I’m a bit annoyed with the holiday. Not for any religious reason, it’s a people-related annoyance.
I mean, I can fully respect the story of him as the converter of Ireland, as a myth of the Church. I don’t believe it, since I doubt he personally converted everyone in Ireland, but I can respect it as part of their truth. I don’t agree with it, especially the part about driving snakes from the island. I’m pretty sure that no snakes is not uncommon, given the fact that it’s an island. And I wasn’t aware that Great Britain had snakes either, or at least not a lot. But that’s a side note, not so important for this. I can respect the Church stories and agree that celebrating what they claim happened is important. Because it’s part of their tradition and belief, I can accept that I don’t agree with the story, but I can respect that others do believe so, and I’m quite glad that they are comfortable with that belief.
I can’t really respect people who make claims without any proof. Or people who make claims that link into (I’ve yet to figure out how they manage to do this, but there you have it) the “Burning Times”. I seriously don’t understand that. Technically St. Patrick probably had absolutely nothing to do with Druids, so the whole thing about him “slaughtering the Druids” is also crock in my opinion. If you’re going to say that, I think you should have at least a modicum of evidence to back it up. Now, perhaps that’s a bit harsh of me, since there would seem to usually be parts of belief that are not verifiable. However, I do think that if you’re going to accuse a man (Saint or not) of slaughtering a whole people, there had better be proof. Written records….accounts, artwork, something at the very least. And the “Burning Times”, yeah I’m not even going to touch that one right now. I will say though, probably every woman killed during this so-called period in history were most likely Christians, perhaps practicing herb-lore or other things that nowadays we sometimes call “witchcraft”, but most of them were probably accused due to jealousy, fear, envy….normal human emotions.
In any case – as to why I’m annoyed with St. Patrick’s Day.
Some people I know in real life have been posting things about how St. Patrick killed off all the Druids, or how the death of all the Druids and Patrick converting Ireland was just the start of persecution….culminating in the “Burning Times” and then even up till today. As though “Witches” were all a single, unbroken line. Not true, not to me. I know there are hedge witch traditions, folk traditions, family lore and knowledge that were and are passed down for many generations. Unbroken and the same as it was over 1000 years ago? No. That’s impossible. There are going to be changes, whether from new people joining the family, people dying and not teaching everything, or introduction of elements not available or around at the original start of the tradition. I have nothing against this, I actually think it’s wonderful if you had family teach you old family secrets, I sometimes wish I could say that. But, I doubt that most people, even from familial lines, would say that their family’s practices are identical to what they might have been even 200 years ago. Things change, people change – I think that’s part of the joy of witchcraft – learning new things and adapting your craft to suit not only yourself, but your living circumstances and what’s available.
Not to mention the farce that is the claim of the “Burning Times”. I’m sorry – but any study of the facts shows that most of the accusations were directed at loners, people that weren’t conforming to societal ideasor people who were in the way somehow. I can remember reading a story about a “witch” in central Europe (I can’t remember what article I read this in, it’s been a while, so I’m sorry I can’t be more specific here) that was accused by someone who gained control of the woman’s business after she was convicted. If I remember correctly, the woman had inherited the business from either her father, or her dead husband. (I’ll look into finding this article again.) I say that it was more hysteria than anything. And the fact is that quite a few “witches” were caught by another one giving their name up to the Inquisitors. So there’s that too. If you gave up names, you might live, that was the case in the States, it probably was in Europe as well. Mass hysteria given the confusion, tension and uncertainty of the times does not mean automatically that every single man/woman/child that was killed during the Inquisition was a witch. Truth is that probably very few were, if any.
In any case, since I’ve been getting lots of these posts, plus a few emails or PMs with this stuff…it’s annoying me. I understand that yes, for a lot of pagans we’ve had some bad times. Honestly though, not every time “witches” are brought up are they actually witches. And trying to ascribe a name to a time and hijack it as a “long-standing proof of persecution” is frustrating. I’ll be the first to say that I’ve had a rough time about my beliefs. However, getting called names, spat at, having things blessed behind my back, or having people harass me about my jewelry…ah and the occasional freak out and screaming at me…that’s really not that bad in the long run. Does it annoy me? Yes. Am I usually frustrated that people do stupid stuff like that? Yes. I’m not about to go and claim that it’s all because of some “time period” that actually didn’t exist, not as it’s been co-opted. I do think that in today’s modern world we should stand up for our beliefs, and we shouldn’t allow anyone’s religion or practice to be demeaned and attacked. That doesn’t mean I’m fine with screaming about persecution that is centuries old, and that had absolutely nothing to do with real witchcraft or with modern-day paganism. Because the “Wicca” that was being persecuting in the “Burning Times” didn’t even exist until the mid-20th Century. And once someone says that it’s Wicca that was attacked, I can’t really take a person too seriously.
