“Now it’s past fifteen centuries later,
The results now are clear for to see;
Ireland was better off Pagan,
So bring back the snakes to me!”
“Bring back, bring back,
bring back the snakes to me, to me;
Bring back, bring back,
O bring back the snakes to me!”
–From the Song by the late Isaac Bonewits, Archdruid Emeritus, ADF
“Bring Back the Snakes” parties have been celebrated by Pagans throughout Northern California and the practice has spread throughout North America via the internet. The Christian Saint Patrick (whose birthday is celebrated March 17) is alleged to have driven the snakes out of Ireland. This legend has no basis in fact as snakes have never been indigenous to the island so what does this really mean? The snake has long been a symbol of the Druids, so in saying Patrick drove the snakes away they are saying that he drove out Paganism.
Bring Back the Snakes celebrations are thus protests which proclaim that Ireland and the world were better off with Paganism.
The general celebration is usually held around a Bardic circle where participants offer their poetry, songs, dances and the like to general entertainment of all. Usually Irish folk costume is prevalent and usually artificial and real snakes are in attendance. Prizes are sometimes given for best costume, performance, snake, etc. Guiness is of course a hallowed beverage at these events, although honey mead is also very prominent.
Recently it has come to light that the story of St. Patrick and the snakes is a late addition to the Patrick legend. It seems that there is a French saint who was said to have driven out the snakes of France and that this story was later attached to the Irish St. Patrick. These same people therefore say that ―Bring Back the Snakes is therefore inappropriate – that we shouldn‘t be celebrating it. I say ―bull pucky‖! There are plenty of Christians around who believe the tale and who believe that the snakes are symbolic of the Druids. Therefore we should continue to observe this and continue to party hardy. If some ―reconstructionist Pagans have a cob up their colons over it, so be it! “If they don’t like it they can’t have any!”
“The greatest achievement was at first and for a time a dream.
The Oak sleeps in the Acorn.
The Bird waits in the Egg.
And in the highest vision of a soul, a waking angel stirs.
Dreams are the seedlings of realities.”
A Minor High Day, it usually takes place around March 21st or so. On the night before, some Hasidic Druids stayed up until dawn, reading meditations about trees, eating the fruits of various trees and singing hymns about trees. Among many Paleopagan cultures in Southern Europe the Spring Equinox was the date of the New Year (instead of Samhain as it was among the Celts) and indeed, many Druids refer to this holiday as ―the New Year for Trees (an interesting fact: among Jewish people, “Tu Bashvat” which is literally the New Year for the Trees, is celebrated between mid to late January) . Adding a bit to the confusion is the fact that some Neopagan groups call this holiday ―Lady Day.
It is interesting that when the church co-opted the holiday they kept the name. It is also interesting the way the church derives when they will celebrate it. Easter Sunday is always the first Sunday after the first Full Moon after the Vernal Equinox. Its timing has nothing to do with the Jewish Passover (though one would think it would). This comes down to the church using astrology to choose a date for the most important holiday in their calendar: the celebration of the resurrection of their God. Separate the Christian stuff though, and you have a nice Pagan holiday. The bunnies, the chicks, the eggs, and all the other
trappings are all symbols of the fertility cult that Oestara represents. It’s usual and customary for the Great Rite (not the symbolic version) to be a central part of a grove’s rites on this day. Even the Catholic Church does the Great Rite on Easter. It happens at midnight on the Saturday before Easter. During the
Mass, part of which takes place in a totally darkened church, the priest lights the Easter Candle, then dips it three times into the chalice.
So, Oestara is a sexual celebration, a time for grove members to share and grow closer. It’s the time to celebrate the re-greening of the Earth, for
planting crops and flowers, and for lots and lots of sex. It’s not quite time for an orgy however. We save that kind of activity for…..
(To be continued May 1)
The Druid Vision of the Perfect World
Performed by Gypsy, on their album Enchantress
Lyrics by Gwydion Pendderwen