You might not even know that this is actually a fact and there are no snakes in Ireland. Or you might know the legend: St. Patrick drove away all the snakes in Ireland and this is why Ireland is so lacking in these elongated, quite spooky legless reptiles. St. Patrick was a very real person and he didn’t only drove snakes away from Ireland, but also all kind of venomous reptiles and demons as the area had been victim to a triple plague and pest. It sounds much like a myth, we know and now you want the real answer! Well, the answer to this question is somewhere in the middle and I bet you’re already curious. Let’s see!
Why are there no snakes in Ireland?
There are no snakes in Ireland because it was too cold here during the ace ice and when the huge glaciers started to melt, Ireland was cut off from the rest of the world by the rising water levels. Snakes never really had the chance to make it to Ireland, but they managed to find a sweet spot in Britain. This is why there are snakes in Britain, three native snake species, to be specific, but not a snake soul in Ireland. Nevertheless, there is one reptile living in Ireland and it is known as the viviparous lizard. One interesting thing is that this reptile has only been discovered 50 years ago and it was reported as a “newcomer”.
Did St Patrick drive the snakes out of Ireland?
How did the legend of St Patrick and snake plague come to be?
Now, as you can see, there were never any snakes in Ireland and everybody knew that, starting with the ancient writers and our modern historians. Still, the legend of St Patrick driving away all the snakes from Ireland lingered on to this day. Why? There are two plausible explanations.
First of all, snakes have always been the symbols of evil in the Christian tales. A snake convinced Eve to bite on the Apple from the forbidden tree. Then Eve convinced Adam and they were all removed from Eden. So, snakes are the embodiment of treachery, vile. In St Patrick’s story, they could have been symbols for the pagans who the famous saint converted to Christianity. Some of them who couldn’t have been converted were probably driven away from the country as well. Still, there are some historians who speak against this hypothesis since Ireland’s conversion to Christianity had already begun before St. Patrick’s time. It definitely continued long before he was gone from the country. So this explanation weakens when the historical dates come in.
Another explanation to the St. Patrick story comes from an ancient text dating back to the sixth century. A recent translation of this text revealed something really intriguing. Around the time before St Patrick’s arrival in Ireland, there was a non-Christian cult worshipping the Crom Cruach, a pagan god of Ireland. This was a really powerful and bloodthirsty cult practicing human sacrifice. Moreover, the symbol of this cult was a snake. St Patrick and his followers eventually destroyed their idols, cast them away and blessed the area so it could return to Christianity. There was no retribution and swiftly people forgot about this cult.
Now, since the symbol of the cult was a snake and St Patrick managed to drive them away, this might actually be the source of the legend that St Patrick drove away all the snakes in Ireland. Interesting story, right? Which side do you prefer? The one given by the National Geographic explaining that a combination of ice age and glaciers melting prevented snakes to make Ireland their home or the one of St Patrick? Whichever you’ll choose, the fact is clear: there are no snakes in Ireland.