Leprechauns Are Not Kosher!
by Lonnie Lane
I once heard a story, alleged to be true, of a Jewish Catholic priest in Ireland, (who may even have risen to the position of a bishop), who celebrated St. Patrick’s day with a green star of David around his neck. Evidently he became a believer but still identified with being Jewish. It’s likely that living in Ireland, becoming a priest was the only thing to do if one came to the Lord and wanted to serve Him.
About this same time I was working in a law school with Irish Catholic roots. Come St. Patty’s day and the celebrations took over the campus. This was all new to me. With great ethno-centric fervor, everyone – including not a few Jewish professors of long standing – turned up wearing green. Food arrived for feasting, most of it green somehow. Irish songs were sung – in Gaelic, jigs were danced and parties abounded. A great time was had by all. I kind of watched from the side wondering where all this derived from.
The date, of course, is March 17th. I remember only two things about that date from my own Jewish growing up days. It’s after that day that peas (which are green too come to think of it) are planted because the temperature should be about right by then, at least in Pennsylvania where I grew up. The other fact was that when we were about 8 years old, one of my girlfriends had a little brother born on that day. Her German background family decided he might as well bear the name of the day he was born and so he was given the unlikely cross-cultural name of Patrick Heinbecker.
Despite all the enthusiasm for St. Patrick, none of my co-workers seemed to know much about him other than that he gave them great cause for celebration. My penchant for church history stirred me to looking up who this almost mythical character was. This is some of what I found.
The patron saint of Ireland, he died on March 17th, in approximately 493. It is on that day that he is commemorated. He was, however, British, not Irish. Patrick’s father, Calpornius, was a deacon in the church and his grandfather was a Romano-British priest. His mother, Concess, is thought to have come from an upper-class Frank family.
Britain at that time had been under Roman rule for over 350 years. But Britain was now in great upheaval as Rome had required that Britain’s troops go to Rome in order to defend the city from barbarians. This left Britain without army or police during the period of 407-410, resulting in much turmoil. Whole populations were moving around Europe at this time, and previously Christianized Britain was now being over run by pagan Anglo-Saxons who were causing many to leave Christianity resulting in much violence and greed from people who had supposedly once been Christians. During this time Patrick’s father was killed and his sister just disappeared.
Part of the havoc was caused by seven sons of an exiled king who tended to kidnap young boys from their family estates. Among them was Patrick who at about the age of 16 was captured and taken to Ireland where he was sold into slavery to a Druid chieftain. There he remained a herdsman in captivity for six years. Although Patrick was raised in a Christian home, he was not himself a Believer before this unfortunate turn of events. But the crisis of the enslavement he endured caused him to turn to the Lord. In time he became a young man of considerable faith. His Confessio, an autobiography, reports that he prayed daily. It was later said of him that he recited 100 Psalms each night though that legend about him, and a number of others, is somewhat questionable.
As a slave, he was put in a position of having to learn the native Celtic language and as his master was a Druid high priest, he became familiar with the Druid customs. At the age of twenty-two he managed to escape, as the story is told, with the help of an angel. Fleeing his master, he travelled two hundred miles while enduring numerous supposedly supernatural events until he reached a port. Boarding a ship, he returned home to what family was left, now in his early twenties. He then spent twelve years in a monastery in Auxerre, France. It was while there that he adopted the name of Patrick, which in old Irish would have been spelled Padraig. He remained there until sometime in his thirties when one night he heard voices begging him to return to Ireland. He would go and take the gospel to Ireland, the land of his enslavement. Only one other man had done so many years earlier by the name of Palladius who died sometime between 457 and 461. This “calling” made Patrick one of the very first Christian missionaries to Ireland.
Patrick is responsible for having brought thousands to the Lord, baptizing them, and teaching them Christian ways. Legends about Patrick abound. One tells of Patrick teaching the Irish about the concept of the Trinity with a shamrock, a 3-leafed clover, which accounts for the shamrock’s association with Ireland, having become its national emblem. Another story tells of an annual pagan fire during a season of the pagan Easter (Easter Candles) according to Patrick’s own account in his Confessio, that was to be lit by the High King at Tara. When all other fires would go out, they could be renewed from the sacred (pagan) fire from Tara, a kind of pagan resurrection of fire, it would appear. Patrick, as a statement of the truth of Christianity, lit another fire on a hill at the opposite end of the valley which proved to be miraculously inextinguishable.
Patrick wrote of his mission in his Confessio where he recounts that he baptized thousands of people. He ordained priests to lead the new Christian communities. He converted wealthy women, some of whom became nuns in the face of family opposition. He also dealt with the sons of kings, converting them as well. He is responsible for curtailing the worship of the chief pagan god of the sun and fertility who was widely worshipped in Ireland. One account tells of Patrick cursing and destroying the large idol associated with such worship.
In dealing with the doctrinal errors Patrick brought truth to an erroneous belief that salvation was attainable through one’s own efforts without God’s help because the image of God in us is sufficient so there is no need for the help or grace of the Holy Spirit. This heresy, it has been observed, is likened to mistaking the Holy Spirit for the whims or emotions of a crowd. What the crowd is assuming or “feeling” is presumed to be of God.
On one occasion Patrick was beaten, robbed of all he had, and put in chains. As a foreigner in Ireland, his position was vulnerable. Refusing to accept the gifts of kings put him outside what might have been their protection. Nevertheless, the people loved him and he is celebrated to this day, as my friends made clear.
But why all the celebration? What’s so party-worthy about his ministry? How did this man who wished for holiness and the advancement of the gospel come to be represented as reason to party? None of my friends could tell me. They knew little about him. In fact, when I told them he wasn’t even Irish they were shocked.
St. Patrick’s Day, the day of his death which was set apart to remember him, became an official Irish feast or holy day when Patrick was named patron saint of Ireland by the Roman Catholic Church. Despite Patrick’s seeming desire for purity, the day somehow took on the celebration of the very Celtic gods and culture Patrick fought against, as well as some political agendas, much like when one of our bills in congress has a rider. Vote for the bill and you get the rider. Vote to commemorate Patrick and you get the church-sanctioned aberrant Christianity too. Celtic-Catholic practices were still in fact pagan practices, church-sanctioned or not. To make the point, St. Brigit, who was declared a saint at the same time as Patrick, was also Ireland’s pagan priestess and more specifically, a wiccan priestess.
Celtic pagans were worshippers of nature spirits but while under Roman domination, they adopted some of Rome’s gods as well. The beer drinking that is associated with Irish pubs had its origin in worship of the Roman god Dionysius, the god of beer or ale. Beer drinking, it appears, took on religious significance. The phrase, “to drown the shamrock” means to go drinking on St. Patrick’s day and is a major part of the St. Patrick’s day celebrations, as are the parades, another part of pagan culture.
Ordinarily St. Patrick’s Day falls near Easter. It is highly unlikely that Patrick would in any way approve of such displays of drinking and revelry during what he treasured as “holy week?” How would he feel about the symbolism associated with celebrating this day of his death? No doubt he would be appalled and do whatever he could to remove the veneration of himself and the pagan associations that have come to be associated with him. How did it happen? He was guilty by association, even though he never associated with the pagan worshippers. But because Patrick was named patron saint along with “Saint” Brigit, what she worshipped was attributed to him.
Leprechauns would be one of her objects of worship. Leprechauns account for some of the emphasis on green (as do the shamrocks) as these were thought to be little green men dressed in shoe makers’ clothes who hide their gold in a pot at the end of a rainbow. When people, even those “in the church” don’t know the Lord, worship, regardless of who or what is worshipped, is considered as equally valid worship. So what if you mix two religions. If you’re not born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God and therefore you cannot recognize the tragic consequences of mixing faith in Yeshua with pagan practices. Like oil and water, they don’t mix and no righteousness comes out of it. Fear, superstition and spiritual confusion result. Worst of all is that there are eternal consequences to not knowing or practicing the truth.
Brigit’s religion as a wiccan was essentially nature worship. The belief is in “elementals” which are creatures that have evolved in the four elements of fire, air, earth and water. These are known as gnomes, sylphs, salamanders, and undines which are further identified as pixies, fairies, trolls, dwarfs, goblins, leprechauns, banshees, moss people, elves and fauns, and other such creatures, all of which were involved in magic and sorcery. Unknowingly, the Irish were trafficking with demon spirits, the same demon spirits that new age and occult practices involve themselves with today. According to Wikipedia – Origins of Easter, these are “light beings” which can “slip into whatever form your mind imagines as a means to communicate with your spirit.” That means there are demonic forces communicating with your spirit when you are involved with these magical entities. They are used strongly in ceremonial magic and practices of nature-worship or wicca. Leprechauns are thought to take you to their pot of gold at the end of the rainbow and while the origin of this idea is unknown, it does appear to be an incantation for a spirit to produce what a greedy person desires.
All of these “elementals” answer to a Faun named Pan who is the god of the nature elementals. Pan is a man with horns on his head and a goat’s lower body, which is typically pictured as satan. Think of Mr. Tumnus in The Chronicles of Narnia. Pan is also known as the Eyptian Baphomet which is the sabbatical goat which is worshipped as satan at the witches’ Sabbath, which just happens to coincide with many major Catholic holy days. How come? Good old Constantine again, through his “Christianizing” pagan beliefs while he was emperor.
