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Mar 16 2013

Happy St Patrick’s Day to you all!

Oh, look, I found the perfect cartoon to illustrate the day: the evolution of Irish heroes.

irishevo

Those Christians ruin everything, and I don’t know why we should celebrate Irish culture by honoring a horrible old saint and getting drunk. Why not name it after a hero worth remembering and reciting poetry, for instance…something Ireland is known for, rather than a stereotype that ridicules the place?

First thing that has to go is anything Catholic, unless it has virtues beyond slavish dogma.

64 comments

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  1. 1
    PZ Myers

    Yes, I’m guilty of premature celebration.

  2. 2
    rorschach

    I do have some fond memories of waiting for the train to Sydney at Byron Bay station on St Patrick’s Day 1996, and enjoying the dancing, singing and general mayhem caused by an estimated 2 million Irish people swamping the tiny town. I do seem to remember one woman dancing with a baby to some live music, she obviously had had a busy morning, and had forgotten to don her undergarments.

    I think these Irish just like to get wasted, whatever the excuse, Saint or no Saint. Fair enough, that, I approve.

  3. 3
    mikeconley

    It’s never premature. Éirinn go brách!

  4. 4
    Ingdigo Jump

    James Joyce day?

  5. 5
    cgilder

    PZ, you and my (almost) 4 year old can party down together. His birthday is tomorrow, but in the true tradition of impatient preschoolers REALLY REALLY wants to celebrate today. There will be chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting and rainbow sprinkles! And bowling!

  6. 6
    k_machine

    Yase, let’s celebrate blood stained warriors instead of meek altruists .!.

  7. 7
    cartomancer

    The current issue of British satirical magazine Private Eye has a wonderful little St. Patrick’s Day cartoon on this very theme.

    It shows St. Patrick walking through the fields of Ireland, accompanied by a Vatican official. The official is saying “I wouldn’t worry about actually getting rid of all these snakes, just moving them around from parish to parish will suffice”.

  8. 8
    chigau (違う)

    Dammit.
    I thought I’d lost a day!
    [I didn't drink that much last night.]

  9. 9
    slowdjinn

    k_machine

    Yase, let’s celebrate blood stained warriors instead of meek altruists !

    Which meek altruists are we talking about here?

    Patrick thought that an entire country was following the wrong religion (i.e. not his), and decided to cure them of it….that’s hardly what I’d call meek.
    And Christianity has been such a force for good in Ireland.

  10. 10
    Argle Bargle

    What did the snakes say when St. Patrick drove them out of Ireland?

    “Are we there yet?” “I have to pee.” “He’s touching me. Tell him to stop touching me.” “I want to sit by the window.”

  11. 11
    kieran

    Celebrate St. Patrick’s day by supporting the Irish Womens Rugby team as they attempt to win the Grand slam https://www.facebook.com/pages/Irish-Womens-Rugby-Supporters-Page/191067427580296?ref=ts&fref=ts
    James Joyce day is the 16th of June and is called Bloomsday, come to Dublin and enjoy.

  12. 12
    IslandBrewer

    Happy St. Urho Day!

    Ya know, the Finnish guy who drove the grasshoppers out of Finland and saved the Finnish wine crop?

    Yeah, the Finnish wine crop.

    I’ll have you know that he’s every bit as great and nonfictional as St. Whathisname.

  13. 13
    Brother Yam

    Those Christians ruin everything, and I don’t know why we should celebrate Irish culture by honoring a horrible old saint and getting drunk.

    I know, right? Look what they did to the Vikings and the Norse gods…

  14. 14
    Pierce R. Butler

    The Jews have a traditional spring celebration, called Passover.

    The Irish (obviously descended from some very lost tribes) have a traditional spring celebration, called Passouter.

  15. 15
    whheydt

    My usual line this time of year is that my ancestors didn’t come from Ireland, but some of them used to OWN the place. (Two of my grandparents came to the US from Denmark.)

  16. 16
    carbonbasedlifeform

    A poem by Ogden Nash would be appropriate here:

    It’s a Grand Parade It Will Be, Modern Design

    Saint Patrick was a proper man, a man to be admired;
    Of numbering his virtues I am never, never tired.
    A handsome man, a holy man, a man of mighty deeds,
    He walked the lanes of Erin, a-telling of his beads.
    A-telling of his beads, he was, and spreading of the word.
    I think that of Saint Patrick’s Day, Saint Patrick hadn’t heard.