So, since the mass of emails telling me that St. Patrick’s Day is evil and shouldn’t be celebrated have been inundating me, I’m annoyed. I even had one person tell me that “Since [I’m] Irish – [I] should be doubly offended at what he did to [my] people. I mean, shouldn’t [I] be angry that he massacred [my] religious ancestors?” Yeah….because the Druids survived en masse in hiding for a few centuries, were then burned at the stakes from the 15th-17th Centuries, proceeded to go back into hiding or the next 200-300ish years and then re-emerged as Wiccans. I’m not saying anything against Wicca, just the people who claim “Wicca” and then immediately jump to “Burning Times”. If you’re a Wiccan you should know your lineage, that’s become abundantly clear to me. I’m certain no lineaged Wiccan would tell you that their tradition is unbroken going back that far. Wicca has ideas, inspiration, parts of it that come from writings of ancient times, but Wicca itself is a modern construct. There’s nothing wrong with that. Technically reconstructions, neo-(whatever) and most pagans today are working with at least some of a modern construct. Because without detailed records down to the letter on every facet of practice….you will inevitably have some modern ideas, or even just the modern mind-set of the people practicing, that will crop up. It’s fine, that isn’t the problem.
But when I get told that I “should be angry” about something that almost certainly didn’t happen – I get annoyed, I won’t lie. Yes, I’m Irish, I’m 1/4, I’m also Welsh, 1/8, but that doesn’t automatically mean that because I’m a modern-day pagan and witch that my ancestors were Druids. My family that comes from Ireland, one half was Catholic and the other Protestant, I know that from my family’s stories. Nothing at all that could be seen as ‘folk practice’ or ‘hedge witchcraft’ exists in my family history. I’m the only person in my family that is pagan or a witch. The rest of my family are either Christian of some denomination (Protestant/Catholic/Anglican…etc), agnostic or atheist. So the assumption that I’m automatically descended from Druids is frustrating. There’s nothing wrong with me coming to my path from interest in my heritage and learning the myths, I don’t need to have some secret Druid-begun history to be proud of who I am. I’m just fine coming from a Christian family (though it’s mostly lapsed Christians with my parents and some grandparents) and having found my own path.
And why would I be angry about something that I don’t believe happened? Because I seriously do believe that if Saint Patrick had actually “wiped out” the Druids the Church would have records of it. They weren’t shy about reporting who they converted, or how they took on those who opposed them, just as most people are. You say when you’ve done something so mighty as ‘converting a whole people’. Since that’s a story that’s claimed to Saint Patrick, you’d think that if he’d also been the sole and/or main reason for the Druids dying out that it would be part of the canon of his story. I find the fact that Saint Patrick himself never mentions Druids, and neither does the Church, a bit telling as to the real situation. Besides, even if the man had actually killed all the Druids single-handedly, what good does my being furious now do? It supposedly happened well over 1000 years ago. I can’t change the situation, and honestly I believe that the Druids disappeared due to far more than one man ‘converting an island’. People as a whole, a class or a profession, die out due to social, economic, religious reasons, even just evolution of a culture. I think that the Druids died out as a result of a multitude of factors.
For me St. Patrick’s Day is a normal day. I’m no member of the Church, I don’t believe the man is actually a Saint. Celebrating his day makes sense for Christians, and even for quite a few others that believe in parts of the legends. That is perfectly fine. I must say I do enjoy when I hear occasional stories about people relating to St. Patrick’s Day in the religious sense. However, I don’t see it as any special day, not for society as a whole. I mean….the thing about “everyone is Irish on 17 March” is ridiculous. It’s a bit annoying. Enjoy the day, celebrate it if you will…but seriously – going out and getting drunk, calling it “celebrating the Irish”? That’s just not something I understand.
Not everyone is Irish. Not everyone is French. It doesn’t matter. If you want to celebrate a day important to a people – go for it (if you’re going to be respectful about the celebrating). But I do think it shouldn’t become a massive stereotype. Really, I wince every time someone I know in real life says that the Irish are known for “Guinness, leprechauns and drinking”. Because that’s both ridiculous and insulting. If you really want to get trashed on alcohol – just say so. But if you’re wanting to honor Irish culture, perhaps some better way works. I think that picking one day of the year to “celebrate your heritage” (because loads of people are suddenly Irish on St. Patrick’s Day) and ignoring it the rest of the year is wrong. If you’re Irish, acknowledge it all year round. If you’re French, German, Spanish, English….whatever, do the same. It’s really not sensible to just ball it up into one day and decide that drinking is the way to go.
I suppose this was a bit long-winded. I’m just frustrated with the “Burning Times”, “St. Patrick killed the Druids” and “Drunk because I’m Irish” stuff that I’ve been getting. Drunk does not mean Irish, it means someone drank too much alcohol. St. Patrick probably had absolutely nothing to do with Druids, even if he did do great works of converting the Irish people. And the Burning Times are a construct made up in this century. Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day for the sake of the day. Enjoy the stories, legends, whatever. Enjoy celebrating Irish heritage, yes. Even enjoy a beer or two, I’m not opposed to that. But I seriously wish that these three things didn’t come up every year. I think that it’s honestly a problem when the full sum of things that are brought up on any given day are stereotypes and falsities. So, I call for celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, yes. But in a respectful manner that doesn’t try to paint the man as a mass-murdering tyrant who paved a direct path to the Inquisition, because that’s not even remotely true.
I enjoy today, it’s a fun day for me. I hear stories, when I meet new people. I also like a day to celebrate my Irish heritage yes, even though I also acknowledge and have respect for it every other day of the year. And thus – Happy St. Patrick’s Day.∗