Posted by: aediculaantinoi | March 17, 2011

Liberalia, Hero-Feast of Cú Chulainn

Today is a day that is marked in wider worldwide culture as an Irish-specific holiday; unfortunately, the wider culture doesn’t know how to do this outside of unfortunately reified stereotypes of Irish drunkenness and the parody of sense and style that assumes “Ireland = green things and leprechauns.” As someone who knows a great deal about Irish heritage and history, this is truly sad to me to see the “leprechaunification” of Irish culture on such a massive scale.

Unfortunately, the lack of good and decent information on Ireland, its history and folklore, which has come about due to embarrassment about Irish heritage that resulted from things like the English plantations of the seventeenth century CE, and particularly the Great Hunger (a.k.a. Potato Famine) of the late 1840s CE, has also infected modern paganism to a huge extent. There is the idea, recently given voice in Galina Krasskova’s article on this subject at Patheos.com, that St. Patrick drove out the snakes of Ireland, but that the snakes were really “the druids,” and that therefore some modern pagans and druids celebrate “Bring Back the Snakes Day.” Unfortunately, this isn’t true, and the hagiographies of St. Patrick did not include this particular “miracle” until quite late, relatively speaking (his earliest hagiographies are from the 7th century, whereas this incident doesn’t turn up in any of them until the 11th century). St. Patrick’s reputation as the one who Christianized Ireland is seriously over-rated and overstated, as there were others that came before him (and after him), and the process seemed to be well on its way at least a century before the “traditional” date given as his arrival, 432 CE, because Irish colonists (yes, you read that right!) in southern Wales, Cornwall, and elsewhere in Roman and sub-Roman Britain had already come into contact with Christians and carried the religion back with them when visiting home.

Though Christianization of Ireland did not take place in a uniform or complete manner immediately, and there were still druids teaching in Ireland at least in the mid-seventh century CE (if not later), and the “final” Christianization of the culture didn’t take place until the fourteenth century CE (several centuries after the Norman conquest!), and the loss of the prehistoric religion is to be lamented as deeply as the loss of any of the other religions of Europe and elsewhere due to creedal monotheism’s exclusive orthodoxy insistences, at the same time what we do know about Ireland and its pre-Christian heritage is also due to the entirely Christian-controlled technology of literacy, which the Irish took to like ducks to water. The monks in monasteries did not passively record the stories of the druids and native storytellers, as far-too-many modern pagans (including ones who should really know better, including many Celtic Reconstructionists) often think they did, but instead innovated, re-interpreted, harmonized the native materials with classical learning as well as biblical narratives, and very freely and fascinatingly rhapsodized with the materials available to them. Certainly, echoes of pre-Christian cultural constructs and mythological elements come through, but not in an unmediated fashion, any more than the Roman influences on Gaul and Roman Britain mean that the various deity-names we have from those regions are direct cultural survivals either in most cases that have come through unfiltered or “purely.” Thus, what comes through in the medieval Irish records is, to some degree, syncretistic. I’ve written about syncretism recently here, and about this issue of Roman influence here; to use the terms established in the former entry, what ends up happening in a lot of Celtic religious materials is that a more syncretic rather than syncretistic picture emerges, though one can sometimes easily, sometimes with more difficulty separate out the elements into a syncretistic framework for future practical, theological, and devotional usage.

But my intent today was not to discuss the matter of Irish culture as a lament for the losses that have occurred as a result of Christianity, so much as to draw attention to two holidays that can instead take place today: the Roman Liberalia, which was traditionally on March 17 and was an important social occasion in the coming-of-age of young men; and the hero-feast of Cú Chulainn, which is what I think should rightfully replace the significance of this day for modern pagans (particularly ones who draw from Irish or Celtic sources for inspiration).

