Monday, March 17, 2008

St. Patrick's Day--Or How the Irish Saved Literature

For the majority of my life, I, like most people on this planet, knew only that St.
Patrick was the patron saint of the Irish and green beer. Being a good mother, I even once dyed my kids’ eggs and bacon green to start a tradition—which I never repeated since, being sensible kids, they wouldn’t touch the disgusting stuff.

A few years ago, that changed when my historian husband introduced me to the relatively short and utterly fascinating book, How the Irish Saved Civilization by Thomas Cahill. I truly recommend all his books, even though I don’t always agree with everything he says. But, to the point…

In this book, there is the true story of St. Patrick. You can also click over to Wikipedia and so on to find the same thing, but who takes the time? Here’s the basics…Patrick was the son of a high-ranked Roman and a well-to-do woman Gaul, the French to us. He was captured in a raid and made a slave, but not before a servant imparted the rudiments of a Christian faith. If he’d grown up privileged and comfortable, we would most likely never have heard of him and corned beef and cabbage would remain just another ethnic dish.

Instead, he became the slave of a Druid High Priest. Set to tend his master’s sheep (who knew Druids kept sheep?), Patrick was isolated and miserable, and mistreated. He turned to God and the Spirit lifted him up. He fled six years later.

Ireland didn’t leave him, however. He traveled around Europe, became a priest, was sanctioned by the Pope, and went back to the people he’d learned to love. He converted the whole country. Oh, the Druids set out in force against him, one in particular employing magic against him while flying through the air, but Patrick prevailed.

Rome fell. Barbarian hordes overthrew the government, killed many, and torched libraries. Well, dang them, why did they have to do that? In fact, if Patrick hadn’t converted Ireland, brought them peace, and created monasteries and abbeys where the great literature of antiquity would be copied and hidden—very little would remain. Of course, mummified crocodiles have been found with pages and pages of papyrus, but that is only recently. What we had between the 400s and the 1800s can be credited, at least to some extent, to the Irish on their remote island that escaped notice for long enough.

So, raise a glass of green beer (nasty stuff) with me and thank St. Patrick! Otherwise, The Eddy Complex couldn’t have been based on Oedipus Rex and so very much more.


Anitra Lynn McLeod said...

Great informative post! I did not know the story behind the man so as I have a nip o' the green beer (much, much later this evening) I'll send a blessing to St. Patrick! :)

Savanna Kougar said...

Great recitation of history, Lexie! I'd done a bit of research, but yours is better. It's fascinating to me how things divinely come about, St. Patrick's role being a perfect example.
Green beer, hey, even now I want to hurl -- you could torture me with the stuff, I swear.
Now a nice honey mead raised on high to St. Patty, a kiss o' the shamrock...that's for me.

Lexie O'Neill said...

Thanks! I don't actually drink beer, green or otherwise, but maybe with the way today is going...some green chocolate chip ice cream? Having a historian hubbie comes in handy sometimes, plus I've researched Druids for another manuscript I've yet to finish.
Hmmm, maybe I should,

Lexie O'Neill said...

Thank you for the history comment.
And I strongly agree about how things
just work sometimes. I actually tried mead at a castle in the England countryside, when I won a trip to London from the Big Bubba country radio station (but that's a different story). I didn't like it, but I do
like corned beef and cabbage, and a little wine to toast...

Anitra Lynn McLeod said...

LOL! Well, to let you both in on a little secret, I brew my own beer, and I've made some wild concoctions over the years, but never, ever green beer--gotta agree with Sav on the hurl factor of that! But I've made a jalapeƱo flavored beer for a friend and a coffee flavored beer for another.

Now mead is a totally different thing. I've made honey mead (from a 1250 A.D. recipe) that took five years to fully ferment--ya, not for the impatient! I don't like it myself as the alcohol content is sky-high and it's far too sweet. But I digress.

Honestly, after the day I've had, I'm with Lex on having a bit of green choc chip ice-cream. Yum! :)

Savanna Kougar said...

Anitra, that is so cool about beer-making. If I had time I would try brewing up some mead and ale. Long, long ago, in the land o' college, I imbibed the mead at a place called the Monastery. Luved their mead. And I found a recipe for an ale called Blue Moon Ale, which I have to incorporate in Pleasures of Blue Lotus Oil.
Lexie, ooooh! a trip to London, do spill the mead on another blog. You lucky gal, you.