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Thursday, December 08, 2011

MUIRHEAD`S MYSTERIES: ANCIENT KNOWLEDGE ABOUT SNAKES IN IRELAND

Today I found a few notes today on snakes in Ireland, as follows:

'Bede ( Hist. gent. Anglor i. 1) points out that there are no serpents in Ireland and if any are introduced from Britain they quickly die on breathing Irish air. In the twelth century Giraldus Cambrensis ( Topogr. Hib I, 23) testified to the absence of snakes, adders, toads, and frogs from Irish soil. An Irish monk, known under the name of Marcus, who had settled in the Irish monastries of Ratisbon towards the middle of the twelth century, described his native country as free from serpents, frogs, toads, and venomous animals in general. An Irish MS quoted by Whitely Stokes compares Ireland with Paradise for the same reason.' (1)

'...The reputation of Irish earth as deadly to serpents was believed to antedate the Christianization of Ireland.' (2)

'At Chatton, in Northumberland, it was believed , as late as the last century, that if a native of Ireland drew a ring round a toad or adder the creature could not get out and would die' (3)

'As late as the last century it was believed in Northumberland that when a dog is bitten by an adder the only remedy is to wash the place with the milk of an Irish cow.' (4)

'To conclude: the tradition concerning the efficacy of Irish earth against venemous serpents and snake poison is of Mediterraenean origin, being attached, in classical antiquity, to the soils of a number of Mediterranean islands (Ebusa, Galatia, Sicily, Malta, and, chiefly, Lemnos), some of which were known, or supposed, to be free from venemous serpents.' (5)

'In the ancient writings of the saints of Ireland' says Bede 'we read that attempts were often made by way of experiment to introduce, in brazen vessels, serpents into that country. But when they had accomplished half the voyage they were found lying dead in their brazen vessels.' (6)

In BioFortean Notes 2, unpublished as of now, I will be talking about sightings of snakes in Ireland since the 19th century.

NEW RESEARCH TOOL: The British Library today announced a new online (fee paying) newspaper archive. See http://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/

1. Alexander H.Krappe Collecteana `Irish Earth`. Folklore vol. 52, 1941, p. 229
2. Ibid p. 230
3. Ibid p. 232
4. Ibid p. 232
5. Ibid p. 235
6. Catholic World vol. 47 no. 277 p. 43

1 comment:

Sylver Wyrd said...

The myth of St. Patrick driving the "snakes" out of Ireland is a metaphor for Christianity driving out the pagans, who were known to worship animals (re: Druids), and in particular used a snake as a symbol of the Goddess [Brigid].

It amuses me that this myth is still considered to be factual. That the myth antedates Christianity in Ireland only gives emphasis to my point.