History Lesson: Saint Patrick

Rooster dives into the history behind Saint Patrick and the reason we celebrate St. Patrick's Day on the latest History Lesson.

Share This Post

Toast the Patron Saint of Ireland in the proper Gaelic way, Sláinte (slawn-cha) or Sláinte Mhaith (slawn-cha was)! And act like a Saint Patrick’s Day know-it-all in front of your drunk friends.

Once Upon a Time, in the 5th century, Patrick was born in Britannia (Roman Britain). His father was a deacon and his grandfather a priest, but young Patrick was not an active practicing Christian.

He was a selfish, wild, uneducated, and impetuous youth; something he would later be very self-conscious about. When he was sixteen he was kidnapped by Irish pirates and sold into slavery. He worked as a shepherd and found solace in prayer. Patrick believed wholeheartedly that his capture was God chastising him for not being faithful and that the only way to salvation and freedom was through complete devotion. After being forcefully taken from his home and family as a child, prayer was the one thing that made him feel safe again. He prayed so often and so fervently that he no longer feared anything; not even sickness.

Then one night after fasting and long prayer, he heard a voice telling him that his ship was ready and he would return home soon. Heeding the voice, Patrick fled from his owner and found a ship two hundred miles away where he coaxed his way on-board. After sailing for three days, the ship landed outside of a port and everyone was lost somewhere in the wilderness. Near starvation, the men teased Patrick’s faith in his God since his constant prayers did not help their situation. He urged them all to allow their hearts to be filled with faith and soon after the group came upon a herd of wild pigs. They feasted for two days and the men started to believe Patrick.

After roaming the wilderness for months, Patrick finally made it home and his family greeted the now twenty-two year old man warmly. Now that he was a free man, Patrick continued to study Christianity in a more official capacity. But one day a few years later, Patrick had a vision of a Roman bringing letters from Ireland. He gave one to Patrick and the letter began with the text “The Voice of the Irish” and suddenly he saw the Irish screaming in unison for the holy youth to return and save them.

So Patrick made his way back to Ireland as a Christian missionary amongst the barbarians. Upon his first landing he was not welcomed and the Irish forced him to find another sanctuary, which was only the beginning of his persecution. Some time later after baptizing thousands, converting wealthy women and princes, recruiting nuns, and ordaining priests, rumors started and Patrick was taken to trial by his elders. During the trial and in his Confessions, he fervently denied accepting any personal payments, denied keeping personal gifts (but instead returned them), and denied becoming a bishop for overall personal gain and profit.

Not only was Patrick a Christian outsider in the land of druids and pagans, but receiving gifts was how the Irish kings formed bonds with one another. Refusing to accept these gifts only furthered his isolation. On top of that, the druids had a prophecy of an “axehead’s” arrival wherein a complete madman would chant sacrilege to converted peoples. Patrick was beaten, robbed, thrown in jail, and once held in captivity for 60 days without ever knowing why. But none of this discrimination ever slowed him down from bringing Christianity to all of Ireland.

March 17th is the death date of Patrick. He was never formally canonized by a Pope, but that never stopped churches from recognizing him as a Saint in Heaven. He is closely associated with using a shamrock or three-leaf clover as a symbol for the Divine Trinity. This symbology was easily recognizable and familiar to the pagans because the shamrock was already a sacred symbol. Three had been a holy number to them as well; triple spirals mark pagan sites and there are at least a few triple deities. Morrigan and the Mother Goddess are known by three different names and the goddesses of Irish sovereignty are three sisters.

Now as far as snakes go, well, there is no evidence that suggests snakes ever managed to successfully migrate to Ireland. But it is suggested that the serpent was the contemporary symbol of the druids…

Rooster stars in the history/spooky/society and culture/current events/everything show, Phone It In. She also covers the broad, daunting topic of ‘general history’ on History Lesson. Follow her on Twitter @SoBroRooster

Check out the SoBros Shop. Become a Patron. Give us money for no reason. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter @SoBrosNetwork. Watch on YouTube.

Image courtesy of Cole Keister on Unsplash!

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Get updates and learn from the best

More To Explore