Monday, March 17, 2008

slainte...or why i celebrate st patrick's day

quite a few pagans i know - especially those of the celtic variety - refuse to celebrate st patrick's day. they do this because, as everyone knows, patrick converted ireland from paganism to christianity. celebrating his day, they reason, is tantamount to expecting the survivors of custer's last stand to celebrate sitting bull's birthday.

but i celebrate st patrick's day - always have, always will. for one reason, it's the only time of year when i can be sure i will know all the words to all the songs. i was raised on the clancy brothers, and my repertoire of irish songs is unabashedly impressive. i remember my ex once asked me if i knew any songs other than irish rebel songs or irish love songs. well, i replied after some consideration, i know a lot of irish drinking songs.

it is the one time of year i can be unashamedly, unbashedly, not so much irish... as celtic.

and that's another reason i celebrate st patrick's day... always have, always will. patrick hated the irish - hated the wild celts over whom he was to have such influence. wherever he was from, it wasn't ireland, and he was sent there mostly because he knew the language - having learned it there as a slave.

if patrick changed ireland, the christianity he preached changed as well. celtic christianity was a horse of an entirely other color from that preached out of the pulpits of rome - so much so a special synod had to be held in the 11th century to stamp it out. it was a christianity laden with mysticism, speckled with humor and founded on the certainty that the OtherWorld was just around the corner.

because to a celt, it always is.

the celts are a unique people with a curious perspective frequently labelled by those who considered themselves more civilized as nasty, arrogant and uncivilized. for example, the reason they didn't write anything down was because the druids believed that writing made the mind lazy. they didn't fear death, because they knew the Next Life was waiting. the women of the western world, in fact, have yet to recoup the rights the women of ancient ireland enjoyed.

one in four people in the united states today has at least some irish or celtic blood.

and that's the third reason i celebrate st patrick's day, always have and always will. it is the day i recognize my connection and my kinship to the great Web that stretches from a green dot on the westernmost edge of europe, across asia, to the other side of the globe. it is the day i participate in the conjuring of the Dream, the ireland of legend, song, and story, and the myths that reach back into the deepest vestiges of our primal past.

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

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