19 March 2012

Dia's Muire duit! Lá Fhéile Pádraig!

Ah. Ye good ole day of green is upon us. St. Patrick's Day. Several years ago I wrote an article for the Cottage North Magazine as a contributing author about this day, trying to dispel some of the confusion or just plain ignorance of this holiday.

But that article was shit. It didn't even cover the HALF of real Irish pride, though I managed to inject some random ignorance into it and bring up points in the closing paragraph that weren't even touched on in the body, despite how hard I worked on that article. (Obviously, not all THAT hard.) 

I have stated that I don't like to alter original works, but I can honestly say I don't understand how that article was allowed to go published. The sophomoric attempt with which I wrote it with so audibly laughable it almost makes me worry about the integrity of the publisher. It totally deserves a rewrite. 

The original is around here somewhere. Maybe I will post it later for poking fun at and tearing apart while cackling loudly. Over a couple pints o' Guinness.

So, yeah, Saint Patrick's feast day. He lived in the wee years A.D. and is recognized for converting a multitude of people to Christianity in a time where the countryside was under pagan dominance. A.k.a the Apostle of Ireland due to his numerous conversions during such oppositional times.

From what little information to be gathered, he escaped imprisonment and studied in a monastery, having been a converted pagan himself.  The great successes that gained him the title Apostle of Ireland most likely contributed to the lore surrounding him driving "snakes" out of the land, as snakes were not a native species there.

Tales have told of his use of the shamrock for visually aiding his explanation of the Holy Trinity, which would have been a very appealing to pagan Celts. Shamrocks were, in Celtic tradition, considered to be lucky or magical because of the powers found in threes. 

So using the shamrock to point out one-two-three beings in one, it worked pretty good. The simple pagans just oohed and aahed their way to being saved.

"Oooh. Aah. Three-in-one. Got it!"

But, like many holidays to have metastasized into the current, bastardized versions that they are, St. Patrick's Day is yet another ancient holiday that blended religious and secular values, and changed shape with various customs, over the years.

As the Irish began to spread out to various parts of the world and customs wholly unrelated to Catholicism eventually amalgamated into the day most reminiscent for ex pat Irishmen, a hodge-podge of culturally- and memory-rich customs individually made their way into to blob of behavior, nostalgia, and humor that was distinctly Irish in flavor. Or at least desperately wishing it was.

I bet she's not even Irish.

Like pinching, for example. An old schoolyard game that evolved and trickled down from the days when wearing green could actually get you killed.  Wearing the color that most vehemently objected to the blue and red of British dominance was a rebellious thing and could get you shot. I'm guessing the pinch served to remind to Irishmen not standing up for their pride (and against all the years of British invasion and rule) that they should try and remember where they came from.

Unless, of course, you got shot in the face.

It served to remind good, proud Irishmen (and kids) what wearing green stood for. Which brings me to...

Why they must have drank so damned much. 

I really don't know if this is just a stereotype beaten to death by the movies, but if it bears any truth whatsoever, who the fuck could blame them? Between British oppression---and I'm talking heavy British oppression (long periods of great genocide by starvation, disease, and emigration)---liquor is probably the only thing that saved them from, or at least placated, their grief. 

At least in the pubs and various taverns, strains of a fiddle, a pennywhistle, or bodhrán could transport them away from every day shit life in "An Gorta Mór" or the segregated barrios in the New World, or their shit lives as slaves for a few hours in their day. 

Libation. Mm. Yum.

And they could really lament their troubles because Ireland was a lush garden already steeped in history, with known settlements as far back as the Neolithic period (aka Stone Age), long before the Vikings came and started setting up camp in their usual, plundering way.

 "Heave, ho. We're off to take over Ireland, yo."

Ireland's history predates Christianity and the New World, involved thousands of years of invasions by the Vikings, Celts, and Normand rule, and also included a patchwork land of varying kingdoms all before Ireland was more unified and certainly ALL before genocidal British rule.

Not to mention giving Irishmen and women the dire need to escape to the New World would find them having to struggle just as much on this side of the pond with segregation, racism, and in some cases, forced slavery, right around the time Africans were having problems with the same fucked up thing.

This is not a joke. This was really published. You can find more information here and here.

Speaking of which...

The etymological background of the leprechaun screams patchwork of influence and derision. The word as it currently stands resembles its Gaelic roots now (leipreachán), but the word itself went through the ringer just about as much as the rest of their language and culture did, taking on Latin and English changeovers.  

This spritely, mischievous character (neither "not wholly good nor wholly evil") comes straight out of Irish folklore, but is yet another item in the Irish bag of culture that went through a couple of transitions changed because of Latin influence and people not largely conforming to Gaelic. 

Awww, now who could imagine suppressing this little guy?

Which gives you the chance to understand just maybe why...

They drink so much. What? I said that already? Oh yeah. Well I guess I needed another drink myself just researching this stuff. I don't understand how any single Irish person wouldn't just flip their lids, galled with exhausted incredulousness just listening to any single thing any other person of any other mix of ancestry could have to whine about in their fluffy little lives. 

But they don't. They're just as friendly or grumpy or as racked up with issues as the rest of us. Hard, sturdy survivors with distinctly rich and embedded culture constantly fighting to keep the blanket of crap that would cover their heads. 

Ireland rose her head above the worst and cruelest kinds of indignity, prejudice and segregation, the horse manure and stench of politics, and soul-crippling abuse and infused a cultural centerpiece for Irish expats and their descendants to enjoy. And, like anyone who has suffered the brunt of humiliation, we know we relate best with those who've been through the worst. They are the champion underdog.

Yes, Ireland, this one's for you. 

You always have a reason to celebrate their heritage. 

You damn well deserve to party.

May God, Mary, and Patrick bless ye!

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