Who the hell was Patrick?
Researching my novel in which Celtic Christianity plays a key role, this is what I’ve been wondering about.
Today, March 17, Ireland’s national day, and it’s hard to imagine we Irish have been so easily tricked into accepting a man as our patron saint who – if he existed at all, and there is really no incontrovertible evidence he did – wasn’t Irish and indeed was a propaganda figure against Celtic Christianity.
The Church in Rome, which was then – and is even more so today – extremely cunning, deceptive and politically shrewd – needed to invent someone who could ‘stick it to’ Columba (or Colmcille as he was also known) and his followers who dared preach a rival Celtic version of Christianity.
Their intention was simple: let’s toss these maverick Celts into the dustbin of history. Or into the Irish Sea, whichever is easier.
Some might say that couldn’t possibly be true, Columba and Patrick lived at different times.
No-one really knows anything about Patrick. There are no manuscripts in Ireland in the 5th century when he was supposed to be strutting his stuff. Even his own supposed writings have been shown to have been penned about 400 years later. And there’s no solid evidence it was his words that were copied.
Patrick was probably just an imaginary figure, a synthesis of personalities, conjured up by well-paid church spin-doctors in Rome, who promptly decorated his life with fabricated fantasy stories associated with mind-boggling miracles and snake symbolism (to win over Pagans), and with a bit of fanfare shoved his name into the public arena as a mighty man of morals, when in fact he might have been a mere mouse of a fellow, if at all.
Interestingly too, absolutely none of Columba’s personal writings have ever been found, very strange considering he led a group of renown writers and illustrators who produced thousands of books and pamphlets. Even stranger, not a single word is written about Columba by anyone until around one hundred years after his supposed death – by another monk called Adomnán, who accepted Rome’s rules and regulations. And even his story is considered by historians to be but a fanciful piece of fiction. Were Columba’s writings destroyed to undermine Celtic Christianity still further?
To understand why Rome would go to so much trouble to invent a larger-than-life figure called Patrick, it’s helpful to know the intense political rivalries at the time. I use the term ‘political’ because religion was – and still is today – exactly that, making our traditional parliamentary one seem like kindergarten playtime. And politics, as we know, is economics under a different guise. Have you any idea how much money was made selling religious relics alone? Tens of billions of euro in today’s currency. Peddling relics wasn’t a cottage industry, it was a lucrative conveyer-belt one. For hundreds of years.
So how did these Christian rivalries emerge?
Well, after the Roman Emperor Aurelian established the imperial cult of Sol Invictus, the Invisible Sun, as the Supreme god in 200 AD, it became easier for Christianity to be established, adopting the exact same supreme god idea. With the Roman Empire being so vast then, it was simple to spread the ‘Word of Christ,’ especially later when Emperor Constantine converted – for political (aka economic) purposes. (Do you really think it was because he or his mummy saw a thingy in the sky?) It was made even easier when Emperor Theodosius made it the official religion of the entire Roman Empire.
Different versions of Christianity quickly arose and one of the most prominent was the Celtic one.
Fearing it might take over the whole shabang and ruin their party, the Romans organised the Synod of Whitby in England in 664 to claim the number one position over its Celtic rival. Can you imagine the Almighty kerfuffle if the Vatican had been set up in Columba’s wee home place of Donegal in a remote corner of northwestern Ireland instead of Rome?
Naturally, many Celtic Christians were unhappy with the vote in Whitby, probably considering it rigged with hefty bribes doled out here and there. They jumped into their currachs in a huff and sailed back to Ireland, angry, frustrated and hellbent on revenge. That’s when the propaganda battle began.
Of course, we know who won, but do you know what we lost?
Celtic Christians, generally following the Brehon Law, recognised women as equals, allowed co-habitation by both genders inside ‘religious houses’ and permitted them to rumble and tumble under the sheets, considering, quite rightly, celibacy to be a most unnatural state. And, unlike the Catholic Church today, even believed homosexual unions to be fine.
Celtic Christians followed John the Evangelist’s teachings while, of course, Rome followed Peter’s. And we all know how jealous Peter was of Jesus’s mistress and closest confidante, Mary Magdalena, so the subservient role of women in the church was a given from day one. No wonder the Roman church lambasted her as a whore.
So, not only did the Catholic Church overturn the traditional practises of our Druidic ancestors (stealing and using many of them), they also overturned the Celtic Christian ones.
Anyhow, regardless of whose rightful day it is today – including, I might add, Brigid, who would probably have been a much better choice as patron saint of Ireland than either of the two men – let’s take any opportunity to celebrate – ooops, just remembered, all the pubs are closed.