The (Not-So) Secret History of Saint Patrick's Day (UPDATED)

March 17 is the day generally believed to be the death of St. Patrick, the British-born missionary who is credited with converting Ireland to Christianity. And as I wrote in one of my first posts on this blog:
In Egyptian mythology, Osiris was killed on the 17th day of Athyr, the third month of the ancient calendar. (Note that this is October 3rd in our modern calendar)
3/17 is also the date of a Masonically-created holiday, St. Patrick’s Day. The story has it that the holiday was established by high level Freemason, George Washington, allegedly to reward Irish soldiers in the Continental Army. But “St. Paddy’s” has traditionally been a very minor Saint’s day in Ireland. Considering that the day has become America’s defacto Bacchanal (which takes us back to Osiris) it’s worth noting some of the parallels of this day with Solar mythology.
• Osiris was believed to be the source of barley, which was used for brewing beer in Egypt.

• It’s customary to wear green on St. Patrick’s Day and Osiris was known as the “Green Man” 
• The root word of Patrick is pater, the Latin word meaning father. Osiris is the father in the Egyptian Trinity.

Since then, I've been looking into the curious origin of this holiday and have found out some very interesting facts...

• This one's a shocker- St. Patrick's Day was originally celebrated by Protestant Loyalists in the British Army:
Their first meeting and dinner to honor St. Patrick was an expression of their Protestant faith as well as their intention to bond with fellow Irish émigrés. Their 1775 meeting included British soldiers of Irish extraction. All proceeded, or marched, to the King’s Chapel to hear a sermon devoted to the occasion, and then continued on to a dinner in King Street. British soldiers were still the big show of the first St. Patrick’s Day parade in New York City in 1762.

The first celebration in New York City was in 1756, at the Crown and Thistle tavern. Philadelphia held its first St. Patrick’s Day parade in 1771. General George Washington issued a proclamation during the Revolutionary War, declaring March 17, 1780 a holiday for the Continental Army, then stationed in Morristown, New Jersey, in honor of the many soldiers of Irish ancestry and those born in Ireland. It was reported that this was the first holiday granted the troops in two years. Washington’s remark that the proclamation was “as an act of solidarity with the Irish in their fight for independence,” was possibly the origins of St. Patrick’s Day in America as an expression of Irish nationalism as much as Irish heritage or of honoring a Christian saint.
Since many lodges in Revolutionary-era America were chartered under the Grand Lodge of Ireland, I'm willing to bet those Irish soldiers were predominantly Freemasons (remember this is pre-Morgan Affair, when Freemasons were hardcore). To show how much a Masonic enterprise the American Revolution was, here's a list of the Freemasonic Generals in the Continental Army

Photo from Freemasons' Hall, 17 Molesworth Street, Dublin

• Up until very recently, St. Patrick's Day was not a big deal in Ireland itself:
In modern-day Ireland, St. Patrick's Day has traditionally been a religious occasion. In fact, up until the 1970s, Irish laws mandated that pubs be closed on March 17. Beginning in 1995, however, the Irish government began a national campaign to use St. Patrick's Day as an opportunity to drive tourism and showcase Ireland to the rest of the world. Last year, close to one million people took part in Ireland 's St. Patrick's Festival in Dublin, a multi-day celebration featuring parades, concerts, outdoor theater productions, and fireworks shows.

• Modern Saint Patrick's Day shares both a date and a mandate with a far, far older holiday:
St. Patrick's Day is also frequently a time for drinking. It used to be that this tradition was strung out for at least five days, the so-called seachtain na Gaeilage or "Irish week."

That may stem from Roman times, when March 17 started the festival of the Bacchanalia, a celebration to the deity Bacchus, to whom wine was sacred. In olden years long gone by, the Irish drank mead, made from fermented honey. You might do better today with a stout Guinness, preferably dyed green.

