St. Patrick

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St. Patrick’s Day is right around the corner so I thought it would be nice to learn a bit about St. Patrick…

St. Patrick of Ireland is one of the world’s most popular saints. He was an apostle of Ireland and born at Kilpatrick, which is near Dumbarton, in Scotland, in the year 385. He died at Saul, Downpatrick, Ireland on March 17, 461.

The Story of St. Patrick
Patrick was born in the year 385, probably in Kilpatrick, Scotland. His parents were Calpurnius and Conchessa, Romans living in Britain because they were in charge of the colonies. As a boy of fourteen or so, Patrick was captured during a raiding party and taken to Ireland as a slave to tend and herd sheep. Ireland at this time was a land of pagans and druids. He learned the language and practices of the people who held him. During his captivity he turned to God in prayer. He wrote,
“The love of God and his fear grew in me more and more, as did faith, and my soul rose, so that, in a single day, I have said as many as a hundred prayers, and in the night, nearly the same. I prayed in the woods and in the mountain, even before dawn. I felt no hurt from the snow or ice or rain.”
Patrick’s captivity lasted until he was about twenty, when he escaped after having a dream from God in which he was told to leave Ireland by going to the coast. There he found some sailors who took him off to Britain, where he was reuinited with his family. He had another dream in which the people of Ireland were calling out to him, “We beg you, holy youth, to come and walk among us once more!”
He began his studies for priesthood. He was ordained by St. Germanus, Bishop of Auxerre, whom he had studied under for years. Later, Patrick was ordained a bishop, and was sent to take the Gospel to Ireland. He arrived in Ireland March 25, 433, at Slane. One legend says that he met a Chieftain of one of the tribes, who tried to kill Patrick.
Patrick converted Dichu (the Chieftain) after he was unable to move his arm until he became friendly to Patrick. Patrick began preaching the Gospel throughout Ireland, converting many. He and his disciples preached and converted thousands and began building churches all over the country. Kings, their families, and entire kingdoms converted to Christianity when hearing Patrick’s message.
Patrick by now had many disciples, among them Beningnus, Auxilius, Iserninus, and Fiaac. Patrick preached and converted all of Ireland for 40 years. He worked many miracles and wrote of his love for God in Confessions. After years of living in poverty, traveling and enduring much suffering, he died March 17, 461. He died at Saul, where he had built the first church.

Shamrock

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Long ago when Ireland was a land of druids, a Christian bishop known to us now as St. Patrick came to teach the word of God. Although the origins of the shamrock are lost in antiquity, the legend suggests that St. Patrick plucked a shamrock from Irish soil to demonstrate the meaning of the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. The plant was reptued to have mystic powers in that its petals will stand upright to warn of an approaching storm. The shamrock remains Ireland’s most famous symbol. The shamrock is also commonly associated with the symbol of luck. In studying Celtic history, scholars have discovered that the shamrock was a charm to ward away evil.

Tara Brooch

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The Irish tradition of metalworking goes back to 3000 years to the Bronze Age. The Tara brooch is considered to be one of the finest examples of ancient Irish metalworking craftsmanship. It is a “ring brooch” dating back tothe later 7th or early 8th century. Despite its name, it does not have any historical attachment to Tara. Rather, it was found in 1850 in Bettystown in County Meath and later acquired by a jeweler who named it the “Tara Brooch”. It is exquisitely made in silver and gilt. The seven-inch long brooch was embellished with Celtic knotwork on both front and back. The Tara Brooch was not meant to be a brooch to hold clothing but to be decorative. Brooches contained neither Christian or Pagan religious motifs and were made for wealthy patrons who wanted a personal expression of status. Each brooch was made unique and individualized for each patron. The brooch is now on permanent display in the National Museum of Ireland in Dublin.

Tree of Life

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The Tree of Life is common to many cultures. It’s often regarded as all-nourishing and all-giving. Britain was once covered by a mighty oak forest and the tree reverence is a major feature within the Celtic culture. The tree reflects a link between heaven and earth. Roots reach down to the earth and its branches reach up to the heavens. The interlacing branches symbolize the continuity of life. The tree was regarded by the Celts as a source of food, protection form the elements, provider of material shelter, and a source of warmth when making fire with its wood.

The Nine Glens of Antrim

The Coast Road begins at Larne as you drive north through the Glens of Antrim to the Giant’s Causeway. You can enjoy some of the most beautiful scenery imaginable. The Glens of Antrim, a land of folklore and fairies, are famous in legend and song, with each of the nine Glens having their own distinct character and charm.

Glenarm
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– Gleann Arma, Glen of the Army
Glenarm Forest Park and Glenarm Castle with it’s walled Gardens make Glenarm a wonderful place to visit. The castle is only open to visitors a few days each year, but the forest park and walled gardens are open all year round.

Glencloy
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– Gleann Cloiche, Glen of the Hedges
Glencloy meets the sea at the pretty harbour town of Carnlough, and here you’ll find another beautiful beach. There are views of Slemish mountain from the glen, where it’s said that St. Patrick spent the early part of his live in slavery, herding sheep until he escaped to Wales.

Glenariff
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– Gleann Aireamh, Arable or Fertile Glen
The best-known of the nine, known as the “Queen of the Glens”. A classic example of a U shaped glacier valley, and also a perfect example of a glen divid into ladder farms, (with each farm taking some good land near the river, and some mountain land higher up the valley. The glen meets the sea at Waterfoot and the beautiful beach there. At the top of the glen the picturesque waterfalls and forest walks are an absolute must see.

