I proudly celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. It’s a big part of the culture in which I was raised. Growing up in Dublin, CA, there was an identification with the Irish that fit my own family’s narrative. On my mother’s side my immediate ancestors came from Ireland and brought their stories with them. When the wind would howl in a particular way, my mother would solemnly recall her own father declaring with a shiver, “the banshee is coming for someone tonight.”
Stories like these formed the mythos of my life. Stories of the faeries and their mischievous ways… and the need to appease them with offerings… of a castle that once belonged to our family, now long lost.. and even of the famine, though almost nothing was really spoken about it, save that is was horrible that was why our family moved away to America.
Though once they were here it was no picnic. Those who came to the Unites States were often subjected to mistreatment and discrimination as “indentured servants”; a polite way of saying someone who was little more than a slave in the legal sense, with even less of a difference in common practice. “Irish need not apply” was a common phrase evoked to recall how our people were considered less than human in some areas.
That we have come so far as to have a holiday to actually celebrate our people is a huge step forward. Where once we here hated and reviled, now –at least for once day a year– people of all backgrounds come together to say that we are all Irish. At least until the buzz wears off. 😉
In the 1990’s the Pagan community became enamored with the Irish as everything Celtic came squarely into Pagan vogue. Forms of magic and even the fabrication of ‘ancient’ Irish Pagan traditions came to the forefront. River Dance was big. Being Celtic was cool. It was a good time to be of Irish descent.
Now I hear a lot of nonsense and hatred about our precious holiday. “St. Patrick chased the snakes out of Ireland… and the snakes were the DRUIDS!” (Not true, actually, though it sounds cool to the uninformed… I used to believe it, myself.) If you want to hate on the holiday, fine… there’s lots to hate about almost any holiday, frankly, and one in which the majority of folks binge on green beer and vomit all over themselves is as good a reason to hate as any, I guess. But to me this was always a time of remembering our ancestors… of the plights and successes that they shared, and to celebrate the fact that we are here NOW, and standing on their shoulders. Today I celebrate the magic of the Emerald Isle that features so prominently in my family’s history… tonight, we will share stories as we dine on corned-beef and cabbage, the traditional meal in our family and for many other Irish-Americans. We will make special offering to the faeries, and share our love for one an other, and for the people who suffered so long and hard and who made it possible for us to be here today. Today I wear green to celebrate my heritage. I love this day. 🙂