ST. PATRICK – Myth / Legend

Transcript – Informant speaking
Mother: “It was supposed to be that he, Saint Patrick’s the reason that there’s no snakes in Ireland, that he banished all the snakes from Ireland… There’s a lot of kind of, of the Irish stories that kind of have a mixture of kind of the old paganism and then the Christianity thing coming in.”
Me: “So is there anything like how he did it?”
Mother: “No, I’ve never. I never, ever (laughs) I never figured out how he was supposed to have done it, but basic- you might want to google that and see if you can get more information on that. But that was always what we heard, and right enough, I’ve never seen a snake in Ireland.”
Father: “Well… I actually read somewhere that there were never any snakes in Ireland. Because-”
Mother: “(laughs) which is probably the case-”
Father “-because its an island and they never got there.”

This quote was given to me by my parents in a conversation about Irish folklore. They’re from Northern Ireland, hence the connection. And St. Patrick being a big irish figure, they obviously have a big connection to him, as he was brought up frequently in schooling and in church. But it should also be noted that (due to a lot of the trauma going on in Northern Ireland while growing up) my parents both hold a very shaky relationship with the religion they were brought up on.

Obviously St. Patricks Day is a big thing in America, but not so much in Ireland. That being said, if you’re christian (which most of everyone in Northern Ireland is) then you’ve probably heard of St. Patrick. He was a big influence on the adoption of Christianity on the island. And… he’s also said to have banished the snakes from Ireland (snakes in christianity are associated with the devil, so this holds a lot of weight). However, as seen by my dad (who isn’t religious at all) this is also said to be a known fabrication. So while it can kind of be construed as a creation story for Ireland, it’s also heavily questioned. And either way, you get the sense that a lot of this knowledge here has been imposed by the religion.

The idea that Ireland needed to be fixed by a christian is something that I find interesting (and a little bit troubling). More so, the idea of a myth (a sacred story of creation for Ireland) to explain a situation that was likely a constant for Ireland, is something very unusual. More-so, it illustrates the clear transformation of Ireland from a Celtic to a Christian society, and the fact that the myth is upheld primarily by the Irish says it all.