We’ve all heard the legends of Saint Patrick. He was kidnapped from his home in Britain, sold as a slave, escaped, hitched his way home aboard a pirate ship, and returned to Ireland later to bring them Christianity. Interesting guy, right?
Personally, I’ve always been more interested in the legend that claims he drove all the snakes out of Ireland. The story begins that a snake bothered St. Patrick during his 40-day fast and so he drove all the snakes into the sea. Hey, I’m pretty cranky when I’m hungry too, but how would St. Patrick ever have managed such a feat?
So, I looked into it. As it turns out, there are a few places on earth that have absolutely zero native species of snakes and they are New Zealand, Iceland, Greenland, Antarctica, and… Ireland. Several scientists have gone over the fossil lists and records of animals in Ireland, but never found any evidence that snakes have ever been there at all.
Most likely, it’s a simple matter that snakes could not reach Ireland with the ocean in the way and the climate was inhospitable to them. They are cold-blooded, after all. Ireland is home to one and only one native lizard which is quite small and brown.
So, seems there isn’t much to question when it comes to the myth of St. Patrick driving the snakes out of Ireland. However, I came across some information that indicated St. Patrick may have driven metaphorical ‘snakes’ from Ireland in the form of the Druids that practiced the Pagan religion. Since he was a champion of Christianity, that seems much more likely.