The St. Patrick’s Day Genocide

Jason at the Wild Hunt has prepared a nice little analysis of St. Patrick’s Day, and in the process challenges the conventional pagan wisdom that St. Patrick’s Day celebrates the genocide of pagans across Ireland.

The problem with most of this Pagan rage and sadness directed at Patrick for converting Ireland, is that it’s mostly untrue.

“The snakes he drove out of Ireland were not symbolic of druids, pagans, or goddess worshippers. They were, quite simply, snakes. The tale was lifted from the life story of St. Hilaire, who was said to have evicted the snakes in a section of France, as an explanation of why there are no native snakes in Ireland. That piece of plagiarism explicative text was added in the 10th century. Earliest versions of Patrick’s story don’t include it. They do, however, include direct claims of him besting druids in magical combat and argument, as well as having druids in his personal retinue. Catholic saints’ stories, by and large, do not truck in allegory. To cite a different reptile story, they really did mean to say that St. George killed a dragon. I have never seen anyone who’s bothered to study the way Irish saints’ lives were written down and embroidered take the snakes to be symbolic of anything. It is a neo-pagan invention to assign that story any degree of symbolism.”

Celtic Reconstructionist Brenda Daverin goes on to point out that Ireland was quite “pagan” for another century or so after Patrick’s death, and that Ireland’s conversion process generally wasn’t at the point of a sword, or completely successful. Just because it’s become the common folklore to equate snakes and pagans doesn’t make it true. So, since Patrick didn’t actually cast the literal or metaphorical snakes out of Ireland, I see no issue in wishing my Irish, Irish-descended, and Irish-loving readers a happy St. Patrick’s Day.

Look, over the past 1800 years or so, a lot of pagans have had to endure a lot of crap from Christians, much of which did involve killing and murdering. Before that, they endured the same from other pagans. It happens. Do we really need to go out and fabricate more reasons to be angry with the evil xtrian oppressorz? Does every Christian holiday have to be claimed as of pagan origin? Does every Christian doctrine and belief have to be vilified because it called for the death of trillions of peace-loving pagans? Can we drop the Burning Times nonsense already? Please?


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