This time of year I start to see a lot of “lore-based” anti-St.-Patrick arguments about the abuse heaped upon pagans at his hands. Folks, the history doesn’t support these myths. (And you may know how I feel about that. If not, read this.) We have to remember that the version we have of Patrick and his violent conversion in toto of Ireland was filtered through Catholic monks a few hundred years after he was dead and buried (presumably next to Jimmy Hoffa). Along with all the silliness I’ve seen on social media, I was glad to see Jason at The Wild Hunt address the matter in a more evenhanded way.
If you’ve only ever heard the myth of Patrick, you can watch this super-simplified slideshow. I’ll wait.
As an American married to a ruddy Gael-Mheiriceánaigh, I enjoy our green-bacchanalia. Even if I find it to be a bit of an obscene caricature of actual Celtic heritage. (Shoot, I like cosplay as much as the next nerd.) But having grown up on the SouthS ide of Chicago–a notoriously Irish Catholic area, where I attended a Catholic school and graduated from a Catholic University–I participated in the South Side Irish Parade, both as a parader and as a spectator running across Western Avenue in traditional fashion!
Yes, I’m a Heathen and St. Patrick’s Day is (originally–or aboriginally) a celebration of the conversion of Ireland to Christianity. However, the celebration did not become a “thing” until well after Patrick was gone. What’s more important is that the conversion to Christianity was neither immediate and complete nor savage. It was a slow and cooperative “colonization” (I mean that in every sense of the word). See this for simplified info.
You see, in my experience of St. Paddy’s, the whole brouhaha had more to do with celebrating Irish-American Blue Collar identity than anything else. I mean, these were folks whose great-grandparents distinctly remembered being the subjects of New World Hibernophobia and “NINA” signs (likewise mythological in its omnipresence in America), they remembered forming labor unions and passing the value of work-solidarity down to the next generation who then told stories about working their way up the social hierarchy through rigorous work ethics and of creating their own communities for support and protection. So–it wasn’t so much about snakes and Druids–more about getting (and keeping) an honest-paying job.
But, as it stands, I am a syncretistic Heathen who happens to value the way Christianity shapes my understanding of the divine–even if I don’t subscribe to its tenets. I figure I honor my patrons every day, and They know Ireland was converted–it’s no news to Them; I doubt they mind if I wallow in a bit of an American satire that focuses more on Irishness than it does Catholocism.
Now, if I was a Druid in 20th Century Ireland celebrating a High Hold Day of Obligation? They might ask me to withhold my “Slainte!” That’s a whole different story.
My main point is that we shouldn’t “hate” on St. Patrick. Instead, we should focus on venerating our own ancestors–especially if they were Irish, came to a new place, fought against yet another wave of oppression, managed to feed their families and carve out a new democracy in the workplace, and bring our generation into existence with a strong sense of ethnic pride.
If that doesn’t do it for you, stick it to Patrick by honoring your own patron gods and goddesses (as this article also suggests). And one way to do that is to find out about *real* history rather than the wholesale purchase of unsubstantiated “lore.”
I look at it like this. Creationists are often disparaged openly and loudly for their hard-headed insistence that the Genesis myth is fact when we have evidence to support a more temperate version of how the world came into existence. But that doesn’t mean that the Garden of Eden story has no value. Lore is important to the development and maintenance of a culture–so long as it isn’t confused with fact. At the same time, the St. Patrick story is important to Catholic culture. Just as the story of Iðunn is important to we Heathens and the story of Eris is important to Discordians and Hellenic Neopagans and the story of Connla is important to the Celts. The apples are different, but the need for lore is the same. Maybe we would be better off concentrating on our own lore than fixating on the lore of the mega-culture? Hmmm, just a thought.
And “hate” was never good for anyone.
Go out and kiss someone Irish–or kiss someone pretending to be Irish for the day. Either way? Propagate human connections rather than seething in anger about a misrepresented historical somethingorother. Go love your ancestors and lift up your Pagan/Heathen patrons, gods, guides, whatever you got. If you must: stick it to Catholicism by being a better Pagan.
Waes thu hael!
Just a sidenote: While I’m on the subject of misplaced ire, I found some very disturbing hate-mongering propagated by Heathens. I was aghast–and really, really confused by the “Burn Rome” movement. (You can buy a t-shirt that says “Burn Rome” around a Valknut.) Because it is new to me, you might just want to read a report with more veracity here. To illustrate how it is used, see this link. Likewise, this makes no sense. Rome is not Roman Catholicism and the Vikings (because I presume this is who the “Burn Rome” crowd is emulating) never really engaged with The Roman Empire–it was already in a shambles by the time the raiders came along. Heck–Rome prettymuch burned itsownself, like, 700 years prior. I find the whole thing … odd.