Did St. Patrick banish the snakes from Ireland?
No. He didn’t.
Despite many of us growing up on the St. Patrick snakes legend, it is in fact not true.
There were never any snakes in Ireland. Below, you’ll find the facts without the BS.
Some quick need-to-knows about St Patrick, snakes and Ireland
Before we look at the St. Patrick and snakes link, let’s get you up-to-speed nice and quickly:
1. According to legend
Out of the many legends about St. Patrick, the most common is that he banished all of the snakes from Ireland. However, if you read our St. Patrick facts, you’ll know that this wasn’t true.
2. There were no snakes in Ireland
Many moons ago when glaciers receded and the sea went about separating the land masses, plants and animals colonised much of what we no know as Europe. However, our climate made Ireland a no-go for snakes. More on this below.
3. A possible St. Patrick snakes meaning
The most widely accepted St. Patrick snakes meaning is that is all comes back to how the devil is depicted in the Bible as a snake. It’s believed that the snakes in Ireland were in fact pagan beliefs. More on this below.
The story behind St. Patrick banishing snakes from Ireland
The St. Patrick and snakes legend is well know. However, it’s just that – a legend.
The story goes that, after St. Patrick arrived in Ireland as a missionary in the fifth century, he was fasting and preaching from the top of a hill.
He was then attacked by a large group of snakes which he battled. The result was that St. Patrick banished all of the snakes from Ireland.
The story begins with how Ireland became populated with wildlife
It’s widely know that there are no snakes in Ireland now. However, could there really have been serpents slithering around the island many years ago?!
To answer this question we need to first look at how animals arrived to Ireland, and this takes us back a millennia to the Ice Age.
The separation of what we now know as Europe
When the earth began to thaw the enormous glaciers gradually started to melt, separating land from sea.
The result of this was that plant life and animals started to colonise the different landmasses across Europe.
Seeds were taken by the wind to far off lands and animals that could swim took themselves off to their new homes.
Snakes can swim, but…
Although snakes are well able to swim, they’re cold-blooded creatures.
Ireland’s cool climate was a no-go zone for them and they opted for land with more tropical climates.
Now, you could argue that people travelling to Ireland could have brought snakes with them for either food or practical uses, but that wasn’t the case either.
Snakes were the embodiment of paganism and evil
Like many Irish myths, the St. Patrick and snakes story all comes back to religion.
The Bible famously depicts the Devil as a snake. One memorable occurrence was during the story of Adam and Eve.
The St. Patrick snakes meaning is thought to be tied to St. Patrick and his quest to bring Christianity to Ireland.
Snakes may represent the pagan beliefs that were widely held in Ireland during the time, with St. Patrick ‘banishing’ these beliefs as he spread the word of God.
St. Patrick and snakes FAQs
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from ‘Is the St. Patrick and snakes story true?’ to ‘Were there ever snakes in Ireland?’.
In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below. Here are some related reads you should find interesting:
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What animal did St. Patrick ban from Ireland?
Although it’s widely believed that St. Patrick banished the snakes from Ireland, it is in fact a legend. There were never any snakes in Ireland to begin with.
What is the St. Patrick snakes meaning?
It’s thought that the St. Patrick snakes meaning is all tied to St. Patrick spreading the word of God in Ireland. The ‘snakes’ are thought to represent pagan beliefs.