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Did St. Patrick Really Drive Snakes Out of Ireland?

Offbeat  (tags: off-beat, Snakes, Myths and Legends, interesting )

- 567 days ago -
St. Patrick's Day, which is celebrated worldwide on March 17, honors St. Patrick, the Christian missionary who supposedly rid Ireland of snakes during the fifth century A.D.

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Dee C. (220)
Saturday March 15, 2014, 8:50 am
According to legend, the patron saint of Ireland chased the slithering reptiles into the sea after they began attacking him during a 40-day fast he undertook on top of a hill. (Related: "St. Patrick's Day: Facts, Myths, and Traditions.")

It's admittedly an unlikely tale. Ireland is one of only a handful of places worldwide—including New Zealand, Iceland, Greenland, and Antarctica—that Indiana Jones and other snake-averse humans can visit without fear.

But snakes were certainly not chased out of Ireland by St. Patrick, who had nothing to do with Ireland's snake-free status, Nigel Monaghan, keeper of natural history at the National Museum of Ireland in Dublin, told National Geographic.

Monaghan, who has trawled through vast collections of fossil and other records of Irish animals, has found no evidence of snakes ever existing in Ireland.

"At no time has there ever been any suggestion of snakes in Ireland. [There was] nothing for St. Patrick to banish," Monaghan said. (Read about the top ten St. Patrick's Day celebrations.)

So what did happen?

Read more at site..

Lydia S. (161)
Saturday March 15, 2014, 8:59 am
I have read that it is a reference to Pagans & perhaps Druid beliefs and traditions .
So they were likely the snakes as he was committed to Christianity having a stronghold on Ireland .

Connie O. (46)
Saturday March 15, 2014, 10:57 am
a snake free country...maybe I will go visit :)

Robert O. (12)
Saturday March 15, 2014, 12:21 pm
Interesting. Thanks Dee.

Judith Hand (56)
Saturday March 15, 2014, 12:37 pm
Apparently, noted before. Great to see again and tweeted. Thanks, Dee!

Louise D. (39)
Saturday March 15, 2014, 12:56 pm
Maybe he did a rather more effective job getting rid of Snakes than expected of course I suspect the Irish would just drown the snakes in Guiness just like what happens to rats (allegedy) still what a way to die? Still, I notice he also was very effective at getting rid of Yetis too, which explains why the Irish have no word for "Yeti" until someone told them about Yetis, still it is quite evident that Ireland is a Yeti free country, they are planning to be a Jedward free one but that may take a bit of work.

Caitlin M. (9)
Saturday March 15, 2014, 1:06 pm
It has nothing to do with reptiles or snakes as in the animal, and everything to do with Druids/Paganistic beliefs like Lydia S. said. Christians then and some now thought of pagans as a satanic cult and thus, as part of a snake cult. So Saint Patrick drove the Druids or "snakes" out of Ireland. That is where this idea derives from. I believe they have never found fossil evidence of snakes in Ireland.

A F. (129)
Saturday March 15, 2014, 1:10 pm
thank you

Kathleen R. (138)
Saturday March 15, 2014, 1:16 pm
read & noted

Birgit W. (155)
Saturday March 15, 2014, 2:14 pm

Robert Garvin (46)
Saturday March 15, 2014, 4:31 pm
Everyone has heard of some different "myth"about the "snakes" that Patrick drove out of Ireland so here's one that will be hotly contested. Christianity was in the British Isles a lomg time before Patrick even came on the scene. There is one thing hat Patrick was dead set against, he was a Sabbath Worshipper, yes, he worshipped on Saturday and the snakes he got rid of were those who were trying to bring in Sunday worshipping to his country. It took them somewhere about 200 years of drumming up all sorts of "myths" about Patrick, even canonising him to fool the Irish in to worshipping on Sunday. Those snakes wren't the druids but Catholic priests

Sheri Schongold (7)
Saturday March 15, 2014, 4:35 pm
It's ok for St Patrick to keep the legend going. I think it is a great one. Thanks for the info.

Winn Adams (218)
Saturday March 15, 2014, 6:42 pm

DaleLovesOttawa O. (198)
Saturday March 15, 2014, 8:15 pm
Interesting article, no snakes. The stuff of legend sometimes is the stuff of dreams and fantasy but I am sure that the Irish will continue to think of the legend. Strange to have no snakes, they are interesting to watch on a sunny day as they pass by on their journey though the grass.

Dianne D. (474)
Saturday March 15, 2014, 9:10 pm
Well that's one theory. I didn't know those countries didn't have snakes so I learned something.

Terre P. (0)
Saturday March 15, 2014, 9:32 pm
Monaghan is too literal. The "snakes" St. Patrick drove out of Ireland were the witches and druids, the pagans who did not follow organized religions like christianity or catholicism. It's one reason I don't celebrate St. Patrick's Day.

. (0)
Sunday March 16, 2014, 2:31 am
Odd isn't it how snakes are metaphors for us still today. The Chinese call the trader of people leaving China to other countries for illegal work - the 'snake's head'. In the Middle East the term 'snake' is sometimes used for religious extremists. There is the Biblical reference to the snake that duped Eve, the asp that Moses' staff turned into, the asp of Cleopatra etc, all are interesting references. It seems Ireland had one of the first Western metaphors for snake catching in the tale of St Patrick.

Fi T. (18)
Sunday March 16, 2014, 5:24 am
How about stopping the factors leading to their appearance?

Ruth C. (263)
Sunday March 16, 2014, 7:07 am
Good lord!

Arlene C. (84)
Sunday March 16, 2014, 9:06 am

Barb Knight (1707)
Sunday March 16, 2014, 10:44 am
Snakes make me think of Lucifer. Lucifer--the devil--is the one who convinced Eve to eat from the Forbidden Tree. God possibly 'allowed' Lucifer into His perfect Garden as a test for Adam and Eve. As Biblical history teaches us, Adam and Eve failed. Thanks Dee.

Sunday March 16, 2014, 11:23 am
Thanks Dee!

Beau Evil (0)
Monday March 17, 2014, 9:16 am
Don't overlook the fact that there are PRE-Christian stone Celtic crosses that depict snakes on Ireland! It appears that a snake cult thrived in Ireland before being supplanted by Christianity. So, the excuses that "snakes" just referred to Druids or pagans is also off the mark. One good source for this angle is the "serpent code".

Past Member (0)
Monday March 17, 2014, 9:58 am
Beau is almost right, as snake symbols were associated with some Celtic goddesses as well as the Irish cult of Crom Cruaich, which involved human sacrifices to a serpent deity. St Patric basically converted everyone to Christianity. St. Patrick therefore didn't chase away real snakes; he chased away symbolic ones.
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