• The Bacchanalia are well-documented in the historical record:
The bacchanalia were wild and mystic festivals of the Roman and Greek god Bacchus. Introduced into Rome from lower Italy by way of Etruria (c. 200 BC), the bacchanalia were originally held in secret and only attended by women. The festivals occurred on three days of the year in the grove of Simila near the Aventine Hill, on March 16 and March 17. Later, admission to the rites was extended to men and celebrations took place five times a month. According to Livy, the extension happened in an era when the leader of the Bacchus cult was Paculla Annia - though it is now believed that some men had participated before that.
• Of course, Bacchus/Dionysus is just the Greco-Roman reinterpretation of Osiris. And drinking of beer was sacred to the followers of Osiris, the Green Man:
In Egypt, beer was regarded as food. In fact, the old Egyptian hieroglyph for "meal" was a compound of those for "bread" and "beer". This "bread-beer meal" plus a few onions and some dried fish was the standard diet of the common people along the Nile at the time. Beer came in eight different types in Egypt. Most were made from barley, some from emmer, and many were flavored with ginger or honey. The best beers were brewed to a color as red as human blood. The Egyptians distinguished between the different beers by their alcoholic strength and dominant flavor. None other than the god of the dead, Osiris, was hailed as the guardian of beer, because to him grain - both emmer and barley - were sacred. The Egyptians believed that grain had sprung spontaneously from Osiris' mummy, as a gift to mankind and as a symbol of life after death. This was sufficient justification for the god-like pharaohs to turn brewing into a state monopoly and strictly license brewing rights to entrepreneurs and priests. Many temples eventually opened their own breweries and pubs, all in the service of the gods. The port of Pelusium at the mouth of the Nile became a large brewing center, and trading in beer became big business.
• Beer wasn't simply a beverage in Egypt, it was also a sacrament. This arose from a myth in which the goddess Sekhmet decided to do away with humankind but was mollified with mandrake-infused beer by the supreme god Ra:
Ra now realized that Hathor-Sekhmet would destroy the human race completely. Angry as he was he wished to rule mankind, not see it destroyed. There was only one way to stop Hathor-Sekhmet, he had to trick her. He ordered his attendants to brew seven thousand jars of beer and color it red using mandrakes and the blood of those who had been slain. In the morning Ra had his servants take the beer to the place where Hathor would viciously slaughter the remnant of mankind. Ra's servants poured the beer mixture on the fields. And so, Hathor-Sekhmet came to this place where the beer flooded the fields. Looking down, her gaze was caught by her own reflection, and it pleased her. She drank deeply of the beer, became drunk, fell asleep, and abandoned her blood thirsty quest. 
• This admixture of Egyptian festivities, Irish nationalism and Freemasonry might seem outrageous to some, but in fact it was part and parcel of Celtic culture before the rise of the Roman Church. Namely in the...
... religion of the Druids, as before said, was the same as the religion of the ancient Egyptians. The priests of Egypt were the professors and teachers of science, and were styled priests of Heliopolis, that is, of the City of the Sun. The Druids in Europe, who were the same order of men, have their name from the Teutonic or ancient German language; the German being anciently called Teutones. The word Druid signifies a wise man. In Persia they were called Magi, which signifies the same thing.
St. Patrick himself was believed to have driven the Druids of out of Ireland, but in fact druidry was merely incorporated into Celtic Christianity, which was distinct from other varieties and would remain so until forcibly changed on orders from Rome.
“The Celtic Church in Ireland and in Scotland owed its origin not to Rome, but to Egypt and the East; its customs, traditions, methods, government came from Egypt through Athanasius of Alexandria, Hilary, Martin of Tours, Ninian, and through that religious channel, more than a little independent of Rome. The religious ideas of Egypt came to Scotland and Ireland and were absorbed easily into the tribal life of these countries.. There is no doubt that the Celtic Church owed its ritual, its architecture, its worship and its law to Syria, Egypt and Palestine, and that its allegiance to Rome was slight.”
• And it seems that the festival of the death of Osiris shares much in common with another holiday that the Irish brought to America:
This universal illumination of the houses on one night of the year suggests that the festival may have been a commemoration not merely of the dead Osiris but of the dead in general, in other words, that it may have been a night of All Souls. For it is a widespread belief that the souls of the dead revisit their old homes on one night of the year; and on that solemn occasion people prepare for the reception of the ghosts by laying out food for them to eat, and lighting lamps to guide them on their dark road from and to the grave. Herodotus, who briefly describes the festival, omits to mention its date, but we can determine it with some probability from other sources. Thus Plutarch tells us that Osiris was murdered on the seventeenth of the month Athyr, and that the Egyptians accordingly observed mournful rites for four days from the seventeenth of Athyr.
And what of the corned beef and cabbage? In late antiquity the Apis bull was identified with Osiris. The Apis bull would be sacrificed and eaten in ritual feasts. Cabbage is grown in the winter months in Egypt and was used to control intoxication at feasts.

So it's official: all of our modern holidays in America are simply covert repackagings of ancient pagan festivals and the increasingly popular St. Patrick's Day is no different.

The Church took the Bacchanalia away from the Irish and replaced it with a boring religious holiday and the old-school Freemasons used that to bring the Bacchanalia back, which we now understand traces back to Osiris. And Osiris brings us back to the ancient astronauts, which the later adaptations like Bacchus do not.

Welcome to the New Atlantis.


  1. In modern-day Ireland, St. Patrick's Day has traditionally been a religious occasion. In fact, up until the 1970s, Irish laws mandated that pubs be closed on March 17.


    St. Patrick's Day is also frequently a time for drinking. It used to be that this tradition was strung out for at least five days, the so-called seachtain na Gaeilage or "Irish week."

