I have always been pretty ambivalent about St. Patrick’s Day. I have no Irish ancestry, but my German heritage has blessed me with red hair, green eyes, and freckles. During my childhood, every year on March 17 I’d have to patiently explain to a disappointed elementary school teacher that “no, in fact Diane is not Irish” after she excitedly exclaimed her approval of my looks in front of the entire class. As I hated letting teachers down, I found this yearly ritual to be rather distressing. This assumption and the resulting disappointment became more pronounced and annoying on St. Patrick’s Days at Boston College when belligerently drunken and green-clad Kellys, Sullivans, and O’Briens stubbornly refused to believe that we did not share a common ancestral homeland. And I still encounter the occasional “Self Appointed Guardian of All Things Irish” in the Pagan community who simply will not accept that I have no Irish blood and who gets quite angry that I dare to be redheaded without their shamrock of approval.
As an American, St. Patrick’s Day is pretty unavoidable. Most of my coworkers are sporting some sort of green today, ranging from the tasteful to the outrageously tacky. On FaceBook, some of my Pagan friends are posting vitriolic articles and memes against Patrick and his supposed exile of the Druids while other Pagan friends respond with articles and memes debunking the Pagan persecution narratives and explaining that snakes ≠ Druids. And I know my feed will later be littered with pictures of acquaintances quaffing everything from green-dyed Coors light to actual Guinness in celebration of what my father has always called, “St. Drunks Day.”
Having no Irish-American family traditions to keep, not daring to go out drinking on one of the top two Amateur Nights, and wanting to steer clear of “snake wars,” what was a good little Druid to do with St. Patrick’s Day?
Enter the Virtue of Piety. Several years ago one of my Grovemates and I decided to create a viable Pagan and non-historically ridiculous alternative for celebrating this day of Irish heritage. Neither of us are primarily of an Irish hearth, but our Grove’s patron is the Irish goddess Brighid, we have spent years building a relationship with the Irish god Lugh, and hell, despite ADF’s expanded usage of the term, we are Druids after all. That had to count for something. So we wrote a ritual simply honoring the Gods, Ancestors, and Spirits of Ireland, and we offered it to the public on St. Patrick’s Day. It seemed to go over well, and we did it every March for the next few years.
This year, however, we are refocusing our public offerings, and we did not do the ritual. My Grovemate and I both had the same idea of performing it at our own hearths instead. So armed with a bottle of Jamison I set about performing the ritual on my own.
Things were going perfectly well until I reached the Ancestor invocation. The invocation includes a shout out to what we in ADF call “The Ancient Wise,” the poets, magicians, priests, etc. whose ways inspire our ways. Ian Corrigan has written a hymn to the Ancient Wise, and I felt called to sign it as an offering. Of course I had only sung a few lines before completely blanking on the lyrics. I tried finding the words, but a search of the ADF web site and Google only brought up a video of Isaac Bonewits’s memorial and no lyrics. So I punted, gave my sincere thanks to the Ancient Wise in some hastily conjured up prose, and continued with the ritual.
Eventually it was time to take an omen. Seeing as I primarily read the Olympian Oracle, I asked the Kindred to please “speak to me in the language I understand.” And upon asking if they found my offerings acceptable, I pulled, Nu, “the strife-bearing gift fulfills the oracle,” which is a big, fat, no. I immediately knew I had to sing that damn song. So I pulled up the video of the memorial, thinking to scroll through until I got to it. And then it hit me like Dagda’s club to the face–I forgot to honor Isaac. I had stood there, Jamison in hand, looking at a link that said, “Bonewits Memorial,” and I failed to offer him a drink. I quickly rectified my breech of hospitality, did find the song, and lustily sang along with myself, my Grovemate, Ian, and other of ADF’s premier singers as I honored the Ancient Wise, Isaac Bonewits first among them. Asking a second time, the Kindred gave me Khi, “the golden oracle.” They also blessed me with the wisdom of Epsilon and Iota, “work hard to achieve your desired outcome.”
So now I sit with my own glass of Jamison, listening to hockey and transcribing my experience. And when looking for the link to the Bonewits memorial video on the ADF site for this post, I found a link to the lyrics of the “Prayer to the Ancient Wise.” Message received. In the future I will also honor the founder of my church on St. Patrick’s Day.