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By: Pat Whitfield, Board Member
For: Red Rock News
Date: March 12, 2010

St. Patrick’s Day – Legends, Myths, and a Touch Of Whimsy

Sedona has just held its annual St. Patrick’s Day parade a bit early this year so that area students could participate in the event, which often falls during Spring Break. But, who is this much beloved patron saint of Ireland?

According to Philip Freeman’s St. Patrick of Ireland: A Biography, much of Patrick’s history has been shrouded in legend. “He is credited with driving the snakes out of Ireland; triumphing over the Druids and their supernatural powers; he used a shamrock to explain the Christian mystery of the Trinity. But the true story is more fascinating than the myths.” Although there are no images of Patrick, two letters he wrote still exist and give insight into this man so revered in Ireland and in every part of the world where the Irish migrated. Freeman’s biography of Patrick notes that he was born in Britain in the fourth century to an aristocratic family. “He was raised as a Roman citizen and nominal Christian, destined for the privileged life of the nobility.” But, when he was kidnapped just before turning sixteen by Irish pirates, his entire life changed. He was kept as a slave for six years, tending sheep. He was lonely, frightened, and at the mercy of his master, and turned to God in his despair. He then had a vision in which God told him he would go home. So, he escaped captivity and returned home to his grateful parents after an arduous journey. Despite his ordeal, he vowed to return to Ireland to minister to his captors. Of Patrick’s two extant letters, one was “written to jealous British bishops in defense of his activities in Ireland; the other is a stinging condemnation of the ruthless warlord who attacked and killed some of Patrick’s Irish followers.” These letters are included in Freeman’s book and reveal much about the turmoil that existed in Britain and Ireland that period of history.

Yet another biography can be found in Alannah Hopkins’ The Living Legend of St. Patrick. On a lighter note, readers can delve into Shamrocks, Harps, and Shillelaghs: the Story of St. Patrick’s Day Symbols by Edna Barth. This delightful book accounts for the folklore, fancy, and traditions which have provided the symbols for St. Patrick’s Day. For mystery lovers, there’s St. Patrick’s Day Murder by Leslie Meier. In this thriller, Lucy Stone investigates the murder of a barkeep who not only cheated but was rumored to have connections with the Irish Republican Army.

Sedona Public Library has a significant number of children’s and youth’s books about St. Patrick’s Day.  St. Patrick’s Day in the Morning by Eve Bunting recounts a young boy’s efforts to prove he’s not too young to march in the St. Patrick’s Day parade. St. Patrick’s Day by Anne F. Rockwell tells about a group of students who make class presentations about the history, traditions, and culture associated with the holiday. For a change of pace, try The Night Before St. Patrick’s Day, a poem by Natasha Wing based on “The Night Before Christmas.” In this fanciful tale Tim and Maureen plot to set a trap to catch a leprechaun and his pot of bold on the big day.

In The Luckiest St. Patrick’s Day Ever Teddy Slater describes a parade about to start and “the leprechauns are marching with lots of heart. If you follow along, you’ll find laughter and fun – and the luck of the Irish – before the day is done!”   For those who are curious about the symbols associated with St. Patrick’s Day, there’s St. Patrick’s Day: Parades, Shamrocks, and Leprechaunsby Elaine Landau.

Whether or not you attended our own Sedona way of honoring this icon of Irish history, you can come to know him better and gain insight into his profound influence on the Irish people, an influence they carried across the sea to the United States and caused “the wearin’ o’ the green” each March 17.

Pat Whitfield
Pat Whitfield, author of this week's article,
is a Member of the Board of Trustees of the Sedona Public Library.

Library News appears each Friday in the Red Rock News
and is also presented on: Gateway to Sedona and Sedona Biz.