    Aren't these a bit contradictory, or am I missing something? Is the five day drinking tradition only forty years old, or what?

  2. I'm of an age to remember the great uplifting of St.Patrick's day as a British event, where it far outstrips anything linked to St.George's Day.
    Definitely backed by Guinness. I'm in Prague today and the amount of Guiness Hats [Checkerboard pillars?] is pretty high in the centre.
    The whole thing has boosted the sport of wearing specific articles of clothing, shamrocks and getting very drunk, but acceptably so. I don't think it has much to do with 'Irish' but is marketed for BritIrish youth binge drinking alongside the Premier League.
    Since the Premiers inception manipulation of youth and middle age through marketing of socially acceptable yet passionate elements has taken on massive proportions.
    There are cheap trips over to Prague where Brits and Irish get directed to purpose built all-weekend sports invested alco-madness pubs, involving groups of min. 15 guys who either dress up in fancy-dress or are arrayed in the Team top.
    This weekend looks typically vociferous, I walked past an Irish pub, at 1pm, totally packed.
    I think religion has an important part to play in the 'losing of mind' festivals, as it may provide the stability to 'ride through the bacchanalia'.
    Today's answer is the office on Monday morning and getting out of your head - religious festival becomes not release but attempt to escape.

  3. Hey Anony- See Ferrie's comment for clarification.

  4. I spent St. Patty's in Dublin back in 1995. Not a lot of green, per se, but definitely a parade and a lot of open pubs. Strangely, at the time I expected there to be more going on, but once the parade was through, the city went quiet, as if it were any other day.

    what I remember most of the parade were the over sized character paper mache heads of the band U2 bobbling down the street.

    Interesting ideas though. The notion of the founding American fathers pulling from an older source has been an interesting one, but I wonder how much of it was conscious, or just grasping back to vague ideas.

  5. How about the fall of Montsegur --

  6. Why do you want to make all this sound so omenous and creepy. It's just fun. It may have ancient antecedents, but that makes it more fun. Nothing conspiratorial here. Please note that the list of Revolutionary War Generals who were Masons shows that Masons were in the minority in this group.

  7. Ominous? No, just par for the course.
    I find all of this to be deliriously entertaining.

    46% confirmed Masons is a hell of minority, especially when you factor in Washington. And when you remember that a lot of lodges didn't keep very careful records, which bumps up the probability ratio.

  8. Hi Chris,

    This is probably my favorite piece you have done so far. Last night I watch the premier of John Adams on HBO and it got me thinking about the Founding Fathers connection to Masonry. Today, March 17, is Evacuation Day when in 1776 the Brits had to flee Boston upon the appearence of the Continental Army's canons on Dorchester Heights. Moreso than Concord or July 4, this event was the one that gave the Colonists the chance to believe they could beat the British Empire. Funny how it all lines up.

  9. Rock on, Beanie! Be sure to read that Paine essay- which is the best piece of writing on real Freemasonry out there. The Temple and the Lodge goes into a lot of detail on the intriques behind the Revolution.

    (extraneous editorializing snipped)

  10. I've made it about half way through the Temple and the Lodge and am enjoying it quite a bit. I'm having one of those experiences where I start to look into something and then see it everywhere. I've been running a lot along the marathon course and notice there are many HH Richardson buildings along the route. I haven't confirmed this but he must have been a mason judging from some of the symbolism he used in his buildings. All of his roofs have an eye shaped window peering from on high. I also stumbled across a write up on the Green Knight of the King Arthur tales, a character who carries around his own severed head.

  11. Nice one. Always wondered about the origins. Next up: Cinco de Mayo?

  12. Chris, you have made me like St. Patrick's day again . . . thank you!

    As an ex-Catholic/neo-pagan, 1st generation Irish gurl growing up in Boston, I used to bristled at celebrating the expulsion of Druids and paganism by St. Patrick. BUT now your post has made me excited to be Irish again. And I love the idea that the masons have preserved the hidden magic of this holiday and have left clues that it all stems from Egypt anyways. It is especially meaningful to me because my Irish father died a year ago on St. Patrick's day --

    "• The root word of Patrick is pater, the Latin word meaning father. Osiris is the father in the Egyptian Trinity."

    -- now I can really honor him and make St. Patrick's day a day of honoring the father.

    Thank you.

  13. In these things, the history is certainly interesting but ultimately, it has little to do with modern observance.

    In other words... no matter what might have once stood where the Walmart Supercenter is today, it is only the Walmart Supercenter that matters today. No one is going to find themselves wandering the aisles and thinking about the farm house that used to be in the same spot as housewares or lingerie.

    That is the curse of humanity's short-lived mortality and our nurtured ignorance to all that once was.

    NOTE: Repeat comment: First attempt failed.

