Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Saint Patrick's Confrontations with Demons and Druids

By Jim Wies

Patrick was as fully aware as the Celts that the power of the druids was real, but he brought news of a stronger power. There are numerous stories from his life of confrontations between the power of God and the power of darkness. Here are just a few.

One biographer from the late 600s, Muirchoe, described Patrick challenging druids to contests at Tara, in which each party tried to outdo the other in working wonders before the audience, reminiscent of Elijah and the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel (note: 1 Kings 18):

The custom was that whoever lit a fire before the king on that night of the year [Easter vigil] would be put to death. Patrick lit the paschal fire before the king on the hill of Slane. The people saw Patrick's fire throughout the plain, so the king ordered 27 chariots to go and seize Patrick… 
Seeing that the impious heathen were about to attack him, Patrick rose and said clearly and loudly, 'May God come forward to scatter His enemies, and may those who hate Him flee from His face.' By this disaster, caused by Patrick's curse in the king's presence because of the king's order, seven times seven men fell. … And the king, driven by fear, came and bent his knees before the holy man. 
[The next day], in a display of magic, a druid invoked demons and brought about a dark fog over the land. Patrick said to the druid, 'Cause the fog to disperse.' But he was unable to do it. Patrick prayed and gave his blessing, and suddenly the fog cleared and the sun shone. … And through the prayers of Patrick flames of fire consumed the druid. The king summoned his council and said, 'It is better for me to believe than to die.' And he believed, as did many others that day.

On another occasion, Patrick was aware that there was an ambush to try to kill him and his group en route to the King's court. It was during the march that they chanted the sacred Lorica or Deer's Cry - later known as St. Patrick's Breastplate, which states in part:

I summon today all these powers… against every cruel and merciless power that may oppose my body and my soul, against incantations of false prophets, against black laws of heathenry, against false laws of heretics, against craft of idolatry, against spells of witches, smiths and wizards, against every knowledge that endangers man's body and soul. Christ to protect me today against poisoning, against burning, against drowning, against wounding, so that there may come abundance in reward.… 
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right, Christ on my left, Christ in breadth, Christ in length, Christ in height, Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me, Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me, Christ in every eye that sees me, Christ in every ear that hears me.

The story goes that as the druids lay in hiding, ready to kill, they didn’t see Patrick and his men, but instead, a gentle doe followed by twenty fawns. St. Patrick and his men were saved.