So, first let us acknowledge Liberalia, which Sannion has already done on his blog today by posting Ovid’s piece from Fasti on the subject. Ovid’s explanation is more than sufficient for our purposes, so I highly suggest you go and read it. But let me observe something in relation to that occasion as well: as a festival of Liber Pater, commonly syncretized with Dionysos, there is a bacchanalian element to the observance, certainly. And, what is done on St. Patrick’s Day worldwide? Certainly not visiting church to go to mass (including in Ireland a lot of the time)! As Patricius was a Roman Briton, and some of his surviving writings indicate that he may have been more a solar monotheist in certain respects rather than an out-and-out Christian, praising Helios to be delivered from torments by Satan at one point in his Confessio (!?!), it’s very possible that he may have had colleagues who celebrated the Liberalia in the more “traditional” manner of drunkenness. If Patricius underwent the expectable rites of passage into manhood that most Romans would have, then he would have received his toga virilis on this day as well, since it would have been traditional to have done so. So, it seems possible that Patricius may have had some association with, and even investment in, this occasion even as a Christian.

I have written on what I’m about to detail previously, on our Winter Solstice celebration of Antinous Epiphanes, but it bears some review here at present. Cú Chulainn was conceived three times, and born twice, which makes him a lot more like Dionysos/Zagreus than many other figures in European-wide mythology. Thus, if there is a possible connection between him and Dionysos, it also seems at least possible that this particular date might be one further connected with him. But the fact is, he has several connections to St. Patrick, and to Emain Macha, the provincial capital of the old cóiced (“province,” literally “one-fifth”) of the Ulaid (a.k.a. Ulster). There are several hills on or around Emain Macha, and one of them is known as Ard Macha, anglicized as Armagh, which is where the ecclesiastical foundation most associated with St. Patrick exists, and which is now the primatial see of Ireland. I witnessed several occasions on which St. Patrick’s antics in a chariot near that site were confused with the stories of Macha running against the king’s horses in terms of how the debility of the Ulstermen, from which only Cú Chulainn was exempt (and women and children), and from which the name of Emain Macha was derived (in at least one version of the story), were freely confused and intermingled in the minds of many Irish people. There is absolutely no certainty as to when Patricius existed, and even whether or not he was one person or two people; yet, as far back as we have record, Patrick is celebrated on March 17. Is it possible, therefore, that Patrick’s feast-date simply usurped a festival that was observed locally in the area of Armagh and Emain Macha? And if so, could it have been a festival for Cú Chulainn, the protector of Emain Macha?

Further, in Síaburcharpat Con Culainn (“The Phantom-Chariot of Cú Chulainn”), a story about the conversion of Ireland via its high king of Tara, Lóegaire meic Néill, Patrick summons the shades of Cú Chulainn and his charioteer Láeg from hell to tell Lóegaire of his deeds but also of the punishments awaiting him if he does not allow himself to be baptized. For his assistance in this regard, Cú Chulainn was said to have been given release to heaven as a reward. Thus, as far as Irish reckoning is considered, Cú Chulainn is himself a saint! Unfortunately, no dies sancti survives for him in Irish records…though, far more fantastical characters in Irish literature not only were considered saints, but had celebrations in the calendar (e.g. on January 27, the long-lived shape-shifting partially-aquatic female Lí Bán/Muirgelt/Muirgéin is celebrated as early as the earliest martyrologies that have survived from Ireland). Therefore, why not take the dies sancti of Patrick as Cú Chulainn’s own date for hero-cultus?

On Imbolc, I suggested it might be appropriate to observe Cú Chulainn’s fatal single combat with his foster-brother and lover Fer Diad. On Winter Solstice, I suggested it would be appropriate to observe Cú Chulainn’s dies natalis. What, therefore, would be a good occasion to celebrate on March 17 in relation to Cú Chulainn, which can be linked to something in his surviving narratives? While the story of his slaying of the hound of Culann that earned him his heroic name might be a possibility, that may better be located in August, after the end of the dog-days of summer, simply for symbolic reasons. What I would suggest is that, given that Patricius may have usurped a local festival of Macha in the area around Armagh, perhaps what could instead be celebrated is the date that Cú Chulainn first took up arms, upon which he did so in order to fulfill a partial prophecy he heard that whomever took up arms for the first time on that day would be famed forever after; he only learned later that the rest of the prophecy revealed that the famous hero would only live a very short life, to which he responded that it would be better to live but one day and one night in the world if everlasting fame were to be attached to him. This active taking up of the heroic life and all of its responsibilities, including death (most likely on behalf of one’s people, as a warrior), was the date on which he became the protector of the people of Ulster and thus of Emain Macha and his uncle Conchobor mac Nessa’s kingship. What more appropriate occasion, therefore, to celebrate the hero-cultus of Cú Chulainn than on the day that he decided to take up the heroic life? But, there’s more to it than even that! At the end of his martial adventures on that day, and his near-destruction of his own people in his warp-spasm, he was dunked into vats of water three times to cool down his ardor, and then was dressed in adult clothes for the first time and recognized as a warrior by his people. The giving of the toga virilis and the taking up of all that it implies in Roman culture on March 17, therefore, is a most appropriate occasion on which to observe Cú Chulainn’s feast date, therefore.

