Shamrocks and Leprechauns

Respond to this Friday Faithfuls challenge by writing about Saint Patrick’s Day, or by going with anything else that you think fits.  St. Patrick (387-461) was an Irish monk who is known as the patron saint of Ireland, and March 17 celebrates the day of his death.  The story of St Patrick has captivated the world.  As a boy, he was captured from either Wales or Scotland and sent to Slemish Mountain in County Antrim as a slave.  He tended sheep on this quiet mountainside before escaping home, where he had a vision telling him to return to Ireland and spread the message of Christianity.  Many people celebrate St. Patrick’s Day by hanging up pictures of shamrocks and leprechauns, wearing something green, or eating corned beef and cabbage, or drinking some green colored beer.

As Saint Patrick travelled across Ireland, spreading Christianity and the light among the pagan tribes, he saw many wonders and defeated many evils, but always more rose up to challenge him. One story says that during Lent he decided to do a 40-day fast on top of a mountain in County Mayo, now known as Croagh Patrick.  From the moment he got there, he was harassed by crows.  There were so many crows, that they blotted out the sky, and the sounds they made were driving St. Patrick crazy.  The crows turned out to be demons which God allowed to test the resolve of Saint Patrick’s faith.  The demons were an ancient terror, an antediluvian entity venerated in Ireland that cackled and danced in realm of ice and the cold of winter, sleeping in deep in dark caverns, waiting eons for a thaw to reawaken them, so they could work their mischief.  St. Patrick stood on the mountain that the demons had taken as their palace, praying and ringing a silver bell in silence while trying his best to ignore the demons.  An angel showed up and said because of Patrick’s faithfulness, that his prayer would be answered and the Irish would all become Christians.  When St. Patrick came down the mountain, he saw all of these snakes, and some of then tried to attack him.  His nerves were completely frazzled at the time from the 40 days of having to listen to the screeching crows, so he took off running after the slithering reptiles and he chases all of them into the sea.

After St Patrick had rid Ireland of snakes, he turned his attention to dragons.  The Oilliphéist was a sea serpent-like monster in Irish mythology and folklore.  These monsters were believed to inhabit many lakes and rivers in Ireland and there are many legends of saints and heroes fighting them.  In one story, the Oilliphéist cuts the route of the River Shannon when it hears that Saint Patrick has come to drive out it and its kind.  In 445, St. Patrick became discouraged because his mission of converting pagans to the Catholic religion was not going as well as he planned, so he visited Lough Derg to pray that his faith would get stronger.  The Lake which was also called Red Lake and its Islands Lough Derg has the same name as a larger lake that is essentially a wide part of the River Shannon.  Lough Derg island is located in the dreary and barren mountains and moorlands in the south of the county of Donegal, Ireland.  Legend claims that Saint Patrick killed a huge dragon which had terrorized the countryside, and its blood dyed the lake waters red.  St. Patrick prayed and fasted while asking God for help him to get people to embrace Christianity.  God revealed the entrance to purgatory in a cave at Lough Derg to Patrick that he might share with the Irish people.  It is said that people who entered this pit actually experience the afterlife, the pains of the otherworld and the punishments of Hell that awaits them.

St. Patrick is also said to have battled the Caoranach a mythological monster who was the mother of demons and devils, that took the form of a woman.  She was said to be following closely behind St. Patrick for some time until he banished her to Lough Derg, where she was trapped on a small island in the center of the lake.  Saint Patrick ended up fighting with the Caoranach for two days and two nights in the murky waters of Lough Derg, which eventually became filled with the defeated Caoranach’s blood.  At one point in the battle, she swallowed Saint Patrick whole, and he escaped by puncturing her side with his crosier (a hooked staff carried by a bishop).  It is interesting how much this story is so similar to that of Beowulf.


  1. Reblogged this on A Unique Title For Me and commented:

    Happy Saint Patrick’s Day! Erin go Braugh, put on your green. There are a lot of interesting tales about St. Patrick and maybe some of them are just made up and since I don’t want to rain on your parade, I won’t mention anything about the leprechauns. Here is a sweet one that you probably are not familiar with. When Patrick was still a boy, he used to look after his aunt’s flocks of sheep. One day a wolf jumped into the field, took a young lamb in its mouth and ran off. That evening St. Patrick’s aunt was angry with him for not taking better care of her flocks. So, Patrick prayed all night for the lamb to come back to them. God heard Patrick’s prayer and the next morning when Patrick was in the fields, the wolf appeared with the lamb in its mouth. The wolf came up to Patrick and put the young animal down in front of him and the little lamb got up and ran back to his mother. I am not sure if this is true, or just another one of those stories that are told about St. Patrick, but whatever you believe, I hope that everyone has a lovely Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!


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