Burn the Maps

St. Patrick (387? – 460/492?) could be the ultimate ‘here nor there’ character in Irelands history with almost every town-land, never mind county, having a well, church or other story associated with a visit by him. Once you do even a small amount of research on St. Patrick however you very quickly find the reality of him disappearing (sadly) into the theory and argument of historical scholars. He may well have lived but over the years has become a convenient figure, used by the Church, State and even corporations to associate whatever they like to him. He has become big business and is celebrated worldwide by the ‘toasting of the shamrock’ with Guinness or anything else alcoholic that might come to hand on St. Patrick’s Day.

I wanted to find a way to bring him into the Guide from early on and eventually was clearing out a shed for someone and found a suitcase full of old framed religious pictures from a time when they must have been cleared from the house and took this as a sign. I took the one of St. Patrick banishing the snakes from Ireland out of its dirty and broken frame and placed it on the grass and took the shot used here. I researched this particular legend associated with him and unsurprisingly found that all evidence suggests to naturalists that there were never any snakes in Ireland for him to banish. However scholars say it could have been a metaphor for him banishing paganism in the country.

I grew up in Co. Meath near a well St. Patrick was supposed to have visited and while I was on the Leitrim coastline making a piece of land art for the Guide I also came across and photographed another of the wells he is supposed to have visited near Tullaghan. It has also been claimed that it was from this coastal point that he actually banished snakes from the country as well. This all reminds me that we only have our own subjective living memory and access to an unknowable history made up of fact and fiction. We all live in an in-between – not truly here nor there – world of fact and fiction. I think this is ok, it’s human nature and can’t be avoided, but we should all be more aware of this. Burn the maps and make new ones for the fire. (Stephen Rennicks)

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