No doubt you are planning on spending the evening at home this year celebrating the day dedicated to good ole Saint Patty, the patron saint of Ireland. What else are you going to do during a quarantine? It’s the day when American’s indulge in Irish favorites like Corned-Beef and Cabbage, Potatoes, and Shamrock anything. Washing it all down with a pint of Killian’s Red or Guinness.
Besides the guy that gives all an excuse to down one too many beers every March 17th (the day St. Patty supposedly died), you may wonder, who was Saint Patrick anyway? It’s hard to say when exactly Saint Patrick was born. However, according to Confessio of Saint Patrick, he was born to the deacon, Calpornius. In his own words, he describes himself as “a sinner, a simple country person, and the least of all believers. I am looked down upon by many.” When he was about 16, he was captured by Irish pirates from his home in Britain and taken into slavery and transported to Ireland, looking after animals; he lived there for six years before escaping and returning to his family. After becoming a cleric, he returned to northern and western Ireland. In later life, he served as a bishop, but little is known about his occupation or where he resided. By the 7th century, he had already come to be revered as the patron saint of Ireland.
What about the Snakes…?
Legend has it that St. Patrick banished all the snakes from Ireland. The reputations of serpents have been tarnished since the Garden of Eden. So it is no surprise that this story of the Irish Saint running these reptiles into the sea is a favored fable.
Some believe there aren’t any snakes in Ireland. However, I hate to be the bearer of bad news. There are snakes. Earlier this month it was reported that there was the first-ever snake bite in Ireland by a venomous puff adder snake. Most commonly found in Morocco and Western Arabia, the puff adder is known to cause the most snakebite fatalities in Africa. Their average size is about 40 inches in total length and very stout. It was more than likely brought over to Ireland as a pet and escaped into the green lands.
The shamrock is special to all as a symbol of the Irish because St. Patrick used a fistful of shamrock on the Hill of Tara to explain the mystery of the Holy Trinity to the pagans around him at that historic site. Come to find out, this simply isn’t the case.
The fact is that he didn’t mention shamrocks in his many writings about his conversion campaign at that time. Any link between the good saint and shamrock did not appear until English writers and botanists began mentioning the myth as hearsay about 1571.
Even Irish botanists of great lore and learning cannot accurately identify a shamrock to this very day. The cruel reality is that the original Gaelic word seamróg, Anglicized to the shamrock, means “young clover.” Additionally, its history dates back to ancient Ireland when the shamrock, also called the “seamroy” by the Celts, represented the rebirth of spring.
It wasn’t until the 1798 Irish Rebellion that the Irish wore the shamrock as a symbol of Irish nationalism.
The truth is that the good ‘ole Saint Patty would probably roll over in his grave if he knew that there was a holiday in his honor that encourages debauchery. Nonetheless, he’d more than likely forgive. So in the end, St. Patrick’s Day is just an excuse to party in green.
© Gena Vazquez 2020