Glenann
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– Gleann Athain, Glen of the Colt’s Foot or Rush Lights
The most famous spot is Ossian’s grave, and there’s also the bleak but beautiful Cushendall-Ballymoney mountain road.

Glencorp
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– Gleann Corp, Glen of the Slaughtered
A fierce battle was fought in the area of the middle glens (Glen Ballyeammon to Glendun) in 1559 between the McDonnells and the MacQuillans. The MacQuillans had cavalry, but before the battle the McDonnells dug pits in the boggy land and covered them with heather and grass. The mounted soldiers fell in to the trap and so the McDonnells won the Battle of the Boglands.

Glendun
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– Gleann Abhann Duinne, Glen of the Brown River
A beautiful glen leading to the white sandy beach at Cushendun, there’s a beatiful riverside / forest walk through the glen, and many points of interest. Nearby at Torr head is the closest point in Ireland to Scotland and Cushendun was formerly an important port. The town used to have the smallest pub in the world, but they extended it.

Glenshesk
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– Gleann Seisce, Glen of Reeds or Sedges
On the other side of Knocklayde from Glentaisie, this glen also leads down to Ballycastle and just before the town lie the ruins of the Franciscan Friary of Bunamargy, built for the friars by the local chieftain, Rory MacQuillan in 1485. As a result of a few fierce battles it became the property of the MacDonnell Clan who had no qualms about setting fire to the friary when it was occupied by the English forces under the command of Sir William Stanley in 1584. Throughout the glen there are many standing stones marking the burial places of saintly men and women and clan leaders killed in battle. A castle in Drumenia is called after Goban Saoer, celebrated in local folklore as the icon of builders and artisans.

Glentaisie
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– Gleann Taise, Princess Taisie’s Glen, (Princess of Rathlin Island)
A beautiful sheltered lying in the shadow of Knocklayde mountain. Leads down to the mile long golden beach at the beautiful historic town of Ballycastle.

Glenballyeamon
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– Gleann Baile Éamainn, The Glen of Edwardstown
Leads down to Cushendall and at the centre of the nine glens. There’s also the site of an ancient axe factory on Tievebulliagh mountain. The mountain was formed from a volcanic plug, the intense heat generated by molten basalt has given rise to the formation of a durable flint, porcellanite, which is found at the foot of the eastern scree slope of the mountain. An array of Neolithic artifacts, including bracelets, axe heads, chisels, and polishing tools. Flint axe heads fashioned from porcellanite that originate from this quarry have been found across the British Isles, from the Outer Hebrides to the south coast of England and across the rest of Ireland. The scenery of the glen includes Trostan, the highest mountain in Antrim, boggy mountain tops, gently sloped hills, rushing waterfalls, pasture land, forests and the winding GlenBallyeamon river. Dominating the Glen is the long Lurigedan mountain, which takes a couple of hours to climb, but is well worth the effort. There are beautiful views of Scotland and the Scottish Isles.

A Few Irish Creatures

Leprechauns Guard Irish Treasure
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The Leprechaun is perhaps the most famous of all Irish legends. Said to be a type of Faerie, the Leprechaun is a cobbler, making shoes of all other Faerie Folk. Usually depicted as an old bearded man, Leprechauns are never female. Legend tells that when the Danes invaded Ireland, the Faeries hid all their treasure from the marauding hordes. The Leprechauns were given the task of guarding the treasure, so he must constantly be moving the trove. And with the climate in Ireland and plenty of rain, rainbows are plentiful! It is said that if you catch a Leprechaun, he must either give you his treasure or grant you three wishes.

Selkies and Mermaids
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The legend of the Selkie is very similar to the mermaid. But Selkies are brown seals by day and human by night. The legend comes from numerous seals inhabiting Irish coasts. Sailors who caught a Selkie at night in human form married these lovely brown-eyed maidens. For the rest of their lives, they would serve as patient wives while constantly looking at the sea. If Selkies were released by their captors, they would return to the sea, but would forever more guard human families while on sea and on land.

The Cry of the Banshee
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Tied to earthly family or clans, the Banshee stands watch over them. When a member of the clan or family dies, the Banshee cries and mourns the death. Banshees are depicted as both old ugly women and young attractive girls.

History of Dunluce Castle

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The gaunt ruins of Dunluce Castle stand in the splendid isolation upon a rock rising sheer out of the Atlantic. The castle has been described by Sir Walter Scott in one of his novels, but under another name. Details as to the actual building of the castle are lost in the mists of antiquity, but it was in the hands of the English in the fifteenth century, and in 1580 it had passed to the McQuillans. After a chequered career the castle finally became the property of the McDonnells. Lord Antrim resided here until the rebellion of 1641. A short while later, one of the rooms fell bodily into the sea, carrying nine persons with it and the castle was abandoned. It has remained a ruin ever since. Only two of the original fire towers now remain, McQuillan’s Tower and Roe’s Tower, so called after Maive Roe, a banshee or fairy spirit whose wail is still said to be heard during wintry storms. The banshee maintains her apartment scrupulously clean in readiness for the return of the McQuillans. This remarkable ruin has been taken over by the government of Northern Ireland as an “Ancient Monument” and guides are in attendance to explain its legendary and historic associations.