The above sculpture is one of the most beautiful images of Cú Chulainn I’ve ever encountered, and it is one that I own and that is on my shrine as my primary representation of him. I acquired it on my very first trip to Ireland, around Winter Solstice of 1996, and it has been in my constant possession ever since. I also have a coin that I obtained more recently that commemorated the 50th anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising in Ireland, with Pádraig Pearse’s portrait on one side (he is an Ekklesía Antínoou Sanctus) and a representation of the famous GPO Statue of Cú Chulainn on the other (depicted below), which I carry with me along with the other Antinous, Hadrian, and other coins and small objects as a constant material reminder of my devotions to these wonderful divine beings.

In terms of activities that can be done today in observance of Cú Chulainn’s hero-cultus, you might consider visiting Galina Krasskova’s hero-shrine to pagan heroes (where you’ll find several other familiar figures as well!), toward the bottom of which is a long description of Cú Chulainn that I recently wrote, in absence of anything else. If you can, read his stories–preferably aloud, and to others, but silently on your own is certainly an additional option. Make him the traditional hero offerings of milk and honey (which the Irish would have appreciated just as well as the Greeks and Romans!), or consider having a shared feast with your friends of boar (or pork) or salmon, which he would have appreciated for various reasons. And, perhaps most importantly, speak his praises anew, in your own words and your own language, rather than just relying on the excellent and wonderful words on him that have been written in the past, by people in other cultures and other languages, who may not have intended their words to be the praises of a figure they would have thought sacrilegious to consider divine in any manner. Here are some words I wrote on him last year.

My dear cúán and céile and cara cridecáin, Cú Chulainn…

There was never a greater hero who lived in Ireland;
there was never a more famous or more virtuous man who lived there,
who was yet not a man though far more than a mere man;
there was never a greater loss to Ireland than his death and his destruction and his dark-lying upon the plain of Muirthemne.

He was the stag of flood in every ford;
he was the salmon of valor in every stream;
he was the giant on the plain;
he was the pillar of battle and the splitter of shields;
he was a god in his chariot, and a demon in his fury, and an angel in his prophecy,
and a bird of melodies for his singing,
and a fine-formed phrase for his poetry,
and a pure strain on the harp for his sweetness,
and a prize among fine jewels for his beauty.

A drink of red mead was every glance at his face for intoxication;
a shower of new milk the whiteness of his teeth;
a summer sunset on the vast ocean was his hair.

Lightning does not strike with the swiftness of his spear;
the ancient oak of the forest is not as steadfast as his shield-arm;
the rivers and streams of Ireland not as full nor as turbulent as his blood when aroused to anger or to passion.

A full cauldron for every eye that remembers him;
a trained pet crane for every eye that scrutinizes his deeds.

The Hound of the Feats was too young,
he was too bold,
and he was too beautiful–
and may those who have these gifts never shy from sharing them lavishly and fearlessly,
as the Hound of Ulster did on his first foray in arms,
and upon his wooings of Emer and Derbforgaill and Bláthnait and Fedelm,
and his tutelage with Scáthach (who is called Búanann) and Úathach and Aífe,
and his loving fosterage with Fer Diad,
and his steadfast friendship with Láeg and Conall Cernach,
and his honoring of his bonds with Fergus mac Róich and Conchobor mac Nessa,
and his winning of the two horses Liath Macha and Dub Sainglenn,
and his vigilance upon his foray in the Táin,
and his courage as he went to his death at the hands of the Clann Calatín Dána and Lugaid mac Con Roí.

