Snakes Be Gone

I want to get these facts out a month early, so that come next month, the 17th of March to be precise, when some smart-aleck, Irish Catholic, college grad writes in your local paper that there were no snakes in Ireland for St. Patrick to kick out, you can send him this irrefutable proof to the contrary.  And there’s more where this came from.  And that’s no blarney!

Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig
“Happy St. Patrick’s Day!”

Pious legend credits Patrick with banishing snakes from the island, though post-glacial Ireland never actually had snakes; one suggestion is that snakes referred to the serpent symbolism of the Druids of that time and place, as shown for instance on coins minted in Gaul [1st century B.C.]. (See Carnutes) From Wikipedia / Saint Patrick

The story goes that he gave a sermon on a hill that drove the snakes out of Ireland. It may be that this story was symbolic for his putting an end to Pagan practices, as serpent symbols figured prominently in their culture. (My emphasis) (From Spike and Jamie Everything Irish website).

Kelly’s Column: Every year as March 17th approaches articles appear in newspapers educating us about the scientific impossibility of Saint Patrick driving out the snakes from Ireland.  Gullible believers, like myself, are ever so condescendingly told that there never were any snakes in Ireland since the end of the ice age.  We are also told that the ice age, give or take a few million years, occurred about ten million years ago. I am being facetious here as I do not believe the earth is millions of years old. Scientifically speaking, it is not possible. That’s another story. I’ll stick with the Bible. And our hallowed Martyrology for Christmas, which dates creation at about 7000 years ago.

Stubborn Irishman that I am, I ask why, then, are snakes found in other lands with a similar climate to Ireland, which were also covered in the glacial period?  And the experts are quick to answer: Ireland became an island, you see, after the ice melted, and the snakes would have had to swim there from that other island to the east across the Irish Sea. And we all know that snakes cannot swim that far.  After all, the Irish Sea is very wide.  They also tell us that it was too cold for cold-blooded reptiles to survive in post ice-age Eirin.  The United Kingdom, on the other hand, does have snakes, lots of them from what my sources tell me. Even Scotland has snakes and Scotland’s latitude extends eight degrees further north than Ireland, which would make it colder than Ireland. But all of Britain was covered with ice too during the ice age, wasn’t it? I ask.  Yes, it was, say the experts.

Well, I ask, since the United Kingdom (England, Scotland, and Wales) is also an island, how did these cold-blooded serpents eventually get back to this larger island, if they were all killed off there during the ice age?  They swam there, of course, say the experts, across the channel from the continent.  That is a shorter swim, you see, one that a snake with the right stuff could do in about a day or two if he took the twenty-one mile Calais-Dover route.  So at some point, I am told, a million years or so after the ice age, some of these slithery creatures did just that, and that is why there are snakes in the United Kingdom.

But, what I don’t understand is why snakes that can swim for a day or more could not also, given the right motive (greener pastures, fatter rodents, good fishing on the way) make it across the Irish Sea, which is actually only a mile or two wider at some of Scotland’s westernmost promontories?  Well, no one really knows why, I am told; they just didn’t.

Well, now, I believe that they did.  They had to have done so.  Why do I believe that? Because they were there in Ireland, being worshipped by the druids and other pagans (note quotes above), when Saint Patrick showed them the door in 442 – or thereabouts.  And that is why there are no more snakes in Ireland any more.

Oh, just in case any unconvinced experts need to know. Paleontologists tell us that fossil records of snakes are extremely rare finds, and those that are found, if they can even be rightly classified as serpents, have both harder tissue than ordinary snakes – and they have legs. Therefore, the lack of snake fossil remains in Ireland proves nothing because there are hardly any such fossil records anywhere else in the world.