Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Is St Patrick's Breastplate Druidic in its inspiration?

I do not know, but I do not think it very likely.

There is the Psalm Dominus Reget Me which in English is known as The Lord is my Shepherd.

There is the Christian's armour of Ephesians Ch 6, verses 11 - 20.

There is above all Azaria's prayer in Daniel 3:26 - 90 (verses not available in Protestant Bibles). And the All Saints' Litany.

I am no judge of original verse form, but Irish Pagan versification was not exclusively druidic, there were also the bards. So, if St Patrick did use an Irish pre-Christian verse form, he may have learned it from the bards. Or in his native Welsh surroundings (probably North Welsh in present Scottish Westcoast: if Strathclyde has nothing reminding of St Patrick, that is due to vandalism of its Reformation).

Why then this obsession of making St Patrick's breastplate druidic except for obvious Christian confession? There is this pretty recent tradition, largely masonic in inspiration, that pretends to resurrect druidicism. And since genuinely druidic customs and poetry are sorely lacking for the purpose, these men also take to Christianity from just after Conversion up to Settlements of Protestants in Ulster. Or, for that matter, anything Welsh in Welsh Christianity before Reformation, excepting only, in both cases, such things as were obviously shared by Catholics everywhere, like Hail Mary's and Rosaries, like devotion to the Blessed Sacrament.

The most obvious example of this bad habit is of course to take Souling Custom as a survival of Pagan Samhain. The link I offer is pretty good, I will give an excerpt which contains both the gist and the one bad thing:

The better-off would give out small cakes or loaves in exchange for prayers for their dead relatives.

Why just the better off? To give a cake or two is after all in the power of anyone. Or nearly so. Make it anyone not an all year round beggar, anyone having a cottage or house.

St Patrick's breastplate is so much closer to druidic times - indeed he prayed the prayer to escape druids' magic - but I still find it more probable he did use the originally Christian sources for his work.

Hans-Georg Lundahl
Paris, Mairie de III
16/XI/2010, Feast of
St Margaret of Scotland

1 comment:

Hans Georg Lundahl said...

I arise today, the probably more literal translation of St Patrick's breastplate (I have seen a rhymed one with "I bind unto myself today" but since rhymed and rhytmic in English probably not exact equivalent of sth metric in Gaelic also)