During the middle ages, under the church/State rule of the Roman Catholic church (the only church incidentally; it is our common heritage, Catholic and Protestant, before the Reformation), labeled Saturday as the “witches Sabbath” and persecuted all who worshipped God and His Messiah on this day. And who would those people be who would have been persecuted? The Jews, of course, and any who refused to give up the Lord’s Sabbath day. In keeping the Sabbath they were in effect taking the stand that the church had no right to change God’s laws and His times. They suffered great persecution because of it.
Patrick lived in a time when Christianity gave way to pagan practices, and when the nation of Ireland was immersed in superstition, magic, witchcraft, sorcery and all manner of pagan beliefs. It all sounds so old world and long ago, doesn’t it? Please allow me to share some concerns with you along these lines and then I’ll move on to more encouraging thoughts – so don’t quit reading till you get to the hopeful part, okay? This day in which we now live is often referred to as “post-Christian.” I find that pretty scary, don’t you? There is a growing acceptance in our society today of the promotion of new age and occult spirits, of witchcraft and magic (Harry Potter, for example) and core beliefs other than the Judeo-Christian values that have been the back-bone of America. Our children are exposed today to what Jewish or Christian parents would have been horrified by as ungodly and pagan a generation ago. If you think this isn’t true, the next time you’re in a bookstore, go look at the children and teen section and see how much is being offered that is magic and sorcery. And how much sex is promoted all around them? Where will this next generation lead our country and our world if these are what a large proportion of them consider as reality?
We may think we are far from a culture that misinterprets the “whims and emotions of a crowd” for thinking that God is doing something, but I have witnessed church meetings where the “feelings” and emotions of much of the crowd interpreted what they heard as being of the Holy Spirit, while some felt that what was going on had more to do with soul and sound than anointing and the Spirit of God. How vulnerable will those be to deception who have no other church foundation than a comfortable gospel, who have never heard a message of such conviction of sin that they were compelled to repent so that they then came to know the joy of being cleansed by the Spirit of God? Likewise, sermons or teachings that tell us what we as believers must do or be without making it clear that unless the Lord does it through us by His Spirit, we can do nothing Kingdom-worthy, are conveying a message somewhat akin to what Ireland believed, that salvation was attainable without God’s help because we were made in the image of God. “Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain” (Psalm 127:1). These issues aren’t exactly replicating what went on in Ireland, but neither are they entirely unrelated.
Now, the encouragement. When I was praying about how to end this article I felt that the Lord wanted to encourage us to be people who make a difference. God is looking for good men and women who will take on the task of rescuing our own society from an encroaching paganism and an expanding post-Christian threat. It starts with talking with one or two people at a time, with sharing the Lord with others and actually expecting them to respond and open their hearts to Him. (It’s called faith!) It’s about sharing God’s truth and sometimes exposing the lies. Expect the Lord to change lives as you walk with Him daily. Nothing will take you out of your own troubles faster than reaching out to someone else. The troubles may not go away, but you’ll be lifted above them and into the Lord’s joy. When His priorities become our priorities, life takes on a higher perspective than our troubles and takes on a God-imparted value. When we “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness…all [needed] things will be given to you as well” (Matt 6:33).
May I pose a few questions? Some of you may want to take them to the Lord to process before Him. Do you believe God has a call on your life? Do you believe God wants to do more with your life than you are doing now? Do you believe He is capable of making you into someone He can use to touch others? Do you want to see Yeshua glorified and His name honored by others who don’t even know He loves them (yet)? Do you want to hear from His own mouth one day, “Well done, good and faithful servant”? Have you ever spent some meditation time in imagining what THAT will feel like to hear those words from our Precious Lord and King? O halleluyah!
I have good news for you. You can be a Patrick in your own family, neighborhood or town. You can be someone who touches others for Yeshua in a greater way than you may have so far. You can make a difference, even an eternal difference, in the lives and destinies of people you come in contact with. I hope that excites you. If it intimidates you, I have more good news. There’s one way to get over that — ask the Lord for His heart for people, ask Him to fill you with His love and His Spirit. Y’know what happens when we pray that? John knew what it was to pray and make a difference. He said, “Now this is the confidence that we have before Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him” (1 John 5:14-15). If you believe that’s really true, what are you going to ask Him for so you can make a difference?
Reprint of this article is permitted as long as you use the following; Use by permission by Messianic Vision, www.sidroth.org, 2008.
Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, New International Version®. NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.