The Hound of the Smith was born
of the line of Conchobor mac Nessa through his mother, Dechtíne,
and the line of Fergus mac Róich through his father, Sualtaim mac Róich,
and the line of the Tuatha Dé and the Fomoiri through his father Lug mac Ethlenn;
never was a hound before nor after born twice and conceived in three lyings.

As long as the sun rises and sets,
and there is an island called after the goddesses Ériu, Fótla, and Banba,
and as long as one person of the blood of Ireland draws breath enough to continue living,
may the memory of Cú Chulainn never be erased from the face of the earth,
or the words of praise of humans,
or the writings of poets in books,
or the eternal fame of the heroes and gods.

*****

May Liber Pater, the intoxicating Dionysos, be praised on this day! Felix Liberalia!

May Cú Chulainn, greatest hero of Ireland, be praised on this day! Bendachta Dé ocus An-Dé ocus Chon Culainn foraib!

And may Antinous, hero in his own right, inundate in abundance of praises for these gods and heroes, and enjoy their presence in his blessed company! Ave Ave Antinoe!

Haec est unde, Haec est unde, Haec est unde vita venit!


Responses

  1. [...] ADDENDUM: For more on the history of St. Patrick’s day, criticism of the “leprechaunification” of Irish culture, and ideas the Pagans can use to celebrate this day on their own terms, do check out this post from P. Sufenas Virius Lupus. [...]

  2. I was interested and then I noticed (who could fail to) the usual ‘blame the Brits’ line.

    • I’m not following you here…would you care to clarify/expand upon what you’ve said?

      • The English, the plantations and the last famine were introduced in the second paragraph that was when I began to lose interest.

        I’m interested in the pre Christian religions and Irish folklore. I try to keep my interest separate from any politics: its more important than that.

        St Patricks day today is no more than a chance for business to make money and in our circumstances there is nothing wrong with that! If a Leprechaun outfit sells beer and good humour all to the good.

        Sorry if I was a bit abrupt.

      • This isn’t politics; it’s reality, it’s history, and all of these things pervasively influence how folklore, literature, and mythology are shaped. None of it has come unmediated, and the politics and history in Ireland, at every stage, have influenced how things were written and what was written about. The important mythological tale Cath Maige Tuired, on the battle between the Fomoiri and the Tuatha Dé, was first written in the form we know it in the 9th century, not long after the Vikings had done some really severe and unprecedented raids on the Irish; and then it was re-redacted in the 12th century, after the Norman conquest; and the version of it that we have now (which is the only one) was copied again when troubles with the English were once again to the fore. It kept being written and copied because it was of major contemporary relevance.

        I say this as a person whose Irish ancestry is not “pure Irish,” but instead as someone whose Irish ancestors were only “Irish” because they were naturalized after they came over with the Norman conquest and were Welsh–their surnames bore that distinction (or that stigma) for generations (i.e. anyone whose last name is “Walsh” was of the invading Welsh contingent that came over with the Normans). There is much that the Irish could have done better under the circumstances in terms of being able to preserve their culture and language under those circumstances, certainly, but the source of the external pressures on the culture is not controversial, nor political to point out. It’s entirely possible to be non-political in pointing out that the American War for Independence/Revolutionary War was with Great Britain, or that Germany under the Third Reich was responsible for the Holocaust; likewise here. I am not anti-British (since the Welsh are the true and original British, and they’re my ancestors!), I am not anti-English, and I am not affiliated with any political factions in Ireland (or elsewhere) that are anti-English in their sentiments or their politics; I’m simply pointing out that this is the way history occurred, whether we like it or not.

      • Of course it forms part of our history but I think its not, on this subject relevant. Patrick is said to have been British, English even. Ok neither ‘country’ existed then but nor did Ireland as such, slavery however certainly did.

        Pre Christian is the time when nationality as we recognise it today did not exist. It was tribal and it was brutal, and that applied everywhere.

        One thing you can say about the British they don’t care if someone dresses as a the Union flag in drag or a demented beefeater they will not believe for one second that either could possibly identify the entire country and surely that is healthy.

        You didn’t need to introduce the famine. I notice you left out others that the English could not be blamed for. I understand there was a famine in Scotland (mini ice age?) and that accounts for at least some of the migration at that time. In fact it could be argued that the ‘invaders’ were just returning home.

