Pre-Patrick’s Day Irish Post

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Tomorrow is St. Patrick’s Day (though, due to holy week conflicts, many Irish Catholics celebrated it on Saturday), a huge (and increasingly secular) celebration for one of the patron saints of Ireland. As a result, I thought a collection of Irish-themed links of interest to modern Pagans would be entirely appropriate. Let’s start with a fine essay written by Caroline Kenner on the ongoing struggles to halt the construction of a toll-road through the Tara-Skryne Valley.

“Royal Tara, seat of the High King of Ireland in Pagan times, premiere portal to the Celtic Otherworlds, realm of the Ancestors and the Faeries, has a history dating back 6,000 years. But even in a span as long at Tara’s, the last few years have been unusually filled with incident. This week, while many of us are thinking of Ireland and her heritage … it is a good time to turn our thoughts to the situation at Tara. For more than three years now, Royal Tara has been threatened with a superhighway, a toll road called the M3, being built within 1000 yards of the Hill of Tara. Despite heartfelt protests from international Celtic scholars, locals from County Meath, Irish citizens and members of the Irish diaspora, a couple of sympathetic politicians, many passionate activists, commissioners of the European Union, and, yes, Pagans from Ireland and around the world, the road building continues at Tara.”

Kenner speaks to several Irish Pagans about the situation including Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone, whose group, Teampall Na Callaighe, has members directly involved in activist work trying to halt construction.

“The issue is not the building of the M3. We’re the first too say that we need the road, and the bypass around Kells, where we live. The problem is the route and the impact it will have on the archaeology in the area. The National Roads Authority has been desperate to paint anyone against the route as being against the M3, so they can keep the local people, and more importantly the local business community on board. But now, more and more people are realising – including local business people – that they have been duped. This was particularly true when they found out that they had been mislead regarding the M3 being a public road, and discovered it was in fact going to be a toll road.”

Meanwhile, the Irish Voice has run a spotlight on Celtic Reconstructionism in its Wed., March 12 – Tues., March 18, 2008 issue.

“The article is very pro-Tara and a positive portrayal of CR. Andrew Nusca interviewed a handful of us involved in the preservation efforts, and quotes two of us who are CR, along with quotes from a Wiccan of Irish heritage and a more secular activist from Ireland.”

The article isn’t online yet, but the author of the piece has said that it should appear online eventually. The hardcopy edition is on newsstands now.

The Irish Independent runs a story by Antonia Leslie about her brother Mark winning a Thea award for his firm’s work on the Blackrock Castle Obervatory in Cork. In the process, the entire Leslie clan reunites to celebrate the win, including Antonia’s eclectic Pagan sister Wendy.

“My sister Wendy, who lives in Fort Myers, is a different kettle of fish and deserves an article all on her own, but I’ll condense it here. She was the result of an affair which my dad had but she was adopted and grew up in the States. I met her when I was 12 years old and she and the rest of my five ‘known’ siblings have been thick as thieves ever since. Wendy is a white witch and she lives with her Warlock hubby in a rambling spread by the Caloosahatchee River with snakes and cats and crystals and cauldrons. She is high priestess of a big Florida Wicca coven (they call it a clan). They drum and perform rituals and cast spells and observe Wicca/Druidic tradition. You would know that she was one of us — madness, eccentricity or whatever, it’s in the genes.”

In a final note, it wouldn’t be a St. Patrick’s day news cycle without several articles repeating the usual “driving the Pagans snakes out of Ireland” story. Though a valiant few try to debunk “Patrick drove out the Pagans” myths (Pagans and Druids were around for another century or so after Patrick’s death), it makes for interesting copy. So the myth propagates and takes on a life of its own.

“The text carries an account of a sect called the Crom Cruich, who used the symbolism of the snake … ‘The Crom Cruich cult were very bloodthirsty with the faithful expected to sacrifice their first born in his honour to assure a successful harvest. The annual slaughter took place on the pagan feast of Samhain, on November 1, each year,’ explains historian, Thomais Moriarty, who specialises in pre-Christian Ireland. It’s recounted in the text that Saint Patrick marched on the place with a band of well-armed missionaries, mocked its demons, blessed the place afterwards and then destroyed the site. ‘By all accounts, a major battle took place, but Patrick and his well-armed followers won the day. The people feared terrible retribution from the pagan god afterwards, but it never came to pass, and from that point onwards, the cult’s grip was effectively broken in Ireland for all time. The event is recorded in the 6th century Dinnshenchas text, otherwise known as the Book of Leinster,’ adds Thomais Moriarty.”

I have never heard that Crom Cruach was associated with snake symbolism (or that regular baby-killin’ was a proven part of his cult). That’s a new one on me. I’ll let the resident Celtic scholars and CR folks dissect this variation on the Patrick/snakes/pagans story in the comments.

That is all I have for now, my best wishes to all those celebrating Irish culture and heritage.