Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Happy St. Patrick's Day

Like most popular Festivals in the Wheel of the Year, St. Patrick's Day is based on ancient myths and practices. Its popularity in nations outside Ireland would be rather puzzling were this not the case.

Although Patrick is credited with the wholesale conversion of the Irish to Christianity, the traditions of St. Patrick's Day are pagan. The pot of gold at the foot of the rainbow, the sporting of a green herb or green clothing that represents the new growth of Spring and the four-leaf clover are pagan symbols of life, rebirth, the fecundity of the Earth and the Spring season.

In a legend about St. Patrick, it was claimed that he drove all the 'serpents' of Ireland into the sea. Many scholars have been puzzled by this, as Ireland is not known for any large species of serpents. Some now believe that the 'serpents' represent Pagan cults including the cult of Cromm Cruaich. The serpent universally is the symbol of rebirth and eternity and indeed, the form of the spiral is perceived often as a serpent. The serpent swallowing his own tail is a symbol of eternity.

The original Numina, Powers or Deities in most ancient cultures were represented by enormous standing stones. Often the stones were incised with designs or round depressions known as 'cups'. The primal image of Cromm Cruaich, therefore, probably was a stone. There is a reproduction of a stone that stood in the centre of a circle on the Plain of Prostration or Adoration in Ireland that is believed to be Cromm Cruaich. He may have been the Spirit of the Corn and sacrifices were made to him to insure fertility for the land. It is this worship that by legend was terminated by the actions of Patrick.

The Wheel has turned, however, and Paganism no longer is out of favour, nor are Pagans persecuted by government authorities in every land. Contemporary Pagans celebrate St. Patrick's Day but do so often by wearing charms or talismans that represent serpents. Some create wreaths decorated with serpents.

No comments: