“The way I remember it is that St. Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland and into the ocean while he was there converting people to Catholicism. This act supposedly convinced a lot of people to believe in God.”
E is nineteen years old and grew up in Southern California. She is Catholic and she originally heard this legend in her Catholic Elementary school. This story was widely believed to be fact amongst her peers until she was much older. She told this legend to me over the phone.
This is a particularly interesting legend because it centers around a well-known religious figure. Even those who did not grow up in or practice Catholicism, know of the figure St. Patrick, mostly due to St. Patrick’s Day. Therefore, many people in the United States have heard this legend before, religious or otherwise. This legend, although religious in origin would not be considered a myth because most older members of the religious community understand this to be story and not fact. It also centers around a very real historical figure (St. Patrick) in a real location (Ireland). Like my informant when she was a child, many do see this as potentially true, even into adulthood. It is also a legend that is somewhat guarded. My informant states: “even though I know that it is just a story, when people ask me if people really believe that, for some reason I always want to say, ‘yes because it’s true’ even though I know it is not.” This strong inclination to protect the legend likely stems from a protection of the religion. By discrediting a widely held legend, it makes practitioners of that religion feel guarded over other aspects of the religion as well.