top of page
  • Writer's pictureAlanna Grayce

Episode 47: IRISH LEGENDS: St Patrick himself!!!

Happy St Patrick’s day y'all!!!!! Buckle in for a fun one!

So St Patrick is the patron saint and the national apostle of Ireland, which is kind of hilarious. Imagine. The national flower, national flag, and national apostle. LOL

Anyway, so St Patty is so well known today because he is credited with bringing Christianity to pagan ancient Ireland in the 5th century, and is probably responsible at least in part for the Christianization of the Picts and the Anglo- Saxons. Broadly, the ancient Celts.

St Patrick was born in Britain, and at age 16 he was kidnapped from his family’s villa (he was the son of a church deacon and a minor community official) by Irish raiders and carried to Ireland to become a slave. He spent six years in slavery in Ireland as a herdsmen, and during this time he focused fervently on his faith to get him through. Patrick had a prophetic dream one day, that there was a ship prepared to leave and he was supposed to escape on it, so he did. He ran, and he got passage on that ship back to Britain.

While he was in Britain he came near to starvation and actually was briefly in captivity again- lots of slavery, love that, thanks Rome- before he finally was reunited with his family. After this return, though, he has written that he had a dream wherein he was told that he needed to return to Ireland to help them. He was deeply moved by this, but was very unsure about returning for a very long time- and I mean who could blame him? He was held there in slavery and honestly probably had some PTSD from that experience. I don’t know if anything exceptionally awful happened to him while he was in slavery (like sexual abuse, starvation, beatings, etc.) but then isn’t slavery itself awful enough?

Once he got back to Ireland, though, he was absolutely convicted that this is what he should be doing, and he was confident in his mission. He journeyed all over Ireland, making connections with the kings and local officials, teaching Christianity and baptizing new converts.

Patrick lived in constant danger of martyrdom, even though he was very careful to remain as humble, kind, and fair to all as possible- something a lot of modern day Christians could learn from. Y’all heard me, going on missions for personal gain is no bueno and acting better than everyone else is not Christ-like. Just saying. Patrick had that figured out a WHILE ago.

His writings are incredibly unique and important, as it is incredibly rare that an important religious person’s diary had shared his thoughts, fears, and ultimately the innerworkings of his soul the way the Patrick did. One critic of his has said that Patrick’s “moral and spiritual greatness” shone through every sentence he wrote. This is even evident publicly as Patrick is well known for his Letter to Coroticus, which is a denunciation of British mistreatment of Irish Christians. This is important because many Britons throughout ALL of history have preferred to ignore the plights of the Irish (or sometimes even make them worse) rather than standing up for them.

All of this factual background is to set up for the legends that have come from his existence. I am going to tell y’all some awesome stories, ok?

So one of the less known, but really important legends about St Patrick involves him debating with the ancient Celtic hero Oisin. Now, in Celtic mythology, Oisin was a Fianna- a legendary group of ancient kind of demi-god like heroes led by Fionn mac Cumhail. Oisin feel in love with Niamh, a Celtic goddess and a queen of the land of eternal youth, so Oisin went there to live with her for several hundred years. This allowed him to maintain his youth and his strength- but eventually he got homesick for Ireland, so Niamh allowed him to return home as long as he stayed on his horse and NEVER touched the ground. IMPORTANT.

No surprise, this was super disappointing for him thought because he realized that Ireland had changed over the centuries he had been gone, and that all of his friends he had known were dead. So he’s like aight, I’m gonna go back to the Otherworld I guess.

As Oisin’s on his way back he sees a man struggling to lift a stone. Oisin wants to help him, so he leans over from his saddle to help, but the saddle breaks and he falls. As soon as he touched the ground, he began to age rapidly, turning into a feeble old man- moreso reflecting the age he should be after a few centuries.

Of course, Patty just so happens to be walking by as Oisin lay on the ground dying, and they start talking. The discussion turns to religion, and of course Patrick gets the better of the debate, and Oisin dies. CLEARLY, not even overtly, symbolising Christianity overcoming the Celtic gods.

This is literal propaganda, that was probably written by medieval monks who were trying to overcome the ancient Celtic beliefs and traditions that still held strong in Ireland even centuries after Patrick helped convert it.

Then, of course, there is the story about St Patrick banishing the snakes. More or less, the story goes that Patty was fasting in isolation for 40 days - sounds like a lockdown - on top of a mountain that is now known as Croagh Patrick. He finishes up the fast and comes down the mountain, and sees a group of snakes in front of him. He was angered by this for some reason, and chased the snakes into the sea where he banished them from Ireland forever.

Now scientifically there is evidence that the absence of snakes in Ireland is because of the Ice Age, global temperature changes and melting glaciers. Pretty normal. BUT, this story was another ideal source of propaganda, probably made up by those pesky monks, to exemplify Christianity driving out and overcoming paganism- especially because snakes were a symbol of the Druids- the Celtic priest class. So a very symbolic legend.

There are other legends that aren’t just anti-pagan propaganda too, though. Patrick himself wrote in a diary that he performed such a miracle as raising the dead back to life. Once source cites this at THIRTY THREE MEN, like what. That’s more than Jesus. I’m unsure about that, not that I’m doubting the power he could channel, but more like I’m doubting the credibility of the twelfth century monks who are writing the numbers down. Patty also reportedly prayed for the provision of food for hungry sailors who were travelling on land through a particularly desolate area, and a herd of pigs suddenly appeared as if by a miracle! I think the Christian fixation on herds of swine is really interesting, not going to lie. Also, I just want to say that I’ve been to Ireland, and no where is really that… desolate? It’s not like America where there’s a desert and an ocean within a 3 hour drive. Even back when it took a few days to walk from place to place in Ireland, i don’t know that there is really anywhere that you couldn’t make it through… like you’re not the ancient Jews dragging through the desert. You’re in a subtropical paradise. That one is obviously a little sus to me but heck, maybe they just didn’t pack well and were really hungry, or maybe there were no drive throughs open that weekend. Who knows. I’d believe the herd of swine appeared though, that seems pretty legit.

Saint Patrick actually died on March 17, 461, which is where we get the date of his feast- and the day of green beer. In Ireland, it was traditionally more of a day of remembrance and religious celebration, as many of the saints’ feast days are. Emigrants to the United States in particular evolved the holiday into a secular celebration of Ireland and Irish heritage, especially in cities with large Irish populations. This is wild ok- BOST ON HELD ITS FIRST ST PATRICKS DAY PARADE IN 1737. Before America was its own country.

Fun fact: St Patrick was traditionally connected with the color blue, but green is now connected with the holiday because, well, Ireland.

Most of the psycho St Patrick’s stuff that we do in America is pretty uniquely American, actually. Some of the celebratory traditions were eventually adopted by the Irish, mainly for the benefit of tourists who make a bit of a pilgrimage to celebrate St Patty’s day in the old country itself. Ya gotta give the people what they want. It’s provocative. it gets the people going.

2 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

episode 138: chiropractic and holistic health

On this week's episode of I've Been Thinking, Alanna dives in to the importance of holistic health in today's world and how chiropractic can play in to that with practicing chiropractor Dr Letitia Smi

ep 130: Mabon Blessings Mini

Hey, Thinkers! Alanna is unfortunately under the weather this week, so with significant help from Producer Tyler we found this Patreon episode in the archives- and it turns out, it might be JUST what


bottom of page