Saint Patrick

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A stained glass window depicting Saint Patrick, in Oakland, California

Saint Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland and people of Irish extraction. Born in Britain and taken to Ireland as a slave in the early 5th century, he is credited with bringing Christianity to Ireland. He is generally pictured in bishop's robes with a curved staff (a crozier) in one hand. Often he will have a book in the other and will be pictured gesturing toward some snakes in order to drive them away. Saint Patrick's Day is celebrated on March 17th.

He is called on to ward off snakes, to ward off toothache, and to work with Irish ancestors. Devotees in search of strength and protection often say a special and very old prayer known as Saint Patrick's Breastplate, which may be found in the 9th century Book of Armagh.

A shortened popular version of this prayer is as follows: "Christ be with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ within me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ at my right, Christ at my left, Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me, Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks to me, Christ in every eye that sees me, Christ in every ear that hears me."

In the African Diasporic religion religion of Voodoo, which has been syncretized with Catholic practices, including the veneration of Catholic Church saints, Saint Patrick is associated with the lwa Damballa, whose image is a snake.


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