To celebrate St. Patrick’s Day 2019 I would like to briefly cover the history of Saint Patrick’s Day but more importantly dive into the modern implications of this myth and how we can attempt to transcend it. This is not an attempt to say this was the only erasing of Earth based spirituality in Europe, it is one example, but given how glorified it is even in modern times it is the one I will be addressing. If you are already familiar with the myth of Saint Patrick feel free to skip to the implications portion of this article.
The story of Saint Patrick is highly contested to say the least. Firstly, his name was Maewyn Succat nor was he ever actually made a saint and much of what we have to go off is his personal account.
The story goes that Maewyn Succat was captured by Irish pirates in his home of Britain and sold into slavery (a part of the story even contested in his day). He escaped his captors and returned to his homeland where he studied Christianity and became a cleric. Later he returned to Erie to begin ‘driving the snakes out’. The modern interpretation of which is converting the local people to Christianity.
This is where the story takes a dark twist. While nobody should go as far as to invite comparisons to figures like Columbus (largely because it is seen as a peaceful conversion), Maewyn began erasing the traditions of Celtic Polytheism and Druidism. Both of which were firmly grounded in nature and far more gender egalitarian than Christianity. This tradition continued the co-opting of pagan holidays by the Christian church in order to make this erasing more complete.
Whether this story is true or not it’s clear that Saint Patrick is a symbol in a long disgusting history of erasing Irish culture and colonialism that was inflicted on the people of Eire. While it’s not the purpose of this essay for a greater historical context on these events I strongly recommend reading up on the history of imperialism in Ireland.
I think in large part the implications of this story are largely overlooked by Leftists. What would have happened if pale skinned individuals in the Irish and Germanic regions had an Earth based spirituality to fall back on rather than the highly patriarchal, Promethean, and materialist myth of Christianity? What would have happened if those who came to America carried these traditions with them to the new world? How would these traditions have changed the way they related to the Native Americans? How would emerging Scientific paradigms have differed from the Materialist Newtonian model of the universe?
Many scholars have connected Christianity and the way that it relates to nature to the rise of Industrial Capitalism. Many other societies in that time period had developed highly sophisticated Sciences and yet it was the European nations that developed the Industrialism that has driven us to the brink of extinction.
“Even if the Day of Judgment should arrive and you are holding a sapling in your hand, plant it.” – Prophet Muhammad
While it may be romantic to speculate on these questions this is far from the historical facts.
If we are to move forward from this and cultivate a myth that begins to reconcile the damage done we need to replace it with a new modern myth. By modern myth I mean an updated tradition that doesn’t reject all the good that modern Science has brought us but simultaneously rejects the Materialist, anti-Humanist, and non-Biocentric elements of it.
It should also be understood that I am not using the term myth in a derogatory way. What I mean when I use the term myth is a collective ideology that we have VOLUNTARILY accepted not because it is TRUE in any real objective way, this is the pathway to ruin. But instead a myth that creates the society we WANT to live in.
We also need to be critical of the materialist influence that has been prevalent throughout the history of the Left with everyone from Marx to Bookchin. We need to reject all moral imperatives as impositions on freedom. As scary as such a prospect may be we need to understand the role that material conditions play in the actions of individuals we view as negative. The creation of moral imperatives to prevent these sorts of behaviors reduces addressing root causes to mere finger waving and ultimately leads to totalitarian metaphysical arguments such as human nature.
There are two pathways forward that I see here.
For those living in North America we may be initiated into the already existing local traditions. I want to make it painstakingly clear, the only people that have any right to lead this conversation are the native peoples of these regions. Period. This conversation cannot happen with out the background history of the brutal and disgusting repression of the native populations of North America. In the United State it only became federally legal to practice Native American spirituality in 1978 and the fight was only getting started there.
In the absence of this it leads me to the second solution, one that can be taken up by just about anyone. This approach can be summed up by the revival of the traditions of native peoples in Europe. Given that I started the article taking about Saint Patrick the tradition I will be focusing on is Celtic Polytheism but this tactic can be retooled for any other Earth based spirituality.
Now before we all rush to our local herb store and start bulk ordering herbs from other regions of the world we need to have a clear understanding of why we wish to adopt these myths to begin with. If we are in fact doing this to benefit not only ourselves but nature itself, furthering ecological destruction by sticking to traditions that require us to use materials we cannot acquire locally is completely antithetical to our goals.
The most prominent example of this is the over-picking of wild sage currently occurring in California. While the people procuring these herbs may be trying to get more in touch with the local ecology they are unknowingly causing the destruction of it.
In order to subvert this issue belief systems will need to be adapted as best as possible to local ecologies and ideally self sufficient production.
While both of these paths may seem daunting to say the least one cannot underestimate the importance of such a task. We may be able to dodge some of the long term effects of climate change but unless we change the underlying ideologies that lead us to this point we will be in a perpetual cycle of creating new issues for ourselves.
Even now as we are frantically searching for new solutions to our climate crisis people are taking about shading out the sun, building tons of nuclear power plants, and developing new carbon sequestering “technologies”. Few people are talking about repairing the ecological systems we have broken as a viable tactic.
This is not Science it is dogma.
The old myth is broken and we need a new one.
The snakes will return.
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Musician, Health Coach, Homesteader, Permaculture/Aquaponics Guru, Expat, Klamath regional coordinator, project manager, and writer for Free Cascadia.
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