As those of you in Ireland have no doubt noticed, this past weekend featured our national holiday, the much-feted St Patrick’s Day. Celebrated around the world by green-clad drunken imbeciles, puking and pissing on the streets and getting into fights outside fast-food restaurants, it is the embodiment of the most negative of Irish stereotypes. All in the name of what? Why is our national day associated with a mythical being?
Other national holidays celebrate such historic events as independence, or formation of the state. Or holidays celebrate notable days or people in the history of the particular part of the world. Examples being the 25th of April in Portugal, celebrating the revolution overthrowing the fascist dictatorship. Or France marking the storming of the Bastille on July 14th. Scotland dedicate a day (well, night) to national treasure Robbie Burns on January 25th. And of course the 4th of July marks the Philippines independence from the colonial USA. But Ireland? We celebrate the death knell of the Ancient Celtic culture and the poisoning of the country by the Cult of Christianity.
It’s particularly egregious this year, since January 21st marked the centenary of the first Dáil (Irish parliament), a major step on the road to Irish independence from British rule (officially since the Norman King Henry landed in Ireland in 1171). I have long argued that this should be the National Holiday here. The other candidate I would suggest is April 24th, the start of the Easter Rising when the Proclamation of the Irish Republic was read out in front of the GPO in 1916. This happened to be on Easter Monday, which is a (movable) public holiday here, but with a legacy from the Church, not from Irish history.
Instead, we celebrate St Patrick. A shepherd from Wales who apparently came to Ireland circa 472CE to teach the infidels here about Yeshua, a legendary prophet appearing in across various mythologies, depicted in texts including the New Testament and the Quran. Stories of Yeshua (anglicised to Jesus) during his life in Roman Palestine are numerous and often contradictory. Nevertheless, this chap from Wales came to Ireland to pass them on to us. It’s likely that his story is conflated with that of a Papal missionary named Palladius, sent by then-Pope Celestine to Ireland around the same time that the legend of St Patrick takes place.
It is easy to pick holes in these legends of course. Not least of which being that a proud and ancient people such as the Celts probably took more convincing than the campfire stories of one of two missionaries to allow Christianity to take hold. Most instances of mass conversion to Christianity in history involved more forceful persuasion, so it’s likely that violence, torture, and thus forced conversions were also employed at the time.
But let’s address two of those legends. One being the fact that St Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland. I have to admit, he did a seriously thorough job, even erasing them from the fossil record. In any case, the Irish climate is not one to support creatures of the cold-blooded persuasion. So the story about the snakes is probably analogous, implying that the ‘snakes’ were the pagans, the unenlightened, the non-Christians. However, the Celts were in fact quite an enlightened people, with a mythology and belief system rooted in nature, and respect for the Earth. The Celts also had the notable distinction among ancient cultures of treating women with respect and equality, a situation which was completely reversed as Ireland became almost entirely Christian, subjugating women, oppressing the masses, influencing the State, and abusing children. Quite an ‘enlightenment’. Thanks, Patrick!
Further to this, the other principal myth associated with this character is that of the shamrock. It is said that Patrick used the trefoil shape of this ubiquitous Irish plant to teach the Celts of the Christian Holy Trinity. I find this story incredibly condescending. It implies that the people on this island at that time would have had difficulty comprehending the Number 3, as if we Irish then were so intellectually inept that we couldn’t even grasp basic numbers? The Celts were an ancient and thriving civilisation, so I can confidently say that they didn’t need pre-pre-school level of instruction when having concepts explained to them. This is before even mentioning the Ancient Irish, who predated the Celts. These people constructed passage tombs that aligned with astronomical events, displaying how incredibly advanced they were for the age. Some such tombs, such as Newgrange (pictured) predate the Pyramids of Giza. So it is safe to assume that they had a grasp of numbers and mechanics. They had worked out the motion of celestial bodies in relation to the Earth thousands of years ago. And yet some people still think the Earth is flat. Maybe the magical St Patrick could come back and explain things to them. Flat-Earthers do display an extraordinary depth of ignorance, so perhaps they could do with some such remedial instruction.
You my erudite readers however, may well have noticed the triskelion design carved into the stone in the picture above. This was an ancient symbol of Ireland long before this island was even anything resembling a nation. Google deigned to use this as their doodle on March 17th, incorrectly associating it with St Patrick. It predates him by millennia. So the portal through which pretty much the entire online world searches for information has this basic fact wrong. Wonderful. This itself says a lot about the modern age.
And so the World celebrates its ‘Irishness’ by commemorating a person who didn’t really exist, who didn’t banish any snakes, and who didn’t teach people how to count. The celebration takes the form of dressing up as leprechauns (a faerie from Irish mythology grossly misrepresented in modern-day depictions), of creating vast piles of waste in the form of tacky plastic hats and flags, as well as millions of plastic cups all destined for landfill or the ocean, and of swelling the coffers of one of the world’s largest drinks conglomorates – the day serves as free marketing campaign for Diageo and their subsidiary, Guinness.
Hurrah for being Irish.