Irish people to a tortured existence, torn between ancestral memories of strength and enlightenment, identity and geocentric connectedness, and the message from the Church that the cry of their very DNA in the core of their souls is somehow “evil.”
And now you want to celebrate that?
Not a chance. No thank you. Not me. You go drink green beer and scream “Erin Go Bragh!” if you want. You can pretend to be Irish if you aren’t. My ancestors came from Ireland. I’ve seen the signature of my great great grandfather in a book in Ellis Island. I still remember the almost electric shock that went through my body when I saw it.
You celebrate what the Church did, these heinous crimes committed by those in power. I can’t.
You can wear green if you want, but I remember the black crimes of the Church. I remember the glorious beliefs of the ancient Celts. I remember what the Church did to the Irish, and to the rest of the world, when they crushed the Celtic religion.
So while you wear green to celebrate this crime, I will wear black to mourn it.