by Bob MacWordell
Welcome to the first ever Unsung History post written by somebody who isn’t Angus. Angus loves this series because he feels he’s bringing the light of historical wisdom to a populace benighted by the “yoke of elementary school history” (his words, not mine). I appreciate Angus’s passion, but at the same time, I can’t get over the fact that everything Angus has written is demonstrably insane.
So I’m swooping in to share a story with you that is also difficult to believe – indeed, I’m not sure I believe it myself – but it is at least an unbelievable story that many (who aren’t insane cranks by and large) accept as history. Familiar is the tale of St. Patrick’s life of abduction and slavery; how he fell in love with the Irish people while enslaved but nevertheless returned after escaping to convert them to his faith. History tells us that St. Patrick found great success in proselytizing the Irish people. Less famous by far is the tale of Patrick’s Holy Fire.
Again, it’s a difficult story to believe. I’m not sure it counts as actual, according-to-Hoyle history. But it’s a fascinating story and has a lot more chance of being true than anything Angus has written. I’m even going to try and hip it up for the modern audiences.
Ireland used to celebrate a holiday called Bealteiné. The real short version: Bealteiné celebrated the end of winter, the coming of spring, the harvest, the cattle, fertility of the land. It was typically celebrated with a massive bonfire started by the High King and the Arch Druid (the secular and religious leaders of Ireland at the time). After these two guys started their fire, everybody else could start their own celebratory bonfires. But anybody who started one before the Two Big Guys would be put to death.
Just as the Arch Druid was about to light the fire, the High King noticed a fire burning in the distant east. As the High King is the big papa of all Ireland, this got all up in his bidness. He says to the Arch Druid, “Dru, you get your fire started. But then saddle up and bring me the mug what started a fire after I said not to.”
Dru’s crew rolled up on St. Patrick, who had blazed up a Paschal Fire for Easter. And don’t think for a second that Patty and his boys didn’t know exactly whose cereal they were spitting in when they did this on Bealteiné. Dru and his peeps brought Patty and his boys back to Tara, the seat of power in Ireland. But there wasn’t a tussle or anything. Patty wanted the King and everyone else around to hear what he had to say and knew Tara was the place to scream it.
So the High King gets all up in Patty’s grill about the fire, but Patty is not havin’ it. He doesn’t care who said not to start a fire, so starts mad preaching. King and Dru tried to shut him down cold, but the people hanging around were givin’ Patty mad props. Dru decided it was time for a freestyle miracle battle. Imagine a rap battle if the fire they spit were from heaven.
Dru says, “Yo, you up first, Patty.”
Patty says, “Step off, son. I don’t use God’s power to do magic tricks”
Dru says, “Well then here’s a big fat dose of more winter!” And he cast a spell that dropped several feet of snow on the ground and blotted out the sun with all the winter mix.
Patty says, “That ain’t cooler than cool, Dru; that’s ice cold. Call off the snow so the people don’t have to freeze.”
Dru says, “I can’t until tomorrow.”
Patty says, “Oh, I dig it. You’ve got a lot of power to do evil stuff, but not a lot of power to do good.” Patty made the sign of the cross and prayed, and the sun burst through the storm, warmed everyone up, and melted the snow away instantly.
Dru says, “Oh yeah?” and then cast another spell that plunged Tara into smoky darkness.
Patty said, “You’re kinda proving my point here, bro.” Again Patty prayed, and light from heaven banished the darkness.
King was noddin’ off by this time, so he said, “Yo, I only got time for one more test. Throw your holy books into the water and whichever one isn’t ruined is the winner.”
Dru was all, “But he’s got mad water powers!”
King said, “Then throw the books in the fire.”
Dru was all, “No way, boss, he’s got fire magic, too.”
King had had enough. “Okay, smart guy. Then both of you get tents, fill them with dry wood, and then climb inside. I’m going to start both on fire and whoever doesn’t die wins.”
And the crowd probably expected both guys to die, but these were crowds without game shows or reality TV, so they were ready for the throw down. Except Patty said, “Naw, King, that’s too easy. Fill his tent with green wood that won’t burn easily. I still got this.”
Another cat named Benin who was tight with Patty begged to be the one who would go into the tent with dry wood. I’m not sure why, but everyone seemed cool with that. You’d think Dru would buck since it wasn’t Patty going into the fire, but maybe he thought this gave him a better shot at one in the W column. Either way, Dru and Patty traded coats. Benin took Dru’s coat into his tent filled with dry wood and Dru took Patty’s coat into his tent filled with green wood. Then King flicked his Zippo.
The fires were over in a flash. Dru had been burnt to ashes along with the tent and all the green wood. The only thing that hadn’t burnt was Patty’s coat. Over in Benin’s tent, Dru’s coat was the only thing that even got a little singed, and it was a cinder.
King kinda flipped out, but he held it together enough to announce to the crowd, “Patty wins! Flawless Victory!”
Happy St. Patrick’s Day, everybody!