    The saint was born a subject of the ancient British throne,
    But the Irish in their wisdom recognized him as their own.
    A raiding party captured him, and carried him away,
    And Patrick loved the Irish, and he lived to capture they,
    A-walking of the valleys and a-spreading of the word.
    I think that of Saint Patrick’s Day, Saint Patrick hadn’t heard.

    He defied the mighty Druids, he spoke them bold and plain,
    And he lit the Easter fire on the lofty hill of Shane.
    He lit the Easter fire where the hill and heaven met,
    And on every hill in Ireland the fire is burning yet.
    He lit the Easter fire, a-spreading of the word.
    I think that of Saint Patrick’s Day, Saint Patrick hadn’t heard.

    Saint Patrick was a proper man before he was a saint,
    He was shaky in his Latin, his orthography was quaint,
    But he walked the length of Ireland, her mountains and her lakes,
    A-building of his churches and a-driving out the snakes,
    A-building of his churches and a-spreading of the word.
    I think that of Saint Patrick’s Day, Saint Patrick hadn’t heard.

    But the silver-tongued announcer is a coy, facetious rogue;
    He ushers in Saint Patrick with a fine synthetic brogue,
    He spatters his commercials with macushlas and colleens,
    Begorras, worra-worras, and spurious spalpeens.
    I hope one day Saint Patrick will lean down from Heaven’s arch
    And jam the bloody air waves on the Seventeenth of March.

  17. 17
    Ron Sullivan

    Great-bladdered Emer for the win.

  18. 18
    deadguykai

    “Saint” Patrick was Welsh,anyway, and isn’t on Cymru’s list of national badasses.

  19. 19
    phiwilli

    Ireland has plenty of snakes now! See the NYTimes for today the 16th. Boas, rattlesnakes, pythons, rat snakes – and snake rescue places.

  20. 20
    timgueguen

    Apparently the snakes Patrick chased out weren’t the reptile kind. The Midlandian Ice Age wiped out all the snake sin Ireland.

  21. 21
    Karen Locke

    It saddens me to see the followers of another religion considered “snakes”. However you look at it, that’s both denigration of the people of the other religion, and denigration of snakes. While I realize different parts of the world have different problems with snakes, where I come from they’re good to have in the garden.

  22. 22
    dianne

    Can’t say I’m impressed by any of the Irish heroes mentioned. I second, third, or Nth the suggestion of Joyce as Irish hero to celebrate. (Though his personal life was nothing to recommend. He was a bit of an asshole, especially to women.)

  23. 23
    Azuma Hazuki

    @22/dianne

    No thanks. Anyone who’s had to suffer through James Joyce in English Lit still has PTSD.

  24. 24
    frog

    How about Oscar Wilde?

  25. 25
    chrislawson

    dianne,

    I know it’s easy to dismiss warrior heroes — I never understood why Achilles was considered such a great hero when his behaviour in the Iliad is that of a preening egotist prone to bouts of sulking between acts of brutality — but Irish mythology is far more interesting and subtle than most, and most of its heroes are placed under a geis not of their choosing, and one of the recurring themes is that of a hero caught by mutually incompatibility of one or more geasa they have been placed under. Cu Chullain, for instance, dies because he is under a geis never to eat dog meat, and another geis never to refuse food offered as a gift…I’m sure you can se where this is going.

    But to the point of moral regard, one of the defining features of Cu Chullain is not his ability to go all Incredible Hulk, but the fact that every time he went to war it was because he was forced to do so by the actions of others, and his greatest battle (from The Táin) he won by an act of contractual peacemaking that only became a contract because Cu Chullain had previously yielded to one of his enemies to prevent a battle.

    So, yes, I think Cu Chullain is worthy of respect as a mythological warrior. Certainly more so than Achilles (see above), Ajax (never once wounded in the Iliad, but kills himself with his own sword when he loses the contest to inherit Achilles’ armour!), Sigurd (kills for gold, bathes in the blood and eats the heart of his victim, dumps his wife for a younger beauty after drinking “an ale of forgetting”, and kills his own foster-father because birds warn him of a future betrayal…yes, birds), or King Arthur (strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government).

  26. 26
    badgersdaughter

    I know it’s easy to dismiss warrior heroes — I never understood why Achilles was considered such a great hero when his behaviour in the Iliad is that of a preening egotist prone to bouts of sulking between acts of brutality

    Funny, I was reading the Ramayana of Valmiki today, in an English translation, and I’m about halfway through the work. I just got done reading “Rama’s Lament”. I tell you, I haven’t been so bored by a long-winded, whining rant since I read John Galt’s famout “three-hour” speech in Atlas Shrugged. I wanted to slap the shit out of the hero and tell him to grow the fuck up. :)

  27. 27
    Argle Bargle

    How about Oscar Wilde?

