The ancient Celts of Ireland, Wales, and Scotland were pagan people of the earth. The ancient druids were well respected members of society—poet-priests and -priestesses who studied divination, magic, astrology, theology, nature, music, poetry…and much more. The Celts lived by the cycles of the seasons, the movement of the planets.
This explains why celtic poetry is full of the intensity of nature, the colors, feelings of warmth, wonder, and belonging. For example, the prayer “The Deer’s Cry” (Later renamed and known as “Saint Patrick’s Breastplate,” probably appropriated by the church):
I arise today
Through the strength of heaven, light of sun,
Radiance of moon,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of wind,
Depth of sea,
Stability of earth,
Firmness of rock
There is a lot of controversy around Saint Patrick (understandably—he lived during the 5th century). It is said that he “drove out the snakes from Ireland”—some say this is a metaphor: Saint Patrick was a missionary who was sent to Ireland to drive out the pagans (who revered the dragon or serpent because it represents fertility, wisdom, and healing).
If all this is true, Saint Patrick’s Day is a lot like Columbus Day—a celebration of the oppressor driving indigenous people from their homeland and forcing them to convert to a “better” religion.
Of course, many people don’t actually know the history of Saint Patrick—the holiday is mostly a celebration of Irish heritage. So let’s celebrate our ancient ancestors, that our elder brothers and sisters may walk with us and help us remember the Old Ways. Let’s celebrate the strength of heaven, light of sun, radiance of moon, splendor of fire, speed of lightning, swiftness of wind, depth of sea, stability of earth, firmness of rock! Sláinte mhaith!