Fourth time I'm posting this, but why mess with perfection, eh? Why do I hear crickets...?
I'll be cooking corned beef and cabbage on Sunday, much to my family's delight - a double lot of the beef will ensure we all have a surfeit and hash the next day. I'll try to remember to take some up to Mum next time I see her...if there's any left... Bird likes the meat fine, but not the cabbage, and he doesn't want the potatoes, which leads me to wonder if any of the scant Irish in my veins made it to him. I get not liking cabbage, but potatoes? Something's not right with the child. Someone will happily scarf the lot, because he's a good Irish lad.
I'm planning on baking soda bread, too, because we like it and any leftovers can be used to make a nice doorstop or stone axe.
Seeing as I'm Pagan, you wouldn't think I'd celebrate St. Patrick's Day. Better than most, I know what St. Patrick did to get famous and earn his sainthood. However, I'm also part Irish, and I happen to love corned beef and cabbage. Also, I consider it a reclaiming of the day for Pagans, or some junk.
A bit of slightly bent history (that has, I'll grant you, been mangled in my head over the years and is rather truncated because I'm not writing a book, here)(I'm writing a book somewhere else). When I was a child, we were told that St. Patrick's day was to celebrate his chasing all the snakes out of Ireland. It is an historically serpent-free bit of earth, and the church attributed this to Paddy and his efforts...kind of overlooking that there weren't any of the slithery things on the island to begin with, if you ask me. Which they didn't, because I was a kid and most grown-ups weren't prepared for my staggering logic and keen grasp of history but rather appalling lack of respect for theology.
Many years later, people were saying St. Patrick's Day was a celebration of all things Irish, like green beer (wait, isn't beer German??) and green clothes, and green hair, and green mashed potatoes (which I won't eat on a dare because, really...green potatoes???), and rivers dyed green (I'm sure the fish are all so very thankful to be included...like Fridays and Lent weren't enough for them!)(that might only be funny if you're Catholic)(or not) and exclusionary parades, and funny little men waving their shillelaghs about (look it up you pervs!!) and that sort of thing.
In none of the many different explanations for this seemingly random holiday did anyone mention pagans. A most curious oversight of you know what St. Patrick, who was just Patrick at the time (not really, I have no idea what his real name was. For all I know, it was Fred), was actually doing on the Emerald Isle.
He was born and lived sometime between 490 and 461 AD, give or take. Around age sixteen, he was either sent or stolen and taken to Ireland where he spent some time hanging out with sheep and being lonely. He talked to God a lot. You may notice that lots of shepherds do that. You would too if all you had for company all day was a bunch of mutton-heads. I'm sure the Pope understands...
Christianity was rolling along like a snowball in those days, spreading out all over the dang place. Good grief, it was getting so that a simple Pagan/Heathen (there's a difference between the two, not that the church cared much) couldn't get any peace any more. Everywhere they turned, there was a church being built where a sacred grove used to be, from the trees that used to be the sacred grove, or a church going up on a sacred hill, or someone bathing their dirty feet in a sacred stream. To be fair, there was a lot of real estate lumped under that "sacred" heading in the pagan world. We're like that - we just love our planet so. Plus, you know, all those gods needed housing, and they don't do the roommate thing very well. So the pagans were running out of places to have sex on the ground, in the woods, up a tree - they were big on the sex, those little devils - and to read entrails in their spare time.
I digressed. Sorry.
So there was this lonely kid, Patrick Whatsisname, hanging out with sheep and pondering life, the Universe, and everything. He got the idea, somewhere along the way, that maybe other folks should share his God. He got out of his contract (OK, probably slavery) and went around telling folks how terrific his God was, and how he reckoned they should convert.
It seems that polite conversation wasn't doing it for the pagans, who tended to stare at him, or point and laugh. Rude beggars, huh? Now young Patrick (or middle aged Patrick, or old Patrick, I have no idea) decided he needed to be a bit more...persuasive. He had noticed something common among the pagan big-wigs. The guys at the top of the food-chain, magic/spirituality wise speaking tended to have a symbol on them somewhere...usually around their wrist. On the wrist that indicated their "hand of power", or the hand which they believed their "magic" flowed from. If it wasn't a tattoo, it was a torque. Guess what the tattoo/torque was? A critter called the oroborus. For them as what doesn't ken what that critter is, it's a snake eating its tail, and often represents eternity.
Pat realized that if he took away this "power", he took away their mystique and leadership ability. So he removed the snakes - often with something edged and unpleasant. Yes, he whacked off their hands. Or branded their skin. Or took their trinkets. Converting Heathens is such messy work!! It was for their own good, of course.
Some pagans today go on "snake crawls", a sort of pub crawl where they wear snakes and proclaim their paganism. I'm not quite that...er...proactive. I also don't necessarily think old Pat went around mauling everyone he met in an effort to build church membership and win a nifty prize. But it's the bloody aspect of what he did that earned his name in Christendom and for which his holiday is celebrated.
So again, why would I celebrate the day? Well, I'm all for a day when families get together and discuss history, theology, spirituality, and the like. Traditions are important - they give us a foundation on which to build our lives. People should discuss their history so they don't repeat it - whatever side of the issue they're on. Also, as I mentioned, I am part Irish. I can celebrate that heritage even as I acknowledge its imperfection. And I am Pagan - and I am celebrating the fact that I can be pagan today without (much) fear of having my (largely not visible when I'm clothed) tattoos painfully removed and other unpleasantness (except for the odd zealot who thinks I'm fair game, but I'm used to that. I live in the Bible belt, after all). Precisely because we didn't get wiped out, I celebrate. And have you ever had a really nice corned beef and cabbage dinner? I mean, yum!
Oh, but I won't be wearing green. I wear blue. Don't even think about pinching me.