Happy Slave Patrick’s Day!

Via Roger Wolsey
on Mar 17, 2011
get elephant's newsletter

While we’re digging through our wardrobes trying to find that one item of green clothing that we own, and while the bars are stocking up to prepare for happy throngs tonight, and while certain folks commit harm on fragile ecosystems by dumping green dye into rivers, we might do well to ponder a part of the St. Patrick’s Day story that often gets forgotten — Patrick was a slave.

His birth name was Maewyn Succat and he was born to an aristocratic, Christian, Roman family living in Britain. Patricius was his Romanicized name. Patrick is the English rendition.

An interesting link:

… Patrick professed no interest in Christianity as a young boy, Freeman noted.

At 16, Patrick’s world turned.

He was kidnapped and sent overseas to tend sheep as a slave in the chilly, mountainous countryside of Ireland for seven years.

“It was just horrible for him,” Freeman said. “But he got a religious conversion while he was there and became a very deeply believing Christian.”

Hearing Voices

According to folklore, a voice came to Patrick in his dreams, telling him to escape. He found passage on a pirate ship back to Britain, where he was reunited with his family.

The voice then told him to go back to Ireland.

“He gets ordained as a priest from a bishop and goes back and spends the rest of his life trying to convert the Irish to Christianity,” Freeman said.

Patrick’s work in Ireland was tough—he was constantly beaten by thugs, harassed by the Irish royalty, and admonished by his British superiors.

After he died on March 17, 461, Patrick was largely forgotten.

But slowly, mythology grew up around Patrick. Centuries later he was honored as the patron saint of Ireland, Freeman noted.  ……

HERE is another source that provides possibly all there is to know about Patrick – including the background of heresy suppression that framed his legacy.

But… all of that said,

it may be a surprise to many to learn that

there are more slaves in the world today than at the peak of the U.S. slave trade back in the 1800s.

Whether it is called human trafficking, bonded labor , forced labor, or sex trafficking, it is present worldwide – big time – with some 27 million persons enslaved.

Perhaps instead of merely wearing green and downing a Guinness, we might consider dedicating a prayer, meditation, and/or yoga practice to the many enslaved people today, contacting our elected officials about this unacceptable situation, and making a donation to an advocacy group such as not for sale campaign or antislavery.org

Erin Go Bragh! (or as Braveheart put it, “Freedom!”)



Roger Wolsey is the author of the recently published book Kissing Fish: christianity for people who don’t like christianity.


About Roger Wolsey

Roger Wolsey is a free-spirited GenX-er who thinks and feels a lot about God and Jesus. He’s a progressive Christian who identifies with people who consider themselves as being “spiritual but not religious.” He came of age during the “Minneapolis sound” era and enjoyed seeing The Replacements, The Jayhawks, Husker Du, The Wallets, Trip Shakespeare, Prince, and Soul Asylum in concert—leading to strong musical influences to his theology. He earned his Masters of Divinity degree at the Iliff School of Theology in Denver, CO. Roger is an ordained pastor in the United Methodist Church and he currently serves as the director of the Wesley Foundation campus ministry at C.U. in Boulder, CO. He was married for ten years, divorced in 2005 and now co-parents a delightful 10-year old son. Roger loves live music, hosting house concerts, rock-climbing, yoga, centering prayer, trail-running with his dog Kingdom, dancing, camping, riding his motorcycle, blogging, and playing his trumpet in ska bands and music projects. He's recently written a book Kissing Fish: christianity for people who don't like christianity


11 Responses to “Happy Slave Patrick’s Day!”

  1. Roger Wolsey says:

    a terrific comment from a reader:
    Jordan Stratford: There was a very good TED talk on global slavery recently. Basically while the number seems high, it's actually the smallest percentage of the human population ever. What this proves, to be totally mercenary for a second, is that slavery is no longer economically viable. It's a declining "industry". And the cost of liberating, educating, and providing startup capital for these enslaved persons is less than 3 billion dollars. To wipe out slavery everywhere. Very achievable.

