History, Paganism, and St. Patrick

I happened across this very interesting article the other day:

Pagans, Polytheists, and St. Patrick’s Day

The author raises some very valid points about the rise of Christianity in Ireland, and how it (from a historical perspective at least) doesn’t seem to match many narratives provided by myth, legend, and (it must be admitted) by the Pagan  community itself.  They go on to point out that the historical Patrick is hardly an inquisitorial boogeyman or fire-and-brimstone crusader.  I can also agree with the need to reconcile my polytheistic self with my monotheistic ancestors.

But the author underplays the role of Patrick in the Christian myth of Ireland.  Whether or not you buy into the “casting out the snakes = casting out the Druids/Pagans”, the mythic and symbolic function of Patrick is that of the foe of Irish paganism, an overthrower of idols, a curser of kingdoms. The author says that this is outweighed by the cultural role of Patrick in holding together the Irish diaspora.  If this was just a matter of culture, I would agree… but religion is not just (or even mostly) that, at least not for me.  I’m not a reconstructionist, I’m a relational polytheistic Pagan, and the mythic weight of Patrick means that he doesn’t work for me as a symbol.

Besides, the historical Patrick wasn’t even Irish.  Brigid, who with Her holy fire bridged the gap and exists in both Pagan and Christian worlds, is a much better path of reconciliation.  My devotion to Her is already known to anyone who reads this blog, so I admit my bias- but do not apologize for it.


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