Monday, March 17, 2008

Top o' the Morning to Ya!

Today, on one of my favorite days of the year, I'd like to share some Irish lore.

First of all, a toast to St. Patrick's Day*:
May God bring good health to your enemy's enemies.
*This toast shall use sparkling apple juice, seeing as St. Patrick's Day was once a religious holiday in which observers were to obstain from alcohol. Ironic, eh?

A saying:
A man that can't laugh at himself should be given a mirror.

(Some) Irish curses make me laugh:
May you be afflicted with the itch and have no nails to scratch with!

Here's a great curse from Nell Flaherty's drake:

May his spade never dig, may his sow never pig,
May each hair in his wig be well thrashed with a flail;
May his turkey not hatch, may the rats eat his meal.
May every old fairy from Cork to Dunleary
Dip him smug and airy in river or lake,
That the eel and the trout, they may dine on the snout
Of the monster that murdered Nell Flaherty's drake.

And how about some wise Irish Proverbs:

It is better to be a coward for a minute than dead the rest of your life.

He who has water and peat on his own farm has the world his own way.

And finally, a word on St. Patrick** himself.
**I learned the following from Carmel McCaffry and Leo Eaton's book, In Search of Ancient Ireland.

St. Patrick was born around 400 A.D. At this time, it was a common practice for Irish raiders to go across the sea and kidnap Brittains to sell into slavery. This was the fate of 16 year old Patrick who was snatched away to work on a sheep farm near the Wood of Fochlock overlooking the Killala bay (modern day Co. Mayo).

Although Patrick was the son of a deacon and the grandson of a Christian priest, he himself had strayed from his faith. In the dire circumstances of slavery, surrounded by an unfamiliar world of druids and paganism, Patrick prayed for comfort.

Patrick toiled for 6 years, and then one dark night comfort came as he was praying. In his Confession (one of only 2 surviving documents attributed to him) he says a voice came to him, "It is good that you pray and fast and soon you will go back to your homeland." Later he heard a voice telling him a ship was waiting for him to take him home. After traveling 200 difficult miles, he talked his way on board the ship which took him home.

"That's it?" you say? NO! His family was overjoyed to see him, and he studied dilligently and became a priest. Then the spirit of the Lord called him back to Ireland to convert the people to Christianity. He was a humble man, and rather than telling the Irish that their pagan beliefs were false, he bound common beliefs and meshed Christianity with their own practices. (The Irish at this time held many beliefs which were centered around the changing of the seasons).

So what about banishing the snakes from Ireland while on a hilltop? This is a myth (see what the history channel has to say). Apparently, there never were snakes in Ireland. (A place after me own heart).

It seems that different churches were trying to attract pilgrims to their parishes long after St. Patrick died. This was a way of gaining income. So, many myths about Patrick were made up in order to attract parishoners. I'm sure myths about him were made up for all kinds of reasons. I guess he makes for a good story!

And so, I'll leave you with one last bit of Irish lore:

Wisdom is the comb given to a man after he has lost his hair.
- Irish Saying

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Here are some great St. Patrick's Day sites:

Happy St. Patrick's Day!'s_day.htm (this is a great site).

Irish Culture and Customs

St. Patrick: The Man and the Myth

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