Legends and Stories of Ireland
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IRISH MYTHS AND LEGENDS - MYTHOLOGY ***
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Email Address We use your email address to send you free email newsletters from Tourism Ireland, including regular updates on holiday ideas and deals. Oisin went to live with her in Tir na nOg and stayed there for several hundred years, never ageing and retaining all his youth and strength. Eventually, he got homesick so Niamh gave him permission to return to Ireland on condition that he remained sitting on his magical horse at all times and did not touch the ground, even for a second.
His return to his native land was a disappointment for him because the friends and Fianna warriors he had known had been dead for centuries. He felt like a stranger in his native land. He decided to return to Niamh but before he could do so, he saw a man struggling to lift a huge stone.
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Oisin stopped to help but as he strained to lift the stone, the strap on the saddle broke and he fell from the horse. As soon as he touched the ground, he began to age rapidly, turning into a feeble old man. As Oisin lay there dying, St Patrick walked by and stopped to talk.
IRISH FOLKLORE STORIES FROM THE WILD ATLANTIC WAY
The discussion turned to the relative merits of their two religions and civilisations. St Patrick gets the better of the debate. Oisin dies and St Patrick lives on, symbolising the triumph of Christianity over the pagan gods of the Celts. Again a debate takes place about the merits of Christianity over the Celtic, pagan lifestyle of the two warriors.
This would have been a live issue for them because, although Ireland had become a Christian country at the time of St Patrick, many of the old Celtic beliefs and traditions lived on for many centuries afterwards. This is one of the best known St Patrick legends.
The story goes that St Patrick had subjected himself to a day fast on the top of the mountain now known as Croagh Patrick. As he came down after finishing his fast, he saw snakes gathering in front of him. From that day forward, there were no snakes to be found in Ireland.
However, science says the absence of snakes in Ireland is down to Ice Age.
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The theory is that snakes started to migrate northwards from southern Europe as the last Ice Age ended and temperatures rose. They reached as far as Britain but then melting ice caps created the Irish Sea, making it impossible for them to get to Ireland.
No one knows the origin of the story of Patrick and the snakes but some commentators have speculated that it originated with Irish monks several hundred years ago. The snakes are seen as symbol of the druids, the high priests of the pre-Christian world. In driving out the snakes, St Patrick is driving out the druids and in doing do, emphasises the triumph of Christianity over paganism.
It is a difficult concept, which has occupied the minds of theologians for 2, years. St Patrick is said to have used the shamrock as a way of explaining the mystery to them. The shamrock was a single plant made up three leaves, each leaf represent one facet of God. This is another St Patrick story that is likely to originated with Irish monks.