Patrick’s personal writings and early accounts of the saint’s profession reveal many fascinating particulars in regards to the lifetime of this patron saint of Eire
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On March 17, folks all over the world will have fun St. Patrick’s Day by parading in inexperienced hats, sporting pictures of shamrocks and leprechauns – tiny, grinning, fairy males – pinned to their lapels. Patrick’s image will adorn greeting playing cards: an aged, bearded bishop in flowing robes, greedy a bishop’s employees and obtrusive at a coil of snakes.
The icon refers to certainly one of Patrick’s legendary miracles through which he’s mentioned to have prayed to banish all snakes from Eire. Nonetheless, as a historian of medieval Ireland, I can guarantee you that the true St. Patrick, who lived and labored within the fifth century, by no means noticed a snake or wore a shamrock.
Patrick’s own writings and early accounts of the saint’s profession reveal many fascinating particulars in regards to the lifetime of this patron saint of Eire. Listed here are 10 issues you could not learn about St. Patrick.
1. Patrick was not Irish
Patrick was born round 450 A.D., simply when Roman troops withdrew from Britain. His father was a gentleman and a Christian deacon who owned a small property in a spot known as Bannavem Taburniae.
Students aren’t certain the place this place was – it was in all probability on the west coast round Bristol, close to the southern border of recent Wales and England.
2. Patrick was a slave
Irish slave merchants sailed the waters off that very same coast, and someday they got here ashore to seize the teenage Patrick and his neighbors, to promote again in Eire. Patrick spent six years tending sheep within the west of Eire.
3. Patrick heard voices
Whereas chasing sheep on the hills, Patrick prayed 100 occasions a day, in all types of climate. It paid off. One evening a mysterious voice called to him, saying, “Look, your ship is prepared!” Patrick knew he wasn’t listening to sheep. The time was proper for his escape.
4. Patrick refused to ‘suck a person’s breasts’
Patrick made his method to Eire’s east coast and sought passage on a ship sure for Britain. The captain, a pagan, didn’t just like the look of him and demanded that Patrick “suck his breasts,” a ritual gesture symbolizing acceptance of the captain’s authority. Patrick refused – as an alternative he tried to transform the crew.
For some cause, the captain nonetheless took him aboard.
5. Patrick had visions
One evening Patrick dreamed that Devil examined his religion by dropping an unlimited rock on him. He lay crushed by its weight till daybreak broke, when he called out, “Helias! Helias!” – the identify of the Greek solar god. The rock disappeared. Patrick took it as a kind of epiphany. He later wrote:
“I imagine that I used to be helped by Christ the Lord.”
Patrick had different peculiar visions, too. Again house at Bannavem Taburniae, he was visited by an angel with a message from the Irish: “We beg you, Holy Boy, to return and stroll once more amongst us.” He educated as a bishop and went again to Eire.
6. Patrick did one thing unmentionable
Years into his mission, somebody, it appears, advised a unclean secret about Patrick to his fellow bishops. “They introduced up in opposition to me after thirty years one thing I had already confessed … some issues I had executed someday – reasonably, in a single hour, after I was younger,” he wrote.
Patrick didn’t inform us what he did – worship idols? Interact in a forbidden sexual apply? Take items from converts?
No matter it was, Patrick retrospectively understood his zealous Irish mission to be penance for his youthful sins. Whereas he unfold Christianity round Eire, he was usually crushed, put in chains or extorted. “Daily there’s the possibility that I shall be killed, or surrounded, or taken into slavery,” he complained.
7. Patrick duelled with druids
Two centuries after his demise, Irish believers needed extra thrilling tales of Patrick’s life than the saint’s personal account.
One legend (written 700 A.D.) described Patrick’s contest with native non secular leaders, the druids. The druids insulted Patrick, tried to poison him and engaged him in magical duels – very similar to college students of Harry Potter’s Hogwarts – through which they competed to govern the climate, destroy one another’s sacred books and survive raging fires.
When one druid dared to blaspheme the Christian God, nonetheless, Patrick despatched the druid flying into air – the person dropped to the bottom and broke his cranium.
8. Patrick made God promise
One other legend from across the similar time tells how Patrick fasted for 40 days atop a mountain, weeping, throwing issues, and refusing to descend till an angel got here on God’s behalf to grant the saint’s outrageous demands. These included the next: Patrick would redeem extra souls from hell than some other saint; Patrick, reasonably than God, would decide Irish sinners on the finish of time; and the English would by no means rule Eire.
We all know how that final one labored out. Maybe God will preserve the opposite two guarantees.
9. Patrick by no means talked about a shamrock
Not one of the early Patrician tales featured the shamrock – or Irish seamróg – which is a phrase for frequent clover, a small plant with three leaves. But youngsters in Catholic colleges nonetheless be taught that Patrick used a shamrock as a logo of the Christian Trinity when he preached to the heathen Irish.
The shamrock connection was first talked about in print by an English visitor to Ireland in 1684, who wrote that on Saint Patrick’s feast day, “the vulgar superstitiously put on shamroges, 3 leav’d grass, which they likewise eat (they are saying) to trigger a candy breath.” The Englishman additionally famous that “only a few of the zealous are discovered sober at evening.”
10. Patrick didn’t drive the snakes out of Eire
As for the miraculous snake-charming attributed to Patrick, it couldn’t have occurred as a result of there have been no snakes in pre-modern Ireland. Reptiles by no means made it throughout the land bridge that prehistorically linked the island to the European continent.
More than likely, the miracle was plagiarized from another saint’s life and finally added to Patrick’s repertoire.
Occasion-goers on March 17 needn’t fear about historic historic particulars, although. Regardless of the reality of Patrick’s mission, he turned one of many three patrons of Eire, together with Sts. Brigit and Columba– the latter two have been born in Eire.
Wishing you “Lá fhéile Pádraig sona dhaiobh” – Joyful Saint Patrick’s Day.
Lisa Bitel, Professor of Historical past & Faith, USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences