St Patrick, the snake charmer

Happy St Patrick's Day to our fellow Celts across the Irish Sea, who incidentally, sailed over and snatched poor old Patrick from right under our noses in the first place!

His birthplace is still up for debate as some scholars believe him to be Scottish and others Welsh, but we'll stick with Wales for the sake of this blog.

The pirates who snatched St Patrick then sold him as a slave and he was set to work farming in County Antrim. He spent the next six years tending sheep and pigs before finally escaping back to Wales on a ship.

He found his calling though, was later ordained as a bishop and returned to Ireland to spread the Christian gospel. By the 8th century he had come to be revered as the patron saint of Ireland.

A keen nature lover...St Patrick allegedly drove all the snakes out of Ireland. Although it's unlikely there were any there to begin with...but their loss is our gain as Wales is home to two delightful species of rare snake - the adder and the grass snake.

An adder basking in the sun by John Fisher:

One theory is that the 'snake' reference refers to 'serpents' which were seen as a symbol of evil and widely used by the Druids.

The 'driving out of the snakes' refers to the Pagan religion being driven out of Ireland and replaced with Christianity.

I'll be visiting Ireland shortly on a surf trip so will try and inject a bit of Paganism back into the old country ;)

In the meantime, enjoy your day and have a glass of stout for me. It's true what they say - the Guinness does better over there!



Read an article about early Christianity in Wales on the BBC Wales History portal.

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