In Sunday school in the month of March we always made shamrocks that represented the Christian concept of the three parts of the Trinity: God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. While we colored our shamrocks green the teacher told us the story of St. Patrick. I wasn’t so much into the tale of his slavery days or his escape and or even his return to Ireland to spread god's word. What caught my attention was the end of the story, the best for last.
St. Patrick, we were told, stood on a hill and, using his staff, he cast the snakes out into the sea, banishing them forever and always.
I was impressed by Patrick and his miraculous magic trick. My brother and I and other neighborhood kids acted it out in our backyard, each of us taking turns playing Patrick, striking our tree-branch staff into the ground and casting out the snakes. Ah, our youthful exuberance for religious adventure and wizardry! But, just like so many other stories and figures I held dear as a kid, Patrick’s legend was more symbolic fiction than fact.
There were no snakes in Ireland, because there never were snakes in Ireland. The familiar stained glass image of Patrick with serpents retreating at his feet represented the saint’s missionary work in Ireland, converting its people to Christianity, casting out, not the horrible asp, but the Druids, a priestly class of Celts from the Iron Age whose devotion was paid more to nature than a concept of an all-powerful deity.
On Sunday, March 13 from 9:30 to 11am, the Red Bank Humanists will be busting the myth and devining the truth of this snakeless Ireland. The forum, titled Why No Snakes? The Natural Prehistory of Ireland, will include a presentation by Dr. Stanton Green, Dean of the McMurray School of Humanities and Social Sciences and professor of Anthropology at Monmouth University.
The Natural Prehistory of Ireland will reveal that the island’s geography saved it from invasion by both the Romans and the snakes. The answer that Dr. Green’s presentation will elucidate has nothing to do with Patrick, and everything to do with simple geology.
Following Dr. Green’s presentation attendees are encouraged to participate in the moderated Q&A session. RBH monthly forums are held on the second Sunday of each month at the Red Bank Charter School on Oakland Street. Forums are free and open to the public. RBH welcomes freethinkers who are prepared for “lively discussions on interesting topics.”
RBH’s goal is to create informative, provocative, and unique programs that help to explore the great questions of life through the lens of Humanism. Members are encouraged to submit Forum topics for consideration. Sometimes there is a guest speaker - an author or scientist - but usually the presenters are RBH members. Virtually any topic is allowed as long as the discourse remains civil. The discussions are lively and spirited...and often humorous. Attendees sit in a large circle, which fosters open and direct communication. All are invited to participate, but many prefer to simply listen. There will be no coloring of shamrocks however.