  14. St.Patricks day, Dublin 2010:

  15. Hi Chris, this is Eevae from twitter, I love reading your blog and twitter was a great way for me to get updated on new articles. I was just wondering why you blocked me. Have I offended you in some way? Please accept my apologies for sidetracking the discussion.

  16. Eevae- the true, honest answer is that I haven't a clue how to manage that sort of thing on Twitter. The whole thing confuses the hell out of me and I'm constantly messing my settings up. My apologies!

  17. By way of clinching your claim Patrick incorporated Druidism into Christianity in Ireland, Patrick and his followers wore a peculiar tonsure where, instead of shaving a hole IN the crown - Friar Tuck style - they shaved away their hair all the way back TO the crown.

    This half or Celtic tonsure, as it was called, was a barefaced wink-wink to the ordinary Irish citizenry who would've immediately recognized it as the mark of a druid, and would therefore've understood 'driven off the druids' as merely meaning 'superseded the previous form of Druidism with the latest manifestation'.

    Patrick, of course, was a Briton, and tradition has it the first Christian church on Earth was built in 1st Century England, (the reason why English Ecclesiastics held priority over those of all other nations until Henry VIII inspired the Reformation), and the building of this church would only've been possible with the permission of the Druids, suggesting they'd already recognised Christianity as their imminent successor before the 1st Century was out.


    1. His name was not Patrick, and he was Scottish. It's no wonder were all confused!

    2. I've just been reading about how St Andrew the patron St of Scotland was born in Syria and St George of England was apparently Welsh. Looking at pictures of them online they all seem to change dramatically looks wise over the years; their clothes and skin colour. I came into possession of an old suitcase recently which belonged to a Mr Angel of St Cadocs house, St Cadoc of Llancarfan where old pictures of St George were discovered and it got me wondering. It's quite odd, St Cadoc is said to have been a keeper of the Holy Grail and had a holy well on a beach in Cornwall that I'm very familiar with. Interesting history and a lot of syncs for me too! Happy days.

    3. I suspect a lot of those people are just made up amalgams anyway. I'm reading all this stuff about how Jesus and Moses were invented, so it gets a whole lot easier to jettison St. Patrick.

  18. O THANK GOD! No worries Chris, Twitter makes a fool of me all the time! It was for the best anyway, I had to make my way over here more often to make sure I didn't miss anything new and ended up catching up on the older posts :-) Thank you for your time and dedication to blogging. Your the best teacher I never had ;-)


  19. Can you see any similarities between this image of Nuts and this coat of arms -

    It's also in the wording about Nuts...
    'During the day, Nut and Geb are separated, but each evening Nut comes down to meet Geb and this causes darkness.'
    which could relate to curtains being drawn.

  20. Nice article, interesting speculation. Just one comment - in Egypt the Trinity was Ra-Bast-Sekhmet, the three deities (2 female, 1 male) associated with the Sun. Osirus, Horus and Isis were a kind of Holy family, from with the Catholic church got the idea. If you read The Egyptian Book of the Dead (its out in paperback) you will see that Purgatory, Day of Judgement, and other basic Catholic dogma were all lifted from the Egyptians.

    Also, "Druid" does not men "wise man". Most scholars think it means Oak-knower or Oak wise. I can do a whole lecture on the meaning of this but basically the oak 1) feeds the people 2) warms the people 3) provides medicine 4) feeds the deer and the pigs 5) makes the best building material thus sheltering the people 6) is perfectly balanced between Earth and Sky - the roots go as deep as the tree grows high 7) attracts lightening/ the attention of the Gods , and survives. The Oak was the Druidic symbol of a perfected life.

  21. My Irish mother always said corned beef was Jewish - the Irish would most likely be having Irish Stew made with lamb.

  22. I realised it was near that time of the year and googled Osiris March 17, and yes Secret Sun was the first hit. GG CN

  23. Hi Gigi. In Ireland both pickled pork and pickled beef are eaten boiled with cabbage - the accessibility of Jewish delicatessens in the States may have made corned beef the easiest option but it's by no means foreign to Ireland.

    Chris I found the link between Egyptian and Irish paganism interesting because I thought a link between Irish Christianity and Coptic Christianity may be involved in the creation of the St Patrick myth. The short version of my theory goes like this: North African merchants who traded with the west coast of Ireland were responsible for introducing Christianity to the country. Up until the Norman invasion the Irish practiced a Coptic (Egyptian?) version of Christianity. Retroactively the St Patrick myth was introduced to explain the origins of Christianity in Ireland. The snakes that St Patrick cast out was a snide reference to the Copts. Apparently there are also linguistic, genetic and musical links that can be found between North Africa and western Ireland. A good place to start reading about these links is Atlantean by Bob Quinn.

  24. OK OK was worried of no mention of Sekhmet. Good good.