        I don’t mean to be dismissive or insulting about this post. I enjoyed it.

      • Patrick was most certainly a Roman Briton; he couldn’t have been English, though, because the Anglo-Saxons weren’t there yet…So, whoever says such things is terribly misinformed.

        However, where I did introduce the subject of the plantations and the Great Hunger above, it was relevant to the reasons why Irish heritage is not as much a priority as it was in previous generations, and those various other factors are major reasons for the loss of Irish culture, traditions, and language, which is what I was addressing initially in this piece. Note, I did not suggest that the Great Hunger was the result of the English in the above mention of it (though it appears you thought so because the English were mentioned in the clause before that), merely that it is one of many reasons that Irish language and culture has been less of a priority to Irish people, and it was the most recent event that was the greatest blow to the Irish sense of pride in their own culture. The necessity of having to learn English due to the huge rate of emigration in the 1840s contributed greatly to the loss of much folkloric traditions, practice, and tales with certainty; and even within Ireland and with the people who never left, Irish traditions became less of a priority.

        I’m not seeking to place blame on anyone in terms of pointing that out, I’m simply saying that it is one major event that has constituted the modern reality that, easily, at least half and possibly as many as three out of four or four out of five third- (or more) generation Irish Americans have never heard of Cú Chulainn or Finn mac Cumhaill, and they think that “being Irish” consists of leprechauns, Catholicism, St. Patrick, and not using birth control. I wish that were an exaggeration, but it isn’t…

    • I fail to see how a recounting of the history of the Irish should not note how the British have effected them when the events dictate it. It’s a bit like noting the history of blacks in America without mentioning how they got here. If that makes you uncomfortable, perhaps you should come to terms with why instead of blaming the messenger.

  3. That is an impressive set of cross-correlations! I’d read about Liberalia in a novel set in Rome recently, but it didn’t mention dates specifically, just “early spring”. Arming of the hero indeed. . . .

  4. Good stuff! It’s a shame that even so many “Celtic” Pagans know so little of this history and fall for that kind of leprechaunification.

    • Thank you! Glad you enjoyed it!

      And that’s the truth, for I am no “lover of lies”! ;)

      • One man’s lie is another’s excess of alcohol.

      • As Antinous once said to Favorinus of Arles, “True ‘dat.”

        (Though I may not be translating it properly…)

  5. [...] Cú Chulainn, who got a lot of attention in my last post, was not gender-exclusive in his erotic attractions. If it is good enough for Cú Chulainn, it [...]

  6. Argh, comments are nested too deep for me to respond directly, must start new thread. . .

    “I’m not seeking to place blame on anyone in terms of pointing that out, I’m simply saying that it is one major event that has constituted the modern reality that, easily, at least half and possibly as many as three out of four or four out of five third- (or more) generation Irish Americans have never heard of Cú Chulainn or Finn mac Cumhaill, and they think that “being Irish” consists of leprechauns, Catholicism, St. Patrick, and not using birth control. I wish that were an exaggeration, but it isn’t…”

    Yes, when talking about the historic Patrick it’s not relevant; when talking about the manner in which the saint’s day is celebrated in the Diaspora today, it is indeed relevant.

    AFAIK I’m 4th generation, and my maternal grandmother apparently worked hard to be American, so I’ve got pretty much no tradition coming down through the family. I still think it’s crazy that people wouldn’t have heard of Cú Chulainn or Finn mac Cumhaill, even if they couldn’t pronounce them right or recount their stories. . . but then, I’m a mythology buff, so I came to it from my own interests.

    I know you are not on the eeeevil Facebook, but I thought I’d share my status update from yesterday here because it might amuse you.

    “N.B.: of Irish-American descent =/= Irish; physical contact based on the pretext of ancestry is messed up; I’m not Catholic; there were never snakes in Ireland to be symbolic of the Druids, who were not “driven out” by Padraic anyhow; with few exceptions, vegetables are the only things I consume that should be green; most alcoholic beverages I enjoy consuming aren’t Irish. YMMV.”

