Let's get this one settled out here and now.
The myths surrounding St. Patrick that need to be squelched have already popped up elsewhere on the Internet this year. Perhaps a bit early; I think the odd winter weather's sprouting them funny.
These are, to my knowledge, the correct statements about the big three misapprehensions about the saint that neo-pagans fling around this time of year and any other time his name comes up. I'm sorry if this runs long; it's a pet peeve of mine.
1) Patrick was not the first Christian in Ireland. He wasn't even the first bishop sent by Rome. That honor went to Palladius, who showed up the year before Patrick did. Best hypothesis is that Christianity first appeared in Ireland sometime in the second or third century of the common era. Palladius was sent to serve as the representative of Rome to those Christians, who were in the south of Ireland. Patrick was sent to start evangelizing the northern Irish. His inflated importance to the Irish Catholic church was due entirely to the Leinster diocese's propaganda. See St. Brigid for the other success of their PR campaign.
2) The snakes he drove out of Ireland were not symbolic of druids, pagans, or goddess worshippers. They were, quite simply, snakes. The tale was lifted from the life story of St. Hilaire, who was said to have evicted the snakes in a section of France, as an explanation of why there are no native snakes in Ireland. That piece of
3) Most of the druids, and many other pagans, were still around when Patrick died. It took a century or so after his death to finish the conversion process, and it was hardly what you'd call a complete success. This proves he didn't show up with an invading army and cut down all protesters. If he had, I think he'd have been the first Christian martyr of Ireland. They didn't get any blood martyrs there until the Vikings started showing up and poking at monasteries. The conversion process was one of social pressure and legal wrangling to switch power to the churches, not one of swords and bloodshed.
Thank you. Good night. Happy St. Patrick's Day. Please skip the green beer. You don't know where it's been.