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Justin Keating and Saint Patrick

St. Patrick's Day

Justin Keating explodes some of the myths surrounding St. Patrick's Day

The Dubliner, March 2005

Christianity is riddled with myths. Even with figures like Jesus Christ and Saint Patrick, what was taught to defenceless children at a very early age as being fact is in reality without historical basis, and was made up later by propagators of the Faith impelled by the basest and most cynical of motives. These myths trace back to pre-Christian times. They involve the taking over of earlier ceremonies and celebrations, the sanitizing of them, the eradication of their sexual meaning and the reversal of their true significance. The whole thing is depressingly dishonest, and after these notes about Saint Patrick I will leave it for a while.


The Seventeenth of March, The Shamrock, Saint Patrick himself: these are the very essence of the current image of Ireland, and, as I’ll show, they are all makey-uppy and bogus. Years ago in New York I heard an American woman telescoping it all into what she called “The seventeenth of Ireland.” It would be nice if there was just a little truth in it.

Firstly, the man’s name. What does it mean? The Roman gods who, like Julius Caesar, were slain on March 15th (The Ides of March) were called Liber Pater or Mars Pater. They took on their status as Roman Gods on March 17th,and would have been known in Britain as Patricius or Patrick. By the fifth century, any holy man was known as Patrick, which literally only means father, so it is no wonder that the old records contain more than one Saint Patrick. And as for the supposed person whose life is based on what is called his autobiography, that document did not surface until four hundred years later, when there was a lively industry in fabricating the lives of saints for propaganda purposes, just as there was in the manufacture and sale of holy relics. There is what amounts to a small forest of fragments of the True Cross, for example. And then we come to the Shamrock itself, symbol of the mystery of the Christian Trinity. The story goes back to much earlier, to the Hindus in the Indus valley. And, like the Christ myth, it gets very sexy, and we need the words Lingam and Yoni. My Oxford Dictionary defines the former by saying that among Hindus a lingam was a phallus worshipped as a symbol of the God Shiva, while the yoni is “a figure or symbol of the female organ of generation as an object of veneration among Hindus.”

It seems in the times of Goddess worship that the core of religious ceremony was the meeting of yoni and lingam in ritual copulation, not seen as ‘dirty’, but as a happy celebration of human fertility. What, you may ask, has all this ‘filth’ to do with our Patron Saint? Well, the Shamrock (botany was not a well-developed science in those days, so it may have been any one of a number of three-leaved plants) was used in the ancient civilization of the Indus valley as a symbol. Of what? Of the triple yoni of the triple Goddess. For those who find one yoni problematic enough the thought of a triple yoni may prove daunting, but that is where the shamrock symbol comes from and what it means. And in Ireland we have a pre-Patrick precedent. There is a god who rejoices in the strange name of Trefuilngid Tre-Eocair – which translates as the triple bearer of the triple key. One may legitimately ask if the ‘triple key’ was a triple lingam to cope with the triple goddesses’ triple yoni. Curiouser and curiouser, as Alice said.But then, according to the twelfth century Book of Leinster, which at least is an extant manuscript, Patrick was the son of the Goddess Macha , who was one aspect of the triple goddess.

Why bother with all of this in the here and now? Just because we are coming (I hope) to the end of a two thousand year onslaught by Christianity against human sexuality and against women. But the ideas are still around, embedded in our society, and are a powerful source of injustice and pain.

The Christian trick was always the same. Those practices and beliefs which were too deep-rooted to destroy were taken over. Their antiquity and true meaning were concealed and they were claimed as being of Christian origin. In fact the true meaning was often reversed. For example, the true meaning of lingam-yoni symbolism was a representation of the gifts of the earth and of the female power of reproduction and fertility as embodied in real human women and in the worship of the triple goddess. But under patriarchal Judeo-Christian teaching women became vessels of sin, unworthy to administer the sacraments. The Goddess was masculinised. The sex was marginalised.

The true meaning of the basic religious ceremony/celebration, which was public ritual intercourse, was to offer praise and homage to the earth which nourishes us, and to sexual love. So I wish you a happy celebration of Saint Patrick’s Day.

Published in the March 2005 edition of The Dubliner magazine