Saint Patrick, Shamrocks & Serpents
Saint Patrick’s life, mission in Ireland and writings certainly occurred during the middle of the fifth century. There are many holy wells and sites which claim association with Patrick and these are not all easily proven. However, there are some legends connected to Patrick which everyone in Ireland knows and believes. These are not recorded in annals nor accounts of Patrick’s life but are repeated even today.
Saint Patrick is given credit for banishing the snakes from Ireland, sending the broods into the sea. To this day, there aren’t any native snakes in Ireland. The banishment of snakes is probably an allegorical explanation for Patrick confronting and defeating paganism. As depicted in medieval art, pagans often worshipped snakes. The absence of snakes is more likely to be caused by the remoteness of the island. Fortunately, Ireland was inaccessible for snakes to reach.
When Patrick challenged King Laoghaire’s authority at Tara, he encountered mocking questions about the Christian faith. Patrick plucked a three-leaf shamrock and used it to demonstrate the core Christian belief in the Trinity. He explained that the shamrock represented one God and comprised three Divine persons, a leaf each for the Divine Father, Son and Holy Spirit.