Great and Glorious Saint Patrick March 17 2015
What is so special about St. Patrick’s Day? Why is “everybody” Irish for this one day each year. Some ice cream stores give out free ice cream if a customer is wearing green on that day. In Ireland for centuries all pubs closed for the day of the great saint. Boston, New York, Philadelphia and other cities in the United States have parades to honor the man. It is hard to think of another country that has such a famous saint to represent them or who has been so passionately celebrated as Saint Patrick. Ever wonder why?
In esoteric literature, Ireland is a special place in earth. Legend has it that when Adam and Eve were expelled from Paradise, God couldn’t bear to keep all of the glory of Eden away from the earth and so He left a small piece of it as Ireland. When Christ came to earth, the legends also tell, because of this cherished heritage, the Druid priests experienced his death as an actual change in the elemental substances of the earth. Fire, Air, Water, and Earth were perceptibly changed in the Druid clairvoyant sensory experience. Druid prophesy predicted this moment and one faction of the Druids accepted the moment as completed, marking their own decline, while others wished to repress the change and keep their positions as the power behind the throne of the High King of Ireland and the Chieftains (not the musical group but the leaders of different clans in Ireland!).
As Christianity spread through the Western world, many missionaries traveled to Ireland and were slaughtered – all of them – on the beaches where they landed…until Patrick.
Patrick had been a Roman citizen in Gaul and was captured at the age of 16 during a regular raid of the coast of Gaul (France), and sold as a slave to a Chieftain who despised Patrick’s educated manner and handsome countenance. So Patrick was banished to the King’s remote hills where vast herds of sheep were kept. For a decade, Patrick was a shepherd, living outdoors and learning the mysterious language of Irish Gaelic and the elemental world of nature. He eventually escaped, joined a monastery in France, and studied and prayed that he could return to Ireland and bring Christianity to it, because he loved it so.
He went back with a band of friends to whom he had taught the Irish language. He was so enthusiastic, handsome, charming, and in love with Ireland and its people, that, for most, his proselytizing was irresistible. King Laoghaire (say, “Leary”) was really leery, and would not end his pagan practices. The High King had Druids whispering in his ear about the evils of Christianity, and Patrick. They tried to kill Patrick on several occasions. Miracles abound in the stories of how he survived.
On the sacred mountain of Tara, where the High King’s castle stood, Patrick faced a terrible competition with the Druids to prove whose “magic” was the more powerful. Patrick called on the elements, his friends, to produce snow in spring and also to create a darkness that had substance to it and terrified the onlookers. In the final round of this “face off” a Druid pointed to a wooden structure that was divided by a wall inside. The Druid stated that each of them would stand inside the wooden building at different sides. The building would be lit on fire and whoever came out alive would be the winner. The game was rigged because the Druids prepared the building, soaking the Patrick side in oil, while the other side had been built with wet wood, difficult to kindle. A little boy, whom Patrick had rescued from ill treatment, and who loved Patrick, ran to the saint and told him that he himself should be the one to go into the building, not Patrick. Everyone was shocked when Patrick agreed with the little man.
When the competitors were inside the structure and the flame was set to each side, Patrick went into a kind of trance and mighty winds kicked up and blew all the flames away from the little boy’s side of the structure and fiercely towards the Druid side of the structure.
The boy stepped out of the wooden shed unburnt and unharmed. The Druid had been burnt to a charred form. After this event King Laoghaire was more tolerant of the sweeping tide of Christianity St. Patrick brought, but he never himself converted.
Some say that the legend of Patrick banning all snakes from the Emerald Isle is a symbol for his casting out Druids from the land. There are no snakes in Ireland – this is true!
Patrick is famous for having used the Shamrock (a three leaf clover – or if you are lucky, a four leaf clover) to explain the Holy Trinity, showing how three can be one.
So, have a happy Saint Patrick’s Day
And that tradition lives on and on: Séamus Heaney, Frank and Malachy McCourt, Thomas Kinsella, William Butler Yeats, John Millington Singe, James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, Oscar Wilde, Jonathan Swift, and George Bernard Shaw are just a short list of the mighty writers who carried on the tradition of saving civilization against the odds of genocide, war, and “the troubles.” Hail the Irish! Hail Saint Patrick!