Book Chapter Details
Mandatory Fields
Jenny Butler
2012 Unknown
Saint Urho - Pyhä Urho - From Fakelore To Folklore
St. Patrick, Folklore and Irish National Identity
University of Turku
Optional Fields
Saint Patrick Irish Folklore St. Patrick Irish Identity Fakelore National Identity Irish National Identity Ireland Emblems Irish Symbols
This paper is concerned with the symbolism, mythology and folklore connected with the figure of St Patrick rather than with history or recorded facts about the life of the flesh and blood saint. This examination focuses on the legends that built up around the figure St Patrick and how these might be interpreted in relation to popular conceptions of the saint and understandings of his cultural importance. St Patrick features in many stories in the Irish oral tradition and there are many customs connected with his feast day. These traditions have been given new layers of meaning over time while also becoming tied to Irish identity both in Ireland and abroad. The symbolic resonance of the St Patrick figure is complex and multifaceted, stretching from that of Christianity’s arrival in Ireland to an identity that encompasses everything Irish. In some portrayals, the saint is symbolically synonymous with the Christian religion itself. There is also evidence of a combination of indigenous religious traditions with that of Christianity, which places St Patrick in the wider framework of cultural hybridity. Popular religious expression has this characteristic feature of merging elements of culture. Later in time, the saint becomes associated specifically with Catholic Ireland and synonymously with Irish national identity. Subsequently, St Patrick is a patriotic symbol along with the colour green and the shamrock. St Patrick's Day celebrations include many traditions that are known to be relatively recent historically, but have endured through time because of their association either with religious or national identity. They have persisted in such a way that they have become stalwart traditions, viewed as the strongest "Irish traditions". The close connection between St Patrick and emblems of national identity such as the shamrock and the colour green makes these customs more authentic and valid in popular understandings of folk tradition. It is especially interesting how particular traditions, like the parade, have changed over time and taken on new meanings in different time periods. The examination of St Patrick traditions gives interesting insights into the cultural mechanism of invention and reinterpretation of tradition in a general sense.
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