Monday, March 17, 2014

Celebrating St. Patrick's Day

Ah, the drunken display of mock-Irishness is upon us.

The man many people think they are celebrating wasn't actually Irish. He blasted down Ireland's doors to shove his religion onto the native folk.  Maybe not literally, but I envision it was very Mormon-esque. Elder Patrick went door by door, with his companion, asking the gentle Pagan folk if they would like to change their religion; he had a free book written by Jesus.

I have spoken before about why an atheist would ever celebrate a religious holiday. So the fact that my family celebrates something like St. Patrick's Day isn't too big of an announcement. We just do it a little differently. A little background on the holiday that I double checked with the Catholics via their website-o-saints.

We will start off with Mr. Saint Patrick's story:

He was born in Scotland in 387. At fourteen he was kidnapped during a raiding party and taken to Ireland to herd sheep. At twenty he escaped and made it back to Britain by sailors, where he was reunited with his family.

At home, he started in the priesthood of Catholicism. His father was a Catholic deacon and his grandfather was a Catholic priest. So he was following in the footsteps of his family.  He spent about 40 years in Ireland, converting the Irish from Paganism to Catholicism.

Pretty basic. 

We all know that the only way a mere mortal can become a saint is through documented miracles. I am not going to break them down. But I do want to touch on one that may not be a legit miracle, but one that he is known for nonetheless.


Rumor has it that Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland. The only problem with that is that there were never snakes in Ireland.  Snakes are not native to the island and at the time of Patrick, they hadn't been introduced. There were literally no snakes for him to banish after they allegedly attacked him during a 40 day fast on top of a hill.

Some people may offer a different interpretation of the story of the snakes. Snakes have been a long standing symbol for the Pagans, specifically the Celts. So Patrick never drove out serpents, he drove out the Pagans.

Now, what is wrong with that? For what seems like eons people have been bringing their religious beliefs to the people they have conquered, or people who are different or people who are poor. Funny thing about religious beliefs is that people aren't usually so quick to give theirs up. Usually it takes force, persuasion or syncretism. And even though Patrick himself didn't subjugate an entire race of people, the many missionaries that followed in his name did.

It's important to remember that Patrick himself didn't walk around the Emerald Isle with his mighty walking stick, slaying dragons and Druids and anyone else he didn't agree with. Saint Patrick has fallen prey to the mythos that comes with being more of a symbol than the person you once were.

So today is the day where I make sure my children have some kind of green on, as to prevent the mean children at school from pinching them. I smile as my children bring home colored sheets of rainbows, pots of gold, and three leaf clovers. And I try to plan a meal at home, as to not deal with the college kids who are one green beer away from vomiting.

I also take it as an opportunity to teach my children a few important things.

We learn about Ireland.  We learn about different beliefs and why pushing beliefs that have no backing is wrong. We learn about the Celts and Pagans and their rich history and tales. We learn about the symbolism of the snakes. We learn about accepting others for who they are and doing our best not to cast judgement on others. We learn about Irish folklore. We learn about leprechauns and the little people. We learn about fae folk and banshees.

Today my girls and I are going to make snake wreaths to celebrate the real snakes of Ireland, and enjoy the Pagan stories that were almost forgotten due to the way Christianity tries to snuff out every other religious practice.


Eric Layton said...

I apologize for not commenting about this specific post, but I couldn't find another way to contact you. I just wanted to say thanks for keeping this blog. I just found it through Friendly Atheist and over the last few days read every entry. Thank you for sharing your experiences in leaving Mormonism and what you're doing to raise your kids with a more reasonable outlook. Very inspiring.

Leia said...

Thank you, Eric. :D