I’m going to break with widespread internet tradition and write about St Paddy on a day other than St Patrick’s Day. I have other reasons for my interest in him.
I never need to invent reasons to drink beer.
History Ireland has a good summary of how beloved old St Patrick was quite likely a crank who is preserved in history because he wrote stuff down.
Patrick—to his fellow bishops, probably in Ireland, who would have seen his activity at close quarters—had gone completely ‘off message’ with his unique vision of himself as the apocalyptic preacher. Yet by answering these anonymous level-headed pastors, the real founders of Irish Christianity, Patrick became the only one who left a name and any account of evangelising in Ireland!
What he did not leave was any account of his driving away all of the snakes. This is because Ireland almost certainly had no snakes within human history there. It was a glacier covered island until the tail-end of the ice age.
The brief version of the tale is that Patrick, while on an extended fast, was beset by snakes, so he preached the gospel to them and thereby drove them into the sea. Which, so we’re clear, was meant as an accolade of the power of his preaching, not an indictment.
The most popular interpretation of this legend is that it is a far more recent invention, and snakes = pagans as an allegory.
Not so fast, say pagan scholars such as P. Sufenas Virius Lupus are oft quoted, every March, saying things like:
There is the idea, recently given voice inGalina Krasskova’s article on this subject at Patheos.com, that St. Patrick drove out the snakes of Ireland, but that the snakes were really “the druids,” and that therefore some modern pagans and druids celebrate “Bring Back the Snakes Day.” Unfortunately, this isn’t true, and the hagiographies of St. Patrick did not include this particular “miracle” until quite late, relatively speaking (his earliest hagiographies are from the 7th century, whereas this incident doesn’t turn up in any of them until the 11th century). St. Patrick’s reputation as the one who Christianized Ireland is seriously over-rated and overstated, as there were others that came before him (and after him), and the process seemed to be well on its way at least a century before the “traditional” date given as his arrival, 432 CE, because Irish colonists (yes, you read that right!) in southern Wales, Cornwall, and elsewhere in Roman and sub-Roman Britain had already come into contact with Christians and carried the religion back with them when visiting home.
The snake thing, then, was almost certainly an invention by later (church) “historians” ofr obscure propaganda reasons – or maybe they just thought it was really cool.
That doesn’t work for me at all.
So I’m going to give away some plot of my next book to you, al three of my loyal followers:
It was a brood of dragons. They were being compelled to remain in Ireland by the Druids somehow, but Patrick schemed to subvert that. The dragons ask how they can repay him, and the old crank replies, “Repent and turn to God.” The dragons ask him any other boon, so he says “Then leave, and never come back.” Which they did.
That is all 50 years history at the start of the novel, but repercussions of that (dragons have a long memory) contribute to The Problem.