    [If we have the political and personal will to do it] – RW

  2. Roger Wolsey says:

    Here's a bit more background info on St. Patrick http://celticchristianity.org/library/patrick.htm
    (gives even more info about heresy suppression)

  3. Roger Wolsey says:

    And here's a BONUS VIDEO that spells it out in a fun way! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xOqWT2tk9Js&fe…!

  4. CynthiaBeard says:

    Thank you for this fascinating history of St. Patrick's Day and for reminding us that slavery is a present-day tragedy.

  5. Roger Wolsey says:

    On a related note, (about putting an end to slavery to honor St. Patrick) http://www.elephantjournal.com/2012/03/kiss-me-im

  6. Mark Ledbetter says:

    A very important thread.

    I am no expert. Despite that, I have occasion to teach a segment on slavery twice a year. Most of my info is from various and sundry sources, not all of which I’m totally confident about. Those who know more than I do, please correct any errors. Comments, of course, are also welcome. And especially answers to the last question, though it may be a question with no right answer.

    I always start with the bad and the good, which has already been pointed out here:

    There are more slaves now than at any time in human history (20-30 million), but the per cent is also lower than at any time.

    The word ‘slave’ comes from ‘Slav’ as Slavs, for a long period, were neither Christian nor Muslim. That made them easy and natural targets of both Christian and Muslim slave traders.

  7. Mark Ledbetter says:

    Pre-modern European history…
    10% were listed as slaves in Britain in the Domesday Book, 1086. Probably 20% in mainland Europe at the same time.

    Vikings had a slave caste (‘thralls,’ from which our word ‘enthralled’) but supply and demand made them cheaper than cows. Real income came not from thralls but from outsiders captured in raids and sold at the great slave market in Prague.

    Genoese and Venetian merchants facilitated the Mongol, Egyptian, Arabian, and Ottoman slave trade.

    In the 17th c., more Irish slaves were sent to the Caribbean and the Americas than African slaves. (This info from, for want of a better work, ‘Irish pride’ sites, so I have questions about the accuracy. Anyone with knowledge, please let me know.)

    Slavery was endemic also in Asia, Africa, and the Americas.

  8. Mark Ledbetter says:

    Modern Times…
    Most slaves are in Africa, the Middle East, South Asia.
    Prices range from $40 for a field worker in Mali to $1,000 for an HIV-free sex slave from Thailand.
    Mauritania: Technically outlawed in 2007 but 20% of the population were (are?) slaves: 600,000.
    Niger: 7% (800,000) in farms and mines.
    Ivory Coast: 109,000 children were (are?) virtual slaves on cocoa farms in 2002.
    Sudan. Arabs in the north (who consider it a traditional right) own 90,000 black Christians from the south captured by Arab militias.
    India: 200-300,000 kidnapped children are forced to weave cloth.
    China: 1,000 Lao gai labor camps with 6 million prisoners. All were convicted of crimes but many of the crimes were trivial or political, like making anti-government statements.

  9. Mark Ledbetter says:

    Recent history…
    Russia. 15-40 million in the Soviet Gulag (1920s-80s).

    Imperial Japan outlawed slavery in Korea (up to 30%), Taiwan, Manchuria, and occupied areas of China. Of course, it also used slave labor once the war with the US started.

    China outlawed slavery in Tibet, where most people were slaves to the Dalai Lama’s family (this may be Chinese propaganda, but I’ve seen non-Chinese sources that seem reliable. Anyone with accurate info please chime in.)

    The United States invaded the Confederacy; Japan invaded Korea, Taiwan, and Manchuria; China invaded Tibet. They all outlawed slavery. Does that work as an after-the-fact justification for invasion?

  10. guest says:

    interesting, I didn't know that there was such a long gap between his life and when he was picked up as a mythology again (more than 1000 years according to wikipedia) While this is a nice story, I would presume most of the "details" of his life are embellishment as any good story has it.
    I think it would be sad to drag down St Paddy's day to a political correct discussion. I like seeing people just celebrating "Irishness" however fake it is in most cases. And yes, we need to fight slavery, independent of the day. (even if it's considered ok in the bible)

  11. Martin says:

    What about the debt slavery that the economic and political system puts us under?