Enough Shite-Talk About a Snake-Chasing Saint

I’m listening for the Eastern garter snakes. Any day now, they’ll arise from hibernation, rustle the Pennsylvania leaves, then tumble down the hills into the bright edge of the vernal equinox.

Also this week, we’ll have Saint Patrick’s Day. And someone—there’s always someone—will solemnly say that we’re celebrating the Great Enlightener Who Drove the Serpents From Ireland Into the Sea…

Read the full piece at CounterPunch.

Banner photo: Natrix maura (Viperine water snake) by Charles J. Sharp, CC BY-SA 4.0.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day (A Note of Welcome to the Snakes)

“They are beautiful creatures. This planet is theirs as well as ours.”

— Roisin Gruner

I feel a sense of relief when March comes. The buds on the branches awaken and encourage me. I live on a multi-unit property, so I’m at odds with the management and its domineering relationship with nature. But managers can’t suppress everything. 

The baby garter snakes are here. In a grand event that will not be widely reported, they’re rustling the leaves along the trails, tumbling down the hills, bursting from the Earth into their season in the sun.

Also this week, we have Saint Patrick’s Day. They say the “Enlightener of Ireland”—actually the bishop Patricius, a Romano-British missionary who went to Ireland to rough up the druids—drove the serpents from Ireland into the sea. 

Ireland did not have snakes; the story is a myth. But in the Judeo-Christian scriptures, a snake signifies evil. The serpents’ exile is perhaps a metaphor for Christian conquest. 

Patricius is celebrated in Irish enclaves the world over, with drinking, music, and vague nostalgia. Little is heard about how ancient wisdom was repressed. The druids, so highly respected in their time, were portrayed by Greco-Roman writers as “barbaric” by the invading Romans and their Christian converts. There were stories of druids performing human sacrifice. Some historians accepted those stories; others called them Roman tales. Druid teachings, like the Earthly wisdom and knowledge of snakes, had to be overcome.

But the snakes arise from their nests this week. And I, for one, am filled with joy to see them.


Inspired by Crystal Dicus. Rise in power!

Further reading: Miranda Jane Aldhouse-Green, Caesar’s Druids: Story of an Ancient Priesthood, Yale University Press (2010); Nora Chadwick, The Druids. Cardiff: University of Wales Press (1966).
Photo: Eastern garter snakes. CC0; Pixabay via stockvault.net.