    • Yes–and thank you for sharing that bit of your eeeevil life with me! ;)

      It’s sad to me how many self-identified “Irish” (who are really Irish American) have no idea about things, or how rich and wonderful their heritage is. Almost worse, though, are native Irish people who think anything older than 1795 is “boring” and not worth studying…and, they are probably equal to the number in the U.S. who know little to nothing, alas…

  7. [...] started yesterday. I can see why people would think that: it was a day in honor of Dionysos, as myself and particular others highlighted. And, looking around at the world at the moment, things do look [...]

  8. [...] I offer a new interpretation, perhaps? Given the proximity of this festival to the Liberalia, and the interests and very important work of my good friend and colleague Sannion, as well as some [...]

  9. [...] as Middle Irish Lesbian Day, and honor the presence of queer women in Irish culture in particular. As we honored Cú Chulainn earlier this month, who was a lover of many women but also of Fer Diad, so too should we honor all of the wonderful women whose names we often don’t even know (as [...]

  10. [...] is another image of Hekate Triformis, while next to it is the image of the dying Cú Chulainn that I showed in this earlier entry. You can also see a round wooden image that has Hadrian on it, which I obtained in [...]

  11. [...] note something else here: I’m always tempted to see a similarity with Hermes here and Cú Chulainn, but in a kind of reverse manner. Cú Chulainn’s greatest exploits are recounted in the tale [...]

  12. [...] was also the death-date of the Anglo-Irish writer, Lady Augusta Isabella Gregory, who wrote about Cú Chulainn, amongst other figures in Irish [...]

  13. [...] Reconstructionism and my devotions to figures from those particular cultural strains (including Cú Chulainn and Finn mac Cumhaill, amongst [...]

  14. [...] to this blog; the most was on March 17, 2010, when I had 835 hits, most of which were to my post on Liberalia and the Hero-Feast of Cú Chulainn, and that was thanks to a link by Jason Pitzl-Waters at The Wild Hunt blog–so, thank you [...]

  15. [...] of Irish culture, and ideas the Pagans can use to celebrate this day on their own terms, do check out this post from P. Sufenas Virius Lupus. Tags: Christianity, Paganism, St. Patrick's Day73 responses so far [...]

  16. [...] the Catholicism or mixture with Spring Equinox customs, I highly suggest reading this post, “Liberalia, Hero-Feast of Cú Chulainn” by Aedicula Antinoi: A Small Shrine of Antinous.  It’s inspired me to do a private [...]

  17. [...] accounts, he wasn’t the first Christian missionary on the isle, and Pagan culture thrived another hundred years after him.  That’s not exactly a smashing success, let alone criteria for a bloody [...]

  18. Reblogged this on Zachary Maichuk's Blog and commented:
    An interesting Insight on and some mythbusting about St. Patrick’s Day.

  19. [...] is also the hero-feast (which I’ve translated as anglonnfhled above) of Cú Chulainn. The post I did on this last year has been one of the most popular posts on this blog ever, which I owe in large part to The Wild [...]

  20. I posted this blog entry to my FB wall a few weeks back when it came out and the next thing I know, my ADF grove thinks it’s a splendid idea to celebrate this for Ostara. We ended up going with it; I have a near-duplicate of the statue in the seventh photo above (the only real difference is the addition of a wooden plinth/background). We spoke of his deeds, celebrated his name, read poetry about his life and death, and afterward had a feast with roast boar, colcannon (not chronologically accurate, given that potatoes are a new world crop, but still), and apple tarts (for Emain Ablach). Also present were liquid refreshment in abundance, including home-brewed apple mead, Guinness, irish lager, and cider. It went wonderfully, so thank you for the inspiration!

    ~BrigidsBlest@LJ

    • Thank you!

      This is actually my entry from 2011 on the hero-feast of Cú Chulainn. You should check out the one that I wrote for this year…you might like it as well, if you’ve not seen it yet!

  21. [...] has already been argued (Hero-Feast of Cú Chulainn) that this pernicious story of snakes being driven off the island is rubbish.  Not only were there [...]

  22. Thank you so much for this! I love any re-iteration of the debunking of the snake myth and I doubly love giving us a hero-feast on top of simple Irish Pride Day possibilities! Ave Antinoe and hail Cú Chulainn!

