This section is from the book "Ancient Legends, Mystic Charms, And Superstitions Of Ireland", by Jane Francesca Wilde. Also available from Amazon: Ancient Legends, Mystic Charms, And Superstitions Of Ireland.
Many saints in old time used to come and take up their abode on these wild desolate islands for the rest and sanctity of solitude, and innumerable evidences of their presence still remain in the ancient ruins of the so-called cells or churches built in the rudest form, but always placed in a picturesque locality beside a well, which ever since has been held sacred, and no woman is allowed to wash her feet in the water.
In one of these islands is a stone bed called "The Bed of the Holy Ghost," and many people go from the mainland to lie a night in this bed, though the sea is always rough and dangerous, believing that it heals all diseases, and it brings good luck to all, and to women the blessing of children.
If the lark sings on St. Bridget's Day it is a good omen, and a sign of fine weather. And whoever hears it the first thing in the morning will have good luck in all he does for that whole day. St. Bridget was granted by the Lord to have every second Sunday fine so that she might preach to the converts that came to her.
Then St. Patrick greatly desired that his day should also be fine so that the people might gather together in remembrance of him, and this also was granted. So from that time forth the Saints' Day, the 17th of March, is always fine, for so it was decreed from the ancient times when he was upon earth.
On St. Patrick's Day it is the usage in the islands to affix large crosses made of straw and flowers on the door-posts, and a black cock is sacrificed in honour of the saint, though no one can tell why it is considered necessary that blood should be spilt, except that the idea of sacrifice is found in all religions and rituals of worship. At first the object most loved or most prized was sacrificed-a child, or a costly jewel. Then the human sacrifice began to be replaced by the offering of an animal, who was made the medium of expiation. And the god was satisfied so that blood was spilled to purify from sin.
It is remarkable that relics of this ancient ritual of sacrifice can still be found even in the enlightened households of this advanced nineteenth century. An ox is still slaughtered at Christmas, though Baal is forgotten; and a lamb is sacrificed at Easter, as the Druids offered the firstlings of the flock to the Sun-god; while a goose is slain on St Michael's Day as a burnt-offering to the saint
When St. Patrick was one time amongst the Pagan Irish they grew very fierce and seemed eager to kill him. Then, his life being in great danger, he kneeled down before them and prayed to God for help and for the conversion of their souls. And the fervour' of the prayer was so great that as the saint rose up the mark of his knees was left deep on the stone, and when the people saw the miracle they believed.
Now when he came to the next village the people said if he performed some wonder for them they also would believe and pray to his God. So St. Patrick drew a great circle on the ground and bade them stand outside it ; and then he prayed, and lo I the water rushed up from the earth, and a well pure and bright as crystal filled the circle. And the people believed and were baptized.
The well can be seen to this day, and is called Tober-na-Laucr (The Well of the Book), because St Patrick placed his own prayer-book in the centre of the circle before the water rose.
There is a lake in one of the Galtee mountains where there is a great serpent chained to a rock, and he may be heard constantly crying out, "O Patrick, is the Luan, or Monday, long from us?" For when St. Patrick cast this serpent in the lake he bade him be chained to the rock till La-an-Luan (The Day of Judgment). But the serpent mistook the word, and thought the saint meant Luan, Monday.
So he still expects to be freed from one Monday to another, and the clanking of his chains on that day is awful to hear as he strives to break them and get free.
In another lake there is a huge-winged creature, it is said, which escaped the power of St. Patrick, and when he gambols in the water such storms arise that no boat can withstand the tumult of the waves.
One day the two daughters of the King of Meath, named Ethna and Fedalma, went down to the river to bathe, and there they beheld St. Patrick and his band of converts all draped in white robes, for they were celebrating morning prayers. And the princesses seeing strange men in white garments thought they were of the race of the male fairies, the Daine-Sidhe. And they questioned them. Then St Patrick expounded the truth to them, and the maidens asked him many questions : " Who is your God ? Is He handsome? Are His daughters as handsome as we are? Is He richIs He young or aged ? Is He to die, or does He live for ever ? "
Now St. Patrick having satisfied them on all these points the maidens, Ethna and Fedalma, were baptized, and became zealous workers for the Christian cause. I
St. Patrick went on to Tara, and there he lit the Paschal fire and celebrated the Easter mysteries. But the Druids were wroth, for it was against their ordinances for any fