Snakelessness in Ireland

Glencar Waterfall; Co. Leitrim, Ireland
Glencar Waterfall; Co. Leitrim, Ireland


Hello, Friends! 

Tomorrow is St. Patrick’s Day AND it’s also the feast day of the original Cat Lady, Saint Gertrude, so many are celebrating all over the world.

We are not.

Although our family has a deep Irish heritage and we absolutely adore Ireland, I Am not one to celebrate nonsensical traditions.  One side of my family’s heritage is Irish and Welsh, so Saint Patrick’s Day is always quite amusing to me.  People all over the world are celebrating a culture they know very little about.  Here’s just a few facts that most green food/beer consumers know about:

  • The real St. Patrick wasn’t Irish.
  • He didn’t drive the snakes out of Ireland; many see this story as symbolism for banishing the Celtic “heathens”.
  • Adding green dye to food symbolizes not only the green countryside, but also the time of the Great Famine, when Irish people were so deprived of food they resorted to eating grass; people’s mouths were green as they died.
  • March 17th is the feast day St. Gertrude, the Patron Saint of Cats.

Did You Know..?

Lá Fhéile Pádraig (Saint Patrick’s Day) is a religious holiday in Ireland, that happens each year on March 17th.  They celebrate the patron saint of Ireland – Patrick, who lived in the beginning of the 5th century AD.  Saint Patrick is the most recognized Irish saint, however, the real St. Patrick wasn’t even Irish!

Lá Fhéile Pádraig began as a Catholic holiday and became an official feast day in the early 17th century.  But today Lá Fhéile Pádraig represents a week-long (and sometimes longer) celebration of Irish language, music, culture and art.

You can learn more about the history of St. Patrick Day here and here.

The land surrounding one of the castles we stayed at in Ireland

The image below pretty much sums up the silliness of many myths and legends that have been created around this day of celebration around the world.  And the image above sums up the real Ireland. So in honor of the Irish, I wanted to share some insight into where one particular myth about this one came from.

MYTH: Saint Patrick banished all of the snakes from Ireland.

Legend states that Saint Patrick, the Christian missionary, rid the slithering scaly reptiles from Ireland’s icy shores by chasing the snakes into the sea after they began attacking him during a 40-day fast that he had on the top of a hill.  This was just around the time that he had semi-successfully converted the Irish people from paganism to Christianity during the fifth century A.D.

saint-patrick-snakes-ireland_happy st patty day_irish blessings

TRUTH:   No, he really didn’t drive the snakes out of Ireland.  At all. 

Yes, it’s true that snakes do not inhabit the island of Ireland today, but they never did.  Ireland is surrounded by freezing ocean waters. These icy waters are way too cold to allow snakes to migrate from Great Britain or anywhere else around the Irish island.  And as it turns out, we can blame the Ice Age, not St. Patrick for the lack of snakes on the breathtaking green isle.

On the cliffs of Sliabh Liag Ireland
Standing on the cliffs of Sliabh Liag — in Ireland on our honeymoon.

If you have the opportunity to visit Ireland, go.  But do so with respect in your heart for the Irish, for these people are unlike no other.  Be prepared to meet the kindest, most loving and generous people you’ve ever known.  Prepare to see breathtaking scenery, experience delicious food, and enjoy sincere, open-hearted hospitality.  Oh, and prepare to appreciate the best beer in the world.   Ireland, you have my heart.

♣ An Old Irish Blessing:

Go raibh an bóthar ardú suas chun bualadh leat.
Go raibh an ghaoth go brách ag do chúl.
Go dtaitní an ghrian go bog bláth ar do chlár éadain,
agus bháisteach ag titim bog ar do ghoirt.
Agus go gcasfar le chéile sinn arís,
Bealtaine Dia a shealbhú tú ar an dtearmann a lámh.

Brú na Bóinne
Brú na Bóinne, Ireland

Last But Certainly Not Least

Since March is Women’s History Month,  a lot of people celebrate St. Gertrude of Nivelles.  She’s a prominent historical female figure.  Gertrude is the patron saint of gardeners, travelers, widows, recently deceased people, the sick, the poor, the mentally ill, and travelers in search of lodging.  And our fellow Lord of the Rings fans will love this: Gertrude was the daughter of Pippin of Landen.

So, before you go …

check out:

St. Gertrude of Nivelles depicted with mice circa 1530.

The Real History Surrounding Saint Patrick’s Day

2 thoughts on “Snakelessness in Ireland

  1. Pingback: Justifying Judgement or Choosing to Compassionately Face Fears? – Conscious Companion

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