  23. [...] my most popular posts on this blog EVAR is the one I did for this day in 2011, which you can read here. You can also read the series of posts I did on it last year, for the specific significances of the [...]

  24. […] Saint Patrick was NOT a slayer of druids. Please read this blog by The Wild Hunt and this one by P. Sufenas Virius Lupus, a Celtic Reconstructionist Pagan and scholar for more information on this […]

  25. […] happened to fall on March 17th. I thought, sure, that’s Pagan, but it’s not Irish. Well, Lupus came up with an interesting idea- e pointed out that like Bacchus/Dionysus, in Irish myth Cuchulainn was born twice, so it would […]

  26. […] do it for you, stick it to Patrick by honoring your own patron gods and goddesses (as this article also suggests). And one way to do that is to find out about *real* history rather than the […]

  27. I enjoyed reading your piece. Very intellectual and thought-provoking. Yes, the victors, in this case the Christians, get to write, or re-write, (or in this case introduce writing and start putting it down for the first time) history. And yes, Christians have coopted pagan holidays just about everywhere. But there had to be something really compelling about the Christian message to sweep through Europe and even to its outer hinterlands (called barbaric by the Romans) like Ireland. Your pagan viewpoint is appreciated. Pagan contribution to human culture and civilization cannot be understated. However, it would have been nice if in your closing you had also tipped your hat (..er…glass? ;-)) to St Patrick, to at least acknowledge the impact he too had on Irish culture and heritage (indeed on all Western Civilization), along with Cuchulainn. Augustine set the right example for us. His Christian masterpiece City of God starts with a dedication to his friend, a Roman pagan. Can we be friends?

    • It’s always possible to be friends. ;)

      As to your other suggestions, though: not on my life. I can’t agree that Augustine’s example was a good one; I can’t agree that there is something compelling about the message of Christianity such that it spread the way it did since it was often not the message, but the sword-points and socioeconomic hegemony of Christians that enforced their viewpoint on others.

      As for Patrick himself: the mythic version of him was a colossal jerk, but the historical version of him (some of whose writings do survive) seems to have been a solar monotheist as much as a Christian. If that historical version of him had been better preserved and represented in the traditions that came after him, things might have been much different–and, I’d argue, much better–for many who came afterwards.

  28. […] My post on this day in 2011 remains one of the most popular ever made on this blog, and leading up to today, it has been getting a bit of traffic over the last two weeks. It’s mostly for my “re-paganization” of the day in honor of Cú Chulainn that it gets attention; but we must not forget that it has several other significances as well. I’ll likely be writing individual posts later today with poems honoring each of the deities concerned, but I’d like to do an initial one which considers all of the different connections between these occasions. […]

  29. But there are “colossal jerks” all over the historical record. Pre-Christian times, there were pagan-on-pagan atrocities. Then after “Christendom” came along, there was atrocious, even genocidal Christian-on-Christian sword-pointing too. Everyone gets real upset because one culture or race or civilization dominated another but internecine sword-pointing and socioeconomic hegemony is okay?

    Perhaps the worst crime is destroying or rewriting history, as pagans in Mesoamerica did as a matter of routine every time one civilization conquered another. Too bad–so many codecs were lost which would have helped us reassemble American history today. It’s not a unique trait of the spread of Christianity in Europe. That’s the march of history, and is even happening as we speak. Compare Putin’s romantic view of Soviet history to our own pro-Western.

    You pick apart Patrick from the historical records, but deify Cuchulainn. I’m a fan of Cuchulainn too (and Siegfried and Arthur and Beowulf and Abraham and David and Moses) but face it, his record was handed down by oral tradition through so many centuries and was embellished every bit along the way. Are you certain he too was no “jerk”?

    And I’m not suggesting you become a fan of Augustine; you have your own beliefs and I try to respect them. But imagine in AD 410 a Christian bishop debating respectfully with a pagan? That would not have happened in the USA in 1950. That simple example is good for everyone. That’s what I wish for your thoughtful and respectful posts here.

  30. […] diz-se que as últimas cobras encontradas na Irlanda datam pré-era do gelo). Não me interessa se ele não foi o único responsável por cristianizar a Irlanda. Não me interessa se ele na verdade passou pela Irlanda a fim de expurgar heresias cristãs. Ele […]


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