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Lá Fhéile Pádraig Sona Duit!
March 16, 2012 - Stephen Browne
That means "Happy St. Patricks Day" in the Irish.
Don't even try to pronounce it. The rule of orthography in Irish Gaelic is, you pronounce only the letters that aren't there.
Patrick, born Succat, is thought to have been a Roman-Britain carried off into slavery in Ireland in the fifth century. He appears to have been treated reasonably well, worked as a herd-boy, and when the time came evidently just walked off to the coast and found a ship to take him home.
In the "Confession of St. Patrick," he said,
"My name is Patrick...
I am a sinner, a simple country person, and the least of all believers. I am looked down upon by many.
My father was Calpornius. He was a deacon; his father was Potitus, a priest, who lived at Bannavem Taburniae.
His home was near there, and that is where I was taken prisoner.
I was about sixteen at the time."
After his return he had a vision, wherein he heard to voices of the Irish pleading with him to come and bring them the Holy Word. When he arrived in Ireland in somewhat irregular fashion he proclaimed, "I declare myself to be a bishop."
This has led some Irish wags to claim this proves Patrick was both English, and a Protestant.
At any rate, though there was some resistance from the local Druids, his missionary work proceeded with remarkably little opposition and Ireland ultimately became Christian without a single martyrdom, the only Christian country in the world that's true of.
Of course, the Irish have been making up for it ever since.
Not much is known for sure about Patrick, not even if we are talking about one or more persons. But whoever he was and whatever he really did, he made an impression on the Irish, a people notoriously hard to impress.
The Irish explain it thus, "We are a very honest people. We rarely speak well of each other."
I have a special fondness for St. Patrick both because I am Irish (partly) and an anthropologist/folklorist. Because the opposition from the old Irish pagans was so weak and ineffectual, and because Patrick himself loved to hear the old stories from the ancient myths of Ireland, they were not suppressed. Indeed, it was Patrick himself who commanded they be recorded and remembered. This is why Ireland preserves the largest body of pre-Christian Celtic mythic literature. That's twice as large as the next, the Welsh. And what is known about the Celtic myths of continental Europe evidently fills a rather thin book.
There is a hymn attributed to Patrick, "St. Patrick's Breastplate," also called "Deer Call," because it is said Patrick chanted this when enemies laid an ambush for him and his followers, creating a "fith fath," a spell of illusion. The warriors waiting for them saw them as a herd of deer.
The hymn was likely actually written by an unknown author in the 8th century, but the interesting thing about it is it is written in the style of a druidic incantation for protection on a journey.
St. Patrick's Breastplate (Deer Call)
I arise today Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity, Through the belief in the threeness, Through confession of the oneness Of the Creator of Creation.
I arise today Through the strength of Christ's birth with his baptism, Through the strength of his crucifixion with his burial, Through the strength of his resurrection with his ascension, Through the strength of his descent for the judgment of Doom.
I arise today Through the strength of the love of Cherubim, In obedience of angels, In the service of archangels, In hope of resurrection to meet with reward, In prayers of patriarchs, In predictions of prophets, In preaching of apostles, In faith of confessors, In innocence of holy virgins, In deeds of righteous men.
I arise today Through the strength of heaven: Light of sun, Radiance of moon, Splendor of fire, Speed of lightning, Swiftness of wind, Depth of sea, Stability of earth, Firmness of rock.
I arise today Through God's strength to pilot me: God's might to uphold me, God's wisdom to guide me, God's eye to look before me, God's ear to hear me, God's word to speak for me, God's hand to guard me, God's way to lie before me, God's shield to protect me, God's host to save me From snares of devils, From temptations of vices, From everyone who shall wish me ill, Afar and anear, Alone and in multitude.
I summon today all these powers between me and those evils, Against every cruel merciless power that may oppose my body and soul, Against incantations of false prophets, Against black laws of pagandom Against false laws of heretics, Against craft of idolatry, Against spells of witches and smiths and wizards, Against every knowledge that corrupts man's body and soul.
Christ to shield me today Against poison, against burning, Against drowning, against wounding, So that there may come to me abundance of reward.
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right, Christ on my left, Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise, Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me, Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me, Christ in every eye that sees me, Christ in every ear that hears me.
I arise today Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity, Through belief in the threeness, Through confession of the oneness, Of the Creator of Creation.
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