Saint Patrick’s Day: Myths and Facts

 

Plenty of people will be whooping it up today in celebration of Saint Patrick’s Day. Before we get too carried away with green beer and corned beef, I thought it would be fun to take a look into the legends and myths surrounding the saint and the day.

FUN FACTS:

  • Saint Patrick was not actually Irish! He was born in around 386 A.D.  to Roman parents, probably somewhere in either Wales or Scotland.
  • He was kidnapped! At age 16, Patrick was kidnapped by Irish pirates. He spent the next 6 years in Ireland, held captive as a slave where he worked as a sheep herder.

  • His name was not Patrick! Some historical sources list his birth name as Maewyn Succat. He changed it to the Latin name Patricius after becoming a priest. (Perhaps we should be celebrating Maewyn’s Day instead? Has a nice ring to it!)
  • He escaped slavery in around 408 A.D., via a ship that took him to France. It was there he studied theology under Saint Germaine and was eventually ordained a priest.
  • He returned to Ireland as a missionary in around 418 A.D., determined to convert the Celts to Christianity.
  • He actually taught a form of Christo-paganism. Recognizing the spiritual practices already in place by the Celts, Patrick taught a combination of nature-oriented Pagan rituals which he incorporated into church practices.

  • He invented the Celtic Cross — a bridge of Christianity and Paganism. The Celtic cross combined the sun-worshiping symbolism of the circle with the Christian cross. It is often decorated with runes and other Pagan symbols.

MYTH BUSTERS

  • There were no snakes! Patrick is said to have banished the snakes from Ireland, but scientists agree that post-glacial Ireland never had any snakes to begin with.
  • Naturalist Nigel Monaghan, of the National Museum of Ireland states: “At no time has there ever been any suggestion of snakes in Ireland, so [there was] nothing for St. Patrick to banish.” Mr. Monaghan has searched extensively through Irish fossil collections and records to reach these conclusions.
  • Patrick did not wear green. Historians believe that he was more closely associated with the color blue, as a symbol of truth, beauty, and the heavens. Sometime around the 1700’s, the shamrock became a symbol of Irish nationalism, thus promoting the color green for all things Irish.
  • The holiday was not always a beer-drinking marathon.  Originally, it was a solemn occasion. In Ireland, Saint Patrick’s Day was a holy day of obligation, celebrated chiefly in church. Only in America did it take on its festive nature, with the first Patrick’s Day parades being held in 1700’s Boston.
  • Just look at us now! In Chicago, we dye the beer, AND the river green! (Modeled here by my lovely Irish niece.)

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, standing, sky, skyscraper, ocean, outdoor and water

  • The Irish did not eat corned beef. Although corned beef and cabbage is now a traditional meal served on Saint Patrick’s Day, the Irish were more likely to have eaten pork. (Pig farms were quite abundant in pre-potato famine Ireland.)
  • Irish immigrants in America began to replace pork with beef because it was a cheaper meat. Corned beef was originally a Jewish recipe — probably shared among other immigrants in cities like Boston and New York.

  • There was no shamrock! It is said that Patrick used a three leaf clover to explain the Holy Trinity, but that story was never told until around the 16th century, some 1100 years after his death.

  • The shamrock’s three leaves are actually said to be symbols of hope, love and faith. If we come across a four leaf clover — the fourth leaf symbolizes (you guessed it!) luck! 🙂

Have a safe, happy and blessed Saint Patrick’s Day!

 

 

Advertisements

Póg mo thóin

 

greenfairy

The river is green, the Guinness flows freely, the leprechauns are out and about. You never know what may be at the end of their rainbow.  However, it would not be Saint Patrick’s Day without music from the FABULOUS POGUES!!!!

pogues

This Celtic punk band was formed in 1982 by front man Shane MacGowan (aka Shane Hooligan), a rabble rousing displaced Irishman who had plenty to say about politics, prejudice and poetry.

The band was originally named ‘Pogue Mahone’, which is the phonetic pronunciation of the Irish phrase Póg mo thóin. Translated to English it apparently means “Kiss my ass.”  🙂

Shane chose the name as a joke and figured no one in English speaking countries would be able to figure out the meaning, but au contraire.  The name caused a massive uproar.  The BBC banned performances by Pogue Mahone and they could not get a record deal, so they shortened their name to ‘Pogues’. (This was acceptable, the Irish word póg meaning ‘kiss’.)

Shane had the last laugh though, when the Pogues released an album called ‘Rum, Sodomy and the Lash’. Reportedly the title was a quote by Winston Churchill. When asked about the state of the British Navy during World War 2, Churchill allegedly replied “Don’t talk to me about naval tradition!  It’s nothing but rum, sodomy and the lash!”

 

captain jack

 

At any rate, you won’t find a better band to celebrate Paddy’s Day. Here are two of their classics, ‘If I Should Fall From Grace of God’ and ‘Waxie’s Dargle’.  Break out the whiskey, kick up your heels and have a listen!

Lá Shona Fhéile Pádraig! (or Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!)

If I Should Fall From Grace With God — an Irish patriot grapples with his own sins and mortality. “Let me go down in the mud where the rivers all run dry.”  Worth listening just to hear Shane’s banshee scream mid song. I dare you not to dance, or at least toe tap!

 

‘Waxie’s Dargle’ is a traditional folk song, made punk by the Pogues.  A Waxie (candle maker) wants to go to the party (dargle).  Sadly she is so poor she cannot raise the money to go, not even by selling her husband’s suspenders.  “When food is scarce and you see the hearse you know you died of hunger!”

For such a morbid song, this version is hilarious! Sorry about the poor quality of this video, but nonetheless —  you can’t beat their loopy energy.  Sláinte!