It’s Saint Patrick’s Day…

Saint_Patrick_by_Boris_Anrep.jpg

Today, I shall be celebrating my country’s national holiday, but not Saint  Patrick. Just for the record, Saint Patrick was not some gentle, avuncular Saint Nicholas type figure. He was a colonialist, Christian supremacist, who wasn’t even Irish.

He wasn’t sent by Rome to convert the Irish since the job had already  been done by Palladius. Most of them were quite happy with their old beliefs, thank you very much, and Rome was happy to leave it like that. Patrick though, went on a one man crusade to forcibly convert the non-Christian Irish, and was probably responsible for the mysterious mass ‘deaths’ of unarmed worshipers of Crom Cruagh.

It is quite possible the yarn he spun about being captured by Irish raiders and held captive as a slave for six years (before his extremely improbable escape) was complete fiction. He had a shady criminal past which possibly explained the need to disappear for six years.

He was accused by the Irish of extorting the inheritance of noblewomen who he then herded into convents (best place for women), and ‘converting’ noblemen with the inevitable kickback for the church of a portion of their wealth. In fact, we don’t know much about what Patrick really got up to, where he came from and what his agenda was. He made up all the stuff he’s famous for, like converting the chiefs with his shamrock and the holy trinity analogy. It never happened.

And don’t get me onto Leprechauns! With the dispossession of the Irish aristocracy by the seventeenth century, the suppression of the Irish language and the corruption of the mythology by the priests, the old heroes and historical figures were debased to mini figures of fun and ridicule. That Christian and English colonial heritage again.

At the end of a week in which the British government after a mere 47 years of cover-up (or investigation, depending on your view point), has announced that one (yes, just one) soldier is to be tried for his part in the Bloody Sunday massacre, that his name is to be kept secret, the British taxpayers are going to be paying all his legal costs and aid to himself and his family, I don’t feel much inclined to celebrate any more re-writes of history.

I shall be eating a festive meal, draining the local supermarket of its very meagre stock of Guinness and thinking about family and ancestors. Not leprechauns, and not Saint Patrick.

Sláinte!

 

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Jane Dougherty

I used to do lots of things I didn't much enjoy. Now I am officially a writer. It's what I always wanted to be.

51 thoughts on “It’s Saint Patrick’s Day…”

    1. That particular brand of silliness started in the US. We used to have the day off school go to Mass with shamrock pinned to our coats, and have a family get together. I really hate all that green nonsense.

  1. Thanks for a view into the other side, Jane. Are these facts that are generally accepted but most people just don’t care about, or are they more controversial and still debated/repressed by experts? I’ve never looked into the history/mythology of St. Patrick before, but obviously what you say totally undermines the fluffy-happy crap we “learn” in America about this holiday. Which is no more ahistorical than what we learn about any other country’s holidays and rituals, I suppose; it’s just sad. Although come to think of it, we also adopt false narratives about our own holidays and history, and we are far from alone in that.

    Somehow I’ve missed until now that some people wear orange instead of green, to show support for Protestants. It’s odd how some people online present this as a totally fine and friendly way of also celebrating the holiday and others present it as a serious protest against the Catholic church.

    I tend to celebrate St. Patrick’s day like most other holidays: as an excuse to make and eat interesting foods. But no Irish feasts or parties for me, this year; still too snowed under at work. I will spend the day at home with my cat getting things done, and neither of us will care about what colors we are wearing.

    1. I had no idea that anyone wore orange outside the six counties. If it’s something Americans do, they should be aware that it has a much more precise meaning than ‘protestantism v catholicism’. It has historical, political and what people would call nowadays racist and genocidal connotations, given that people abuse both those terms anyway. Orange symbolises William of Orange, the Dutch prince the English got in as king when the throne had no other takers but a woman. He agreed to marry the English successor to the throne on condiition he could be king. He was one of the heroes of the English protestant minority in the province of Ulster and one of the bêtes noires of the Irish ever since. The Ulster Unionists (xenophobic and ultra-conservative) call themselves Orangemen after King Billy, and their paramilitary arm has been as murderous as the Provos. There’s nothing friendly or acceptable about them at all.
      The facts as they are known about Saint Patrick are more or less as I said. He’s been white (or green) washed by the Catholic Church and is not a very admirable figure at all.

      1. As I mentioned, I’d only just heard of the “wearing orange” tradition, so I have no idea what those Americans who do it are thinking it means. Probably not this, I’m guessing!

      2. The money that funded the Provos mostly came from North America, from people who didn’t understand the situation in the six counties and didn’t have to live with the consequences of giving weapons to killers.

      1. I’ve certainly been more and more aware in ways I didn’t realize. The St. Patrick thing was new to me, but I shouldn’t be surprised anymore.

      2. We pride ourselves on our sophistication and superiority to every other species (as well as our white superiority) and we believe the most ridiculous crap.

      3. It’s just sad how people need to feel superior at the cost of others. I’m glad you acknowledge these things and want equality to be there.

      4. I was brought up in an Irish Catholic household, educated at a Catholic school. My mother was a Socialist but a believer and my father was a Marxist and a non-believer. We children had a good rounded education 🙂

      1. I’ve no idea. It’s a taint humanity carries around and passes on down the generations. We’re lucky tigers and gorillas aren’t afflicted in the same way.

  2. I am sorry, Jane! I forgot this really festive day! Hope you had a nice celebration with a lot of Guinness too. I remember my first Guinness and smoking a Gitane. Lol This was heaven to me, and i think a wonderful composition. Michael

      1. The French tobacco industry imploded. Yet the tobacco certainly smelled much better than the Virginia tobacco. Yes, thank goodness Guinness still flows in rivers 🙂

      2. 🙂 After Frexit the tobacco industry in France will grow again. 😉 Give the EU only five years more, than they will come to an end. There – sorry – is too much Germany in it. Germany like around the 15th century.

      3. So true Jane! Here in our small village and the whole region nearside the Czech border i got and every day get a smell of it. Next publicatioins i will try to translate into English, then you can read it, sources included. 😉 Michael

  3. Wow ! there is so much distorted history and traditions with forgotten histories…the closest I got to St Patrick’s Day yesterday was singing along to a sea shanty chorus on the highway…and there were a couple of green hats at the family gathering…

      1. And perhaps that national celebration is the happy core that remains or do some people revere St Patrick? I like how you spoke to the history…knowing some of the background gives the occasion more depth even if it is not pleasant…I say this as a non-Irish person who grew up with a day of green and shamrocks and the awareness more recently that it is a big drinking night for some…not sure if it was always like that…

      2. Ireland has been until very recently so totally in hoc to the Church that we had Mass and processions, not wild parades. It’s also historically a poor country and the excess and waste of the US style celebrations would just never have crossed anybody’s mind. For a long time Saint Patrick was one of the symbols of Catholic defiance of English domination so for decades after independence you couldn’t knock him or you were being unpatriotic. Ireland isn’t much like the American idea of it.

      3. “Ireland isn’t much like the American idea of it” so much is watered down, erased and commercialized (the day).

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