Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A New Breastplate (And a Message for St. Patrick)

Ah, yes. Today is St. Patrick's Day. Well, I for one will not be putting on the green and celebrating. I do not celebrate the lives (real or imagined) of those who tried to put down my ancestral faith. (For those of you who didn't realize, the driving out the snakes thing is most likely a metaphor for stomping out the ethnic and traditional practices of the Irish people). Patrick, if you truly existed (even if only as a composite of several individuals as I suspect), I have a message for you. You did not drive out the "snakes" -- you merely forced them undergound. Nor did you eliminate their traditions. In fact, your beloved Church is riddled with more of my ancestor's traditions than those of the early Christians, and by this I am referring to practices from the first few decades of Christianity, or "the Way of Yeshua" as it was likely known by its earliest adherents. And in case you missed it, Patrick. The "snakes" are back. We are back, and every year our numbers grow as more people awaken to the old ways -- be they Celtic, Germanic, Slavic, Romanic, etc. -- and make them relevant today. For our ways are relevant as they are a means of being in this world, being with it, and not trying to simply control it or ignore it in the hope of achieving some afterlife. Originally written and posted last year, "A Heathen's Breastplate" is still appropriate to post on this day:
The Lorica (or Breastplate) is a prayer written in Irish and Latin that is often attributed to Saint Patrick. There are many variations of it (one can be found here), but I have decided to rewrite it in "honor" of the old saint who is said to have driven out the pagans. Now it has a nice Heathen slant...
A Heathen's Breastplate 
I arise today 
Heir to the strength of Asgard; 
Light of the sun, 
Splendor of fire, 
Swiftness of wind, 
Depth of the sea, 
Stability of earth, 
Firmness of rock. 
I arise today with mine own strength to pilot me; 
Thor's might to uphold me, 
Frigga's wisdom to guide me, 
Odin's hand to guard me, 
Heimdall's watch to shield me, 
Freya's love to bless me. 
Afar and anear, 
Alone or in a multitude. 
The ancestors are with me, 
before me, behind me, 
on my right, on my left. 
As sure as 
The Earth beneath me, 
The Sky above me, 
The Holy Powers within me. 
I arise today 
Rooted in the mighty traditions of my past. 
And I walk Midgard, 
Sending forth the blessings of this day's deeds to generations yet unborn. 
copyright 2008, BSW

9 comments:

Brainwise said...

I'm commenting on my own post, but I had to share this link to an interesting story about Crom Cruach, "the most ancient god of all the various tribes of Ireland before Saint Patrick" brought Christianity to the Isle. This offers a different view for observing St. Patrick's Day.

Why We Celebrate

Hrafnkell said...

Fantastic post! I've always called St. Patrick "St. Genocide" - which tends to irritate the Irish Catholics, but what the hel, you can't have everything!

Brainwise said...

Thank you for taking the time to read my post, Hrafnkell. The fact that you enjoyed it is, to me, high praise indeed.

Erik said...

I love your version of the Breastplate! Very well said.

Brainwise said...

Thank you, Erik! I appreciate you taking the time to read my post and leave a comment.

Tom Stone said...

As my focus has been on Greece, I had no awareness of what was going on behind the legend of St.Patrick. Many thanks for the revelation. And, if you'd ask an old Greek, heor she would've said that the snakes were aspects of the Goddess.

"Skald"

Brainwise said...

Thank you for your comment, Tom.

Your "old Greek's" comment would likely be another reason for ol' Paddy to stamp out them snakes.

But I'm just fine with it. It's kind of beautiful. I am reminded of a weekend retreat, just this past September. I was walking the outer trail at Columcille (a megalith park in Bangor, PA) and came upon a pile of stones. I remarked to my friend that this arrangement of stones was very similar to what might have been done by our ancestors to set a marker, either for a grave or other sacred spot. As I was speaking, I gestured toward the stones, beginning to wave my hand over the top of them. Then I stopped suddenly -- I had just spied a lovely green snake coiled up there.

Presence of the sacred indeed.

Heathen Mama said...

I just LOVE this version of the Breastplate! Thank you for sharing it.
We traditionally have a "Save the Snakes" party instead of celebrating St Paddy's Day.

Brainwise said...

Thank you, Heathen Mama, for your kind words! I am pleased with and honored by the reaction to my rewrite.