Who is Saint Patrick? A Slave Named Maewyn Succat
The green associated with him is most likely from Spring Equinox celebrations
As the green beer flows once again for St. Patrick’s Day, I thought it be worth a quick visit through his own written accounts of who he was and the time he lived.
The spectacular hagiographies of St Patrick’s life are all over the place including his role as a dragonslayer. His own written accounts, however, found in the Confessio and the Letter to the soldiers of Coroticus paint a less-than-green picture of the lauded saint.
St Patrick was born Maewyn Succat in or around 380 A D near Bannavem in Somerset County, England. Maewyn was educated in the Roman tradition which would suggest high social status for his family; however he was not of the Christian faith. At the age, of sixteen, Maewyn was captured by Irish marauders who sold him into slavery in Ireland. As a slave to an Irish chieftain, he toiled as a shepherd on the “Emerald Isle” for six years.
At the age of twenty-two, Maewyn escaped slavery and returned to his native England. Soon after, he experienced a series of dreams and revelations. Once when struggling with evil, Maewyn reports in the Confessio that he saw Jesus as the sun in the sky. He called out “Helias!”. Interestingly, Helios is Latin for the sun, but there is no technical “Helias” in the Latin but could be a diminutive of the sun, aka “son of the sun”.
As a result of these spiritual revelations, Maewyn, studied in France and became a Catholic Deacon. He later asked to return to Ireland. He felt compelled to liberate the Irish people from the oppression of slavery and evil. Pope Celestine granted Maewyn his aspiration and named him Patritius (Patrick), “father of his people”.
From his writings, little is known of the hardships the future saint endured in Ireland. His methodologies were not written down. He did not seem to want to elevate himself as a hero. While the details are vague, there were times when he was abused and bound in chains. He wrote that he endured these hardships for the good of others.
The green of St Patrick’s is often associated with possible folklore in which Maewyn used the three-leafed clover, or Shamrock, as a tool…