The thought of St. Patrick’s Day usually conjure up images of shamrocks, leprechauns, pints of Guinness, and a town painted in green. But the influences of St. Patrick run much deeper than a wild holiday on March 17th. Here is a brief history of the patron saint of Ireland, the Celts, and how we came to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.
According to The Wisdom of the Celts, the Celts had been around since at least 750 B.C., official documentation of
their culture and traditions didn’t begin until Irish monks began to write about them in the sixth century A.D. But though the Celts existed all over Europe, opposing empires would eventually conquer them. Ireland was spared in this conquest, and the Celts were able to flourish throughout the island. One of the more prominent philosophies of the Celts was living without oppositional thinking, and being spiritual and generous within their natural and material surroundings. We continue to see the influence of the Celts in everything from... science to art, and even in the classic game, Dungeons and Dragons. But the most recognizable figure of Celtic/Irish culture is arguably St. Patrick.
Born in 387 A.D., St. Patrick was a Christian missionary and bishop in Ireland. In The Wisdom of the Celts, St. Patrick is noted for his presence in traditional Irish oral stories. One of the better-known myths, St. Patrick’s Purgatory, is believed to have been one of the main influences for Dante Alighieri’s Inferno. In the myth, St. Patrick enters the world of the dead through Donegal County, Ireland, and his quest into the underworld becomes “the framework of another series of tales embodying the Celtic ideas concerning the other life and its different states. . . .” The tales that stemmed from St. Patrick’s Purgatory would also go on to influence great works such as Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene and William Shakespeare’s King Lear.
St. Patrick is believed to have died on March 17th, which began to be celebrated as a Catholic feast day in the 17th century. The celebration of St. Patrick, along with the many of the well-known traditions (including wearing green or a shamrock) that go along with this day, are relatively new, but because they have become so engrained with Irish religious and national identity, they have carried over into Irish tradition.
For more information on the Celts, and their traditions and philosophies, check out The Wisdom of the Celts.
Read More about St. Patrick's Day here
Today’s featured excerpt comes from Out of My Later Years by Albert Einstein. Out of My Later Years is a deeply personal work from one of the most brilliant minds in history. In this inspiring essay collection, Einstein addresses the topics that fascinated him as a Nobel Prize–winning theoretical physicist, philosopher, and humanitarian. In the excerpt below, Einstein describes the emotional conflict he feels as a physicist—involved in a scientific discipline that made weapons of mass destruction possible—and as a German Jewish émigré in America witnessing the effects of World War II on his people.
Read a sample of Einstein’s Out of My Later Years here on the blog. You can also grab a longer sample for your readers via Amazon.com, Apple iBookstore, or Barnesandnoble.com.
Out of My Later Years by Albert Einstein