    How about Lord Dunsany?

  28. 28
    zekehoskin

    According to How The Irish Saved Civilization, Patrick was the son of a slave-holding family who was kidnapped into slavery, escaped, and managed to talk the whole damn country into ending slavery. Where the stupid snake story came from I can only speculate, but ending slavery in a country is certainly worth celebrating. I could wish for a way to check the book’s overall accuracy, but I haven’t found any refutations of that particular story.

  29. 29
    meursalt

    Cu Chulainn FTW!

    I’m mostly of Irish descent. It’s obvious from my real name. I wear black on St. Patrick’s Day. When anyone finds fault with my wardrobe (and most years, they do) I explain that I refuse to celebrate because I’m Irish. I won’t celebrate the invasion of my ancestral homeland by a foreign enemy institution that has for centuries subjugated my ancestors, turned them against each other, destroyed their cultural heritage, molested their children, enslaved their women, and brainwashed them into being grateful for all this.

    That usually ends the conversation.

  30. 30
    leftwingfox

    My personal favourite:

    http://www.lackadaisycats.com/exhibit.php?exhibitid=320

  31. 31
    Ichthyic

    How about Oscar Wilde?

    “His Majesty is like a stream of bat’s piss.”

  32. 32
    Ichthyic

    Ireland has plenty of snakes now!

    yup, Ireland is full of snakes.

    you want a place that is snake free?

    try here in NZ.

    snakes are ILLEGAL here, even for people to own as pets. IIRC, even for zoos!

  33. 33
    Lofty

    Psst. Icythic. Snakes eat possums, I believe. Wanna try some out? Guaranteed to work, I promise ya.
    /joke

  34. 34
    Lofty

    “Ichthyic”
    sorry

  35. 35
    tommccann

    Yes PZ, Yes, Yes, Yes! I’ve been saying the same thing for years. Let’s celebrate the contribution of Irish people to world culture. A tiny country (population less than a typical US city) that has punched well above its weight in art, literature, science and technology. I whole-heartedly OBJECT to the hijacking of Irish culture by the Guinness company and the resulting association of Irishness with getting drunk.

  36. 36
    Ichthyic

    Wanna try some out? Guaranteed to work, I promise ya.

    ooh, how much?

    ;)

  37. 37
    birgerjohansson

    Santa Claus used to wear green before the 1920s when an ad campaign by Coca Cola made him wear red. Maybe we should celebrate him instead (in the last instalment of the Harry Dresden series, we learn that this new entity -Santa Claus has only been around for about a century- actually is the new identity of a much older, cooler, Norse god).
    And S C is associated with a milder amount of drinking.

  38. 38
    Ichthyic

    I whole-heartedly OBJECT to the hijacking of Irish culture by the Guinness company and the resulting association of Irishness with getting drunk.

    …along with the hijacking of Irish culture by xianity.

  39. 39
    Rob Grigjanis

    birgerjohansson @37:

    Santa Claus used to wear green before the 1920s when an ad campaign by Coca Cola made him wear red.

    Maybe not.

  40. 40
    birgerjohansson

    Damn, I had seen a poster of Santa with green clothes. Regarding overlap of Christmas figures, Sweden had a Yulegoat* until Santa invaded us.
    Unlike the Irish (or Scottish or British) Swedes have never needed a specific holiday for getting plastered. It is more like “Happy today-Day”.

    If the Irish need a better icon than Old Snakecharmer, is there no well-known Irish actor? A Patrick Swayze of Ireland?
    If Captain Kirk is Canadian, there must be some redshirt or two who is Irish. Or some extra in the Alien/Matrix films.

    *No connection to Ctulhu worship.

  41. 41
    birgerjohansson

    If there are no snakes in Ireland, we have an evolutionary niche for “the Mexican staring frog” of South Park fame. Let’s introduce some fun critters. Drop bears?

  42. 42
    chrislawson

    zekehoskin, that book you mention is well known for being a bizarrely hagiographic account of Ireland. There is not a shred of evidence that St Patrick ended slavery in Ireland, or had any interest in ending slavery in Ireland. Essentially, there are only two surviving letters that most historians agree were written by Patrick himself, almost everything else is a fabrication (including impossibilities such as driving the snakes out when there were no snakes in Ireland since the last Ice Age) intended to promote the agendas of the authors.

