Saint Patrick was a Slytherin (and other stories)

1. Saint Patrick was a Slytherin.

Think about it. He could speak to and control snakes. He was ambitious and needful of converting everyone in the country to his viewpoint. He took orders from a Lord, but did everything he could to ingratiate himself with that boss – and then set up a hierarchy of his own within the country, because everybody needs minions. He’s always depicted wearing green – House colours.

Total Slytherin. Never trust a Parseltongue.

2. The snake thing.

Legend has it that Saint Patrick rid Ireland of our snake population by making them all jump into the sea (nsfw for language on picture). This sounds like rather unChristian behaviour toward harmless reptiles. They wouldn’t even have been venomous ones. It’s also funnier if you think of Paddy in his bishop’s mitre, standing on a chair like an arachnophobic sighting a spider. ‘I am NOT GOING BACK in that COUNTRY until THOSE SNAKES are GONE.’

In reality, we probably never had a snake population. Ireland was cut off from Europe at the end of the Ice Age, when it was still colder than O’Connell Street when the parade is late. Snakes are cold-blooded and need to warm their bodies through sunbathing – some chance of that here. I’m also very amused by this interview with the head of the Natural History Museum, which ends: “St Patrick never personally claimed credit for ridding Ireland of snakes, he added. “But when you’re selling a brand you don’t often bother with the detail.””

3. A Small Linguistic Observation

This one’s mainly for our friends across the pond.

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Look. There are snakes. I don’t like it.

Patty is a rarely-used women’s name, or (if we’re feeling linguistically urbane) the meat bit of a hamburger. Men called Patrick are abbreviated to Pat or Paddy; Pádraig becomes Páidí. Saint Patty does not exist.

4. St. Patrick’s Day, The Phenomenon.

To put it bluntly, quite a lot of us here have no bloody idea what the rest of the world** is doing on St. Patrick’s Day. Yeah, it’s a festival here, and yeah, of course we drink on it. We have a day off with no instructions other than eat a big dinner, avoid going to Mass, have lots of drinks, and fill your children with sugar and let them loose on the funfair in Merrion Square.

(This was my favourite bit of the day when I was living near there. In absolutely no way.)

Really, Dublin just does its thing and mainly avoids the city centre after the parade, because it’s full of drunken tourists. People who’ve schlepped over here to celebrate some weird version of an Irish holiday by drinking imported beers in tourist pubs and not encountering an actual Dubliner from one end of the day to the other, save the unimpressed bar staff.

It’s somewhat embarrassing, to be honest. Ireland has a bit of an unfortunate history, what with the oppression and the plantations and the famine and the poverty and the Troubles, and historically we’ve had a lot of people who’ve self-medicated through all that unpleasantness by moving to other places in the world and drinking lots. As you would, if you were an emigrant working for a pittance somewhere that hated you and took that out on you by treating farm animals more humanely.

But we’re not proud of that. We’re proud of the positive bits of the national character, the artistic and literary achievements of the country and the ability to habituate ourselves to new situations and people that’s eased by a gregarious nature. Not the alcoholism and violence end.

So the international marketing of St. Patrick’s Day is somewhere between ‘odd’ and ‘uncomfortable’ for me. It’s like if your neighbour threw a bigger party than you on your birthday, invited people who’d only met you briefly or not at all – but had met your parents or your grandparents and inaccurately informed their views on your personality thusly – and entertained everybody by playing games themed on all your least favourite of your personality flaws (pin the pint on the binge drinker! irresponsibility bingo! etc).

Odd. And uncomfortable. That’s about it. I’ll go back to being funny now.

** mostly the bit of the world between Canada and Mexico, let’s be honest.

5. The Backstory

Patrick wasn’t Irish, originally. He was Welsh, and he was sold into servitude in Ireland as a shepherd. It was during this time that he’s meant to have heard the voice of God telling him to go convert the Irish.

I only mention this because it’s amazing how often lonely sleep-deprived people who have to forage for interesting wild plants for food have religious visions.

6. Of Course, The Real Backstory

…is that he probably never existed. Or there were two of him, one called Palladius and the other, Patrick. Or he did exist, but he was never made a saint (which has to be done by a Pope, in which case, I know just the man). Or – look, here’s wikipedia. Go nuts.

7. Hail Glorious Saint Patrick, Dear Saint of Our Isle.

Anyone remember more than the first two lines of this? Been a long time since I was a choirgirl.

8. Have A Good One, All.

Avoid Temple Bar. Resist food dyed green with dodgy food colouring. Have an article about how the President’s a leprechaun. Mind yourselves, now.

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