My family and I took a wonderful trip to Ireland in 2006. My great grandfather Patrick Vail came over from there during the potato famine. We had a great time, it’s an amazing little country and their reputation for drinking a lot is very well deserved. When I was over there I was shocked to find out that there aren’t any snakes in all of Ireland and that legend has it that St. Patrick himself drove them all out of Ireland. So, in the spirit of St. Patty’s Day I’m posting this short quip about St. Patrick legends I found on wikipedia.
Pious legend credits St. Patrick with banishing snakes from the island, however all evidence suggests that post-glacial Ireland never had snakes. However, one suggestion is that snakes referred to the serpent symbolism of the Druids during that time and place, as exampled on coins minted in Gaul (see Carnutes). Legend also credits St. Patrick with teaching the Irish about the concept of the Holy Trinity by showing people the shamrock, a three-leaved clover, using it to highlight the Christian belief of ‘three divine persons in the one God.’
Some Irish legends involve the Oilliphéist, the Caoránach, and the Copóg Phádraig. During his evangelising journey back to Ireland from his parent’s home at Birdoswald, he is understood to have carried with him an ash wood walking stick or staff. He thrust this stick into the ground wherever he was evangelising and at the place now known as Aspatria (ash of Patrick) the message of the dogma took so long to get through to the people there that the stick had taken root by the time he was ready to move on.
The 12th century work Acallam na Senórach tells of Patrick being met by two ancient warriors, Caílte mac Rónáin and Oisín, during his evangelical travels. The two were once members of Fionn mac Cumhaill‘s warrior band the Fianna, and somehow survived to Patrick’s time.