  43. 43
    Rob Grigjanis

    Damn, I had seen a poster of Santa with green clothes.

    Oh yeah, me too. Coca Cola may have played a role in standardizing the appearance, but red has been around for a long time as well. The Dutch Sinterklaas was wearing a red robe in the 19th century, and maybe before.

    there must be some redshirt or two who is Irish

    Colm Meaney (Miles O’Brien)! But there are tons of well-known Irish actors. Mostly men.

  44. 44
    birgerjohansson

    Holy Benedict Arnold! We should celebrate the day by dressing up as Kenneth Branagh, Pierce Brosnan or Peter O’Toole.
    And drinking water, just to counter the stereotype.

  45. 45
    stever

    (A Biologist’s) St. Patrick’s Day song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L6dzUOYTQtQ

  46. 46
    meursalt

    @chrislawson, #42

    Next you’ll be questioning the authenticity of St. Paddy’s Loch Ness Monster sighting. Frankly, I find your hyperskepticism to be beyond the Pale (or perhaps behind the Pale?).

  47. 47
    robro

    Where the stupid snake story came from I can only speculate, but ending slavery in a country is certainly worth celebrating.

    I suspect the snake story came from the same place as the ending slavery story, and the St. Patrick story in general: people’s imagination. As slavery was still alive and well in Ireland well into the 20th century (e.g. Magdalene asylums), I think we can safely say that it’s premature to celebrate Patrick’s accomplishment.

  48. 48
    sadunlap

    St. Patrick vs. The Snakes.

    TTBOMK Druidic priests had snake tattoos on their wrists. They are the snakes he drove out of Ireland. St. P burned the druids’ oak groves and executed women herbalists as witches. Not a nice guy.

    I do not celebrate St. P day.

  49. 49
    mathema

    I used to hate St Patrick’s day, it meant that I was forced to eat corn beef and cabbage before I could leave the table, lol.

  50. 50
    devnll

    Happy Manmade Extinction Event Day, where we celebrate the man who (reportedly) wiped out not just a species but an entire suborder in a geographically significant climatological niche. Which makes him a saint, apparently.

  51. 51
    chrislawson

    meursalt@46: No, I wouldn’t go that far. Paddy’s sighting of Nessie is pretty well documented, along with his proof of homeopathy.

  52. 52
    chrislawson

    badgersdaughter@26: I keep meaning to read the Ramayana. After your comment I checked out the contents and it looks like every third canto is someone or other’s lament. Now I’m not sure I’m capable of getting through it.

  53. 53
    Cosmic Teapot, not the Antichrist.

    Happy Saint Gertrude’s day, patron saint of cats.

  54. 54
    Nick Gotts

    *sigh*
    If only the snakes had driven the Christian missionaries out of Ireland instead.

  55. 55
    zekehoskin

    chrislawson@42 You are right. I was wrong (zekehoskin@28). Not only didn’t Patrick end slavery (which persisted LONGER in Ireland than most of Europe), the story of his having been enslaved is shaky. My apologies for having done only cursory research before my previous comment.

  56. 56
    Jake Hamby

    A few months ago I signed up for the $99 get-your-DNA-analyzed kit from 23andMe, and just got the results for myself this week. The purpose of the company is to crowdsource research into the genetic nature of diseases, traits, drug interactions, and other health stuff based on people submitting their own DNA saliva samples and answering a bunch of surveys about their health and then they crunch the numbers to figure out which genes go with which traits. It’s not a full DNA sequence but a whole bunch of SNPs they collect from the lab analysis.

    It’s not the primary purpose of the site, but one of the features they recently added is a breakdown of what % of your DNA came from which part of the world, based on comparisons with 22 populations worldwide. I figured that I was mostly of British and German descent and that’s what I got. It turns out that the margin of error is a lot lower than that episode of the Boondocks where Uncle Ruckus found out to his horror from a genetic test that he was 102% of African descent (with a 2% margin of error). Now you can get your results to 0.1%. In my case it was: 99.3% European, 0.1% East Asian / Native American, 0.6% unassigned, so of course I couldn’t help but think of that Boondocks episode. I guess I’m playing the game on the “99.4% easy” setting. :)

    Within those regions, 23andMe has breakdowns by subregion, but the results are dependent on how much intermingling between regions that people did, as the site says, “where your ancestors lived 500 years ago, before ocean-crossing ships and airplanes came on the scene.” So in my case it was 8.7% “British and Irish”, 5.6% “French and German”, 3.6% Scandinavian, 0.4% Iberian, with 72% “nonspecific North European”, 0.1% nonspecific South European, and 8.8% nonspecific European.

    I understand the historical and cultural reasons for St. Patrick’s Day, but it’s not something I’ve ever had any connection to myself. I thought it was interesting that despite all of the tensions throughout history between the English, Scottish, and Irish, or between the French and the Germans (and various historical regional subgroups), genetically speaking, there’s apparently a British/Irish pool and a French/German one, and of course we’re all related if you go back far enough.

    But in honor of “celebrating people of vaguely similar ethnic heritage”, here’s what the site says about the British/Irish category (and the Scandinavian one in honor of PZ):

    When people first arrived in the regions now known as Great Britain and Ireland tens of thousands of years ago, these two regions were physically joined to one another. Today the people of the islands of Great Britain and Ireland descend from Celtic, Saxon, and Viking ancestors.

    The earliest people of Scandinavia hunted reindeer and seals and fished for salmon. By 4000 years ago these hunter/gatherers had been joined by cattle herders from the south. Although at the northwestern periphery of Europe, Scandinavia has never been completely isolated from peoples to the south and east.

    Kind of makes history sound like a really detailed RPG, or perhaps a Tolkien novel.

  57. 57
    birgerjohansson

    The problem with Scandinavia is, most regions did not have the population to erect really cool castles until pretty late. The natives were restricted to killing each other in non-picturesque ways.
    — — — — —
    Without snakes, it might be possible to introduce some kick-ass rodents to Ireland. Maybe we can start with the species of giant rat discovered in a caldera in New Guinea a year ago. In the same caldera they found a small cute primate climbing in the trees. If it can stand the Irish climate it would be a safe haven from snakes.
    But the obvious idea is to adress the squrrel problems, with an invasive species pushing out the original one from Britain. We can use Ireland as a refuge (once we have beefed up the squirrel capabilities with a bit of GM). And if the new venom spurs and fangs give the old squirrels too much advantage over other mammals only the Irish will suffer. In fact, we could use the island as a big lab for all kinds of stuff.

    Hmm… Most of Ireland do not have freezing winter temperatures, right? (temperate-climate crocs using peat bogs for raising their young??? Peat-eating arachnids? Gojira?)

  58. 58
    Tigger_the_Wing, Back home =^_^=

    Great ideas, birgerjohansson! =^_^=

    Should I allow some exotic Australian creatures to sneak into my baggage for my journey home?

    Yep, my journey home. To Co. Cork.

    I’ve had the best Paddy’s Day for years because, thanks to some Danes (who agreed on Friday to insure me to travel, covering ALL my pre-existing conditions), I am finally going home after being stuck on the wrong side of the planet for over eight years. So Paddy’s Day this year saw me going out dressed up in my Irish rugby shirt and with my head painted green* instead of staying in crying from homesickness.

    I’m going to see my grandchildren! =^_^=

    *Head, because I currently have no hair; Saturday being the local Cosplay group’s World’s Greatest Shave event. I arrived dressed as MiB and left as the Silence. ;)

  59. 59
    chigau (違う)

    YaaaaaY
    for Tigger going home!

  60. 60
    birgerjohansson

    I second Chigau!

  61. 61
    Thumper: Who Presents Boxes Which Are Not Opened

    Wahoo! I’m happy for you, Tigger_the_Wing!

  62. 62
    zibble

    @28 zekehoskin

    According to How The Irish Saved Civilization, Patrick was the son of a slave-holding family who was kidnapped into slavery, escaped, and managed to talk the whole damn country into ending slavery. Where the stupid snake story came from I can only speculate, but ending slavery in a country is certainly worth celebrating.

    “Ending” slavery isn’t really accurate considering the Catholic slavery that went on in Ireland ’til 1996.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magdalene_laundries

  63. 63
    aaronbaker

    Since, as someone else has already pointed out, St.Patrick wasn’t Irish, it should be easy NOT to regard him as an Irish hero.

  64. 64
    David Marjanović

    Maybe we can start with the species of giant rat discovered in a caldera in New Guinea a year ago. In the same caldera they found a small cute primate climbing in the trees.

    Other than a certain Homo sapiens, there are no primates in New Guinea. Do you mean a tree kangaroo?

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