St. Patrick’s Mistress

st.patrick's wife, Sheelah St.Patrick, irish mythology

So many Irish legends and myths boast seductive, supernatural creatures who entrap or torture human souls. While the most obvious that may come to mind is Oscar Wilde’s Picture of Dorian Grey, there are more ancient myths that are gaining dust in the old archives. An example would be the Selkie, a seal creature who lived in the seas and would arrive on sea shores, shed their skin, mutate into beautiful, female creatures and hypnotize fishermen.

More violent legendary figures include the Kelpie: A kind of water horse who camouflages itself into a pitiful pony, this creature would lure children onto their horseback and ride with them into the sea, drowning the poor kids and devouring their bodies, all except their hearts and livers.

In the form of the blood-sucking Edward Cullen, is the Irish folk tradition of Abhartach. Bram Stoker certainly must have gotten his idea for Dracula based on this legend, where Abhartach would seduce his prey and drink their blood. Also there exists the most irresistible Gancanagh, who would excrete skin toxins that caused his victims to fall deeply in love with him. Many women would tear themselves to death in battle for this evil Gancanagh. What a woman-player!

irish mythology, St.Patrick's Wife

When we think of St.Patrick, however, has anyone ever wondered if he was seduced by anyone? Folkorist and academic, Shane Lehane from UCC, discovered that this legendary figure in fact did have a wife. Recently, St.Patrick’s Day festival has been extended to not just a day. Why? Well, because we must also celebrate his wife’s saint day too, Sheelah’s Day, which was actually celebrated before the Irish Famine, as discovered in newspapers from that era. Hooray! What better way to extend the drinking bouts!

Below is a recreated mixture of Irish folk legends that state a fictional history which united Paddy and Sheelah, and find out about many other Irish mythological creatures who helped, or hindered their unification. Remember, these are all legends!

One day, an aul man named Paddy was strolling the green hills of beautiful Éire, when he saw a Clurichaun. Now, a Clurichaun was a cousin of the original leperchuan, whom we shall call Ruairí. Originally Ruarí was a shoe-maker, but he preffered to close his shop early on Wednesdays as it already past half-way in the week and he needed a drink. Ruarí’s favourite past time was to ride on the back of sheep and dogs. When Paddy saw how much fun Ruarí was having, he decided to join in.

leprechaun, Irish myth

In came Dullahan, the deadly Celtic figure on horse-back, similar to Darth Vader, who told Paddy and Ruarí to stop acting the maggot. Dullahan pulled out his spine whip and lashed at the ground, making everyone tremble in fear. Sly Ruarí, knowing that Dullahan was afraid of gold, pulled out a pot of shiny coins and pelted at the enemy, who ran away in fear and terror. Paddy and Ruarí rolled on the ground laughing before going back to their heavy drinking and riding on the backs of sheep and dogs.

irish-mythology, St.Paddy's

Suddenly, Caoranach, Sheelah and many other stunning women strolled in, watching the mouths of Clurichaun and Paddy drop to the ground. Sheelah was mezmerized by Paddy’s eyes and saw into the window of his soul. Paddy was blinded by the sun to see anything. Sheelah had been kept captive under Caoranach’s rule for thousands of years, who was the mother of demons and who lived in Lough Derg. What better heroic prince than aul Paddy, slurring his words, rolling on the ground with a pint of ale or whooshing about on his super-fast sheep and dogs to save Sheelah. The perfect chivalric figure, thought Sheelah. That night, Sheelah played her most seductive games and won the heart of Paddy in an instant.

St.Patrick's wife

It would not be an easy deed for poor Paddy. One a particular merry night, Paddy began her duel with Caoranach in the very Lough Derg where she resided. He fought as bravely as he could, but was swallowed by the evil creature who gobbled him right up. Paddy, however, being the saint that he was, used his crosier to pierce his way out of her stomach and he killed her in the process, thus winning the heart of Sheelah and saving her.

As years went by and Paddy became the notable St. Patrick, and the aristocratic priests told him that he could not have a wife as they felt it immoral, not to mention that St. Patrick’s and Sheelah’s day festival was too long and too many locals got drunk. In an effort to save everyone’s souls, the priests cast Sheelah out of sight and out of historic records. But she remains in our hearts and thankfully we can extend St. Patrick’s Day festival today.