St. Patrick’s Ireland
By Kristin Olsen
Most of Celtic history is verbal not written. This leaves the Emerald Isle of the ancients open to any revelation that our hearts, minds and souls see fit to gaze upon. As we look to the magic and mysticism of the celtic lands, we discover that part of the magic we are drawn to might be the modern interpretation of what the ancient Celtic lands might have been. This is a portrait by modern writers and it is based on supposition because of the lack of written records.
Lets take a stroll through the realm of Religion and Spirituality. Celtic spirituality has many faces. The Celts of old were obviously what would be termed a Pagan culture. They were pre-Christian and therefore there was really nothing else to be but what we now call Pagan. So did they worship multiple deities or did they simply pay homage and respect to the things of the earth that they could see and the things of the spiritual realm that they could not see? Did they name gods and goddesses and put a power or an attribute to these beings? Or did they simply thank the universe for the trees, land, streams, birds, animals and other things they needed and used in their everyday lives? Is it possible they were Spiritual without being Religious? This gives rise to many different religious philosophies that are in current use today. In reality, we can never truly know what was in their minds and hearts because they did not leave us a written record to preserve these early days.
When you study Ireland’s spirituality, St. Patrick is always discussed. Ireland is steeped with tradition. St. Patrick really helped head Ireland into modern Christianity by “Driving out the Snakes. It is a fascinating correlation because it is believed that snakes are not indigenous to the Island of Ireland. Most scholars agree that snakes symbolize paganism, which St. Patrick is credited for banishing from Ireland. Snakes as symbols of evil are prevalent throughout Judeo-Christian mythology; most notable story is that of the snake in the Garden of Eden as a tempter of Eve. Why are snakes really not indigenous to Ireland? The answer is simple. There are no snakes in Ireland because they can't get there as Ireland is surrounded by water.
St. Patrick was actually born around 373 A.D. in the British Isles near the modern city of Dumbarton in Scotland. His real name was Maewyn Succat. He took the name of Patrick, or Patricius, meaning "well-born" in Latin, after he became a priest. At one point in St. Patrick’s life he was sold into slavery and take to the island of Ireland. There he was re-sold to yet another slaveholder. He served his master as a sheepherder. He was Christian and had a lot of time alone on the slopes to think about Religion, God and escaping Ireland. One lucky day he did just that. He eventually returned to Ireland to bring God to the Pagan people of this glorious land. St. Patrick died in his beloved Ireland on March 17th, 460 A.D. The stone picture is said to be his final resting place.
The Irish have been able to successfully integrate some of the ideas and philosophies from the ancient times into their modern Christian religious philosophies. A grand example of this is St. Patrick’s use of the Shamrock to teach the pagan Irish about the Trinity. He explained the “Father”, “Son” and “Holy Spirit” to them utilizing the native flower of Ireland. The three petals represent the tree parts of one God. For the Shamrock are both one petal and three petals. Using the imagery provided by the shamrock, St. Patrick was able to show a very visual society the possibility of one God, Christianity. He used this example as well as others such as the goddess Bridget and Tir na nÓg to convert the island to Christianity in particular to Catholicism.
The Shamrock was a sacred plant of the Druids because its leaves formed a triad. Three was a magical and spiritual number to the ancients because it represented: past, present, and future; and sky, earth, and underworld, Tír na nÓg (The Land of Youth). The explanation of the Shamrock should have made perfect sense to them, as they saw the number 3 as an integral part of their physical and magickal world.
Another great example is when St. Patrick introduced the idea of heaven to the early Celtics. They had tales steeped in tradition about Tír na nÓg (the celtic underworld or land of youth). It was considered a pleasant place and all wanted to visit this realm. Time stands still on Tír na nÓg. It is said to be and island to the far west of Ireland. One never grows old or suffers illness, flowers bloom never died in this land. No sorrow or pain, love is eternal, no wars or famine scar this land. Can you picture St. Patrick sitting on the Hill of Tara surrounded by the early Irish teaching them of Heaven and comparing it to Tír na nÓg? He would simply have to hold up a shamrock and the rest is history. How easy it must have been for them to accept this concept. There are dozens of other examples, but we will leave those for later discussions.
Celtic Magic is something that is everywhere; it is a gift from the almighty (whatever that may be in your particular religious or spiritual path). For me the magic comes from my ancestors, their lands and beliefs. Visit me at http://www.celticattic.com