"The serpent is the symbol and prototype of the Universal Savior, who redeems the worlds by giving creation the knowledge of itself and the realization of good and evil." - Manly P. Hall
With the arrival of March comes the celebration of St. Patrick’s Day. Though legend has it to the contrary, it seems that Patrick was not successful in eliminating the snakes from Ireland. From all indications, they are still alive and well today. Translated symbolically, it means that despite attempts to eradicate the ancient wisdom traditions, they still emerge beneath cultural icons. Here’s the real story.
Though St. Patrick was an actual historic figure, he was not actually Irish. He was born Maewyn Succat around 373 A.D. near what is now the Scottish city of Dumbarton and died on March 17th, 493 A.D. During his boyhood, the Roman Empire was disintegrating and unable to protect its outlying territories. Britain became a target for invasion by many tribes, including those who crossed the Irish Sea from the land known as Hibernia or Ireland. When Patrick was sixteen, he was seized by these raiders and taken to Ireland. It is known that he was sold as a slave to several chieftains and became fluent in the Irish language before he escaped and returned home. This is where the ‘factual’ accounts begin to contradict each other and, as with all heroes of mythic proportions blend with legend. Patrick did not introduce Christianity to Ireland as this had been done by earlier missionaries but it seems that he and his followers converted almost the entire population of the island during his lifetime without bloodshed. Eventually he was ordained as a deacon, then priest and finally as a bishop. Patrick wore no miter (they weren't invented for another 500 years), never climbed Crough, nor met a High-King at Tara as there were no High Kings in Ireland during his lifetime. Patrick did successfully abolish the Druidic public holy rites and converted the local kings and chieftains to his beliefs who then encouraged their subjects to embrace Christianity. Finally, since there were no snakes in Ireland at this time (and chances are that there never have been since the time the island was separated from the rest of the continent at the end of the Ice Age), the famous banishing of the snakes myth is often associated with the conversion of the Irish to Christianity.
It is interesting to observe then that no country in Europe is as associated with the serpent as Ireland, and none has so many myths and legends connected with the same. One of the ancient military symbols of Ireland is a snake and Irish crosses, so to speak, were alive with serpents. Yet, there were no snakes there. That seems to indicate that the use of the serpent motif was more symbolic than actual.
Many religious stories in the West and as in the ancient traditions of Asia and Egypt abound with references to the serpent. It is often either villanized or venerated or a little of both. It is the snake that proffers knowledge to the humans from the Tree of Knowledge in Bible’s Genesis myth and Egyptian mythology states that the world was created by four powers, or Gods. One was the sun God of Amun-Ra which took the form of a snake and emerged from the water to inseminated the cosmic egg which was created by the other gods. It was said that all life on this earth stemmed from this egg.
There are scores of examples of the serpent as the symbol for wisdom and energy. In the East, the coiled serpent is the representation of powerful Kundalini energy that rises up the spine. Snakes coil around the staff of Mercury’s caduceus which is our medical symbol. The Meso-American Aztecs deified the feathered serpent Quetzacoatl and the Oracles of Delphi in ancient Greece were known as Pythonesses.
Though the residue of the snake banishment myth remains an integral part of the story of St. Patrick and the celebration of this Irish holiday, there are other components in the hodgepodge of St. Patrick’s Day tradition. The story of the shamrock is appropriate to a holy trinity which is a part of both the Christian and pre-Christian cultures. The color originally associate with Patrick was blue but changed to green with Eire’s nickname the Emerald Isle.
As is true with St. Patrick’s Day, like many of the holidays we commonly celebrate, there is an overlay of Christian and pre-Christian elements. And like the globally ubiquitous serpent, these holiday component conglomerations remind us that there are many paths of wisdom that can coexist harmoniously.
Cristina Smith is a bio-vibrational healer, noted medical intuitive, and Panacea Community Master Teacher of Life. She loves facilitating the subtle energy communities both locally and globally. Her writings, programs and talks weave tales from the fascinating realms of energetic and the esoteric into an accessibly beautiful tapestry of wholeness. Her website is www.Heal-Thyself.com
©2013 Cristina Smith. All rights reserved.