Myth of St. Patrick remains evergreen
But this isn't blarney:

ANNE SUTHERLAND
The Gazette
Friday, March 17, 2006

St. Patrick wasn't Irish-born, there were no snakes in Ireland, wearing green was considered bad luck, and Guinness is good for you.

According to many sources, all the above statements are true.

Yet many of us will drink green beer, don every item of green clothing we own, wear silly hats and get rowdy today as we celebrate St. Patrick's Day, which seems to have morphed into St. Patrick's Week in some segments of society.

Local festivities started with the annual St. Patrick's Society ball last Friday, the Erin Sports Association Irishman of the Year breakfast on Saturday, the Mass of Anticipation at St. Gabriel's Parish in Point St. Charles last Sunday, and a round of parties, luncheons and detailed preparations for today's revelry and Sunday's parade and mass at St. Patrick's Basilica.

Amid all this hoopla, let's delve into a few of the traditional tales.

A common myth is that St. Patrick, who historians claim was born in southwestern Britain and, thus, a Celtic Briton, drove all the snakes out of Ireland and into the Irish Sea.

Snakes were never indigenous to Ireland, scientists say. A National Geographic article claims the image of St. Patrick driving out the serpents is a metaphor for religious Druids, who slowly disappeared from Ireland with the rise of Christianity.

How about the wearing of the green? The Irish, being a superstitious lot, considered green clothing unlucky. It was supposed to be the favorite colour of malevolent fairies, who would spirit away people wearing green.

Bridget Haggerty, author of The Traditional Irish Wedding, writes that only a small amount of green, a ribbon or a bunch of shamrocks, was permitted on St. Patrick's Day.

As for Guinness stout, the American Heart Association issued research in 2003 that the dark brew contained an antioxidant similar to one found in fruits and vegetables that reduced clotting in blood vessels.

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asutherland@thegazette.canwest.com
© The Gazette (Montreal) 2006