Today is a day of remembrance for families like mine. While my husband and I, being of Irish descent, are all for celebrating our heritage...though the whole green beer thing seems rather odd, even to the Irish....instead we take a more serious approach to the day as we pay homage to our forebears, all the women, men and children that fell to the conquerors: the Romans as they tried to claim the entire world as their own; those that fell beneath the onslaught of Christianity as thousands were killed in the name of the Prince of Peace. (And please note I place no blame on that holiest of men; how could he ever have believed his message of peace would become so twisted and perverted to be used to spread hate?)
Tradition tells us that Saint Patrick chased all the snakes out of Ireland. And while it may be true that there are no snakes in that country (don't know, have never been), the 'snakes' he and his followers drove out of Ireland weren't harmless little creatures that should have been left in peace in the first place, but Druids. The snake has ever been a symbol of wisdom and renewal: the Greeks and Romans used the image of the snake or of serpents, the Celts, in awe of the snake's ability to shed its skin and be reborn over and over, believed the snake to be attuned to divine wisdom. And so, when Christianity invaded Ireland, the keepers of the people's wisdom and spiritual tradition were slaughtered or driven away.
My family prays for the lost souls that fell, believing in their gods to the end, and we remember the survivors who hid away, living in fear, yet continued the traditions of the Old Ways, so that today families like mine can follow the faith that calls most deeply to our souls. And while there is still hate and distrust today, thanks to the sacrifices of the ones that came before, we can live in peace, and share our love of humanity and of the earth (yes, I know I sound corny, but that really is the main tenet of our faith).
Amid your celebrating today, please pause for a moment, to remember not my ancestors necessarily, but your own: Christians have faced persecution over the years; Muslims, Jews, Buddhists...every faith in the world has been reviled at one point or another, and someone has been willing to make sacrifices so your faith could continue to live on. Pause for a moment, and say thank you.
May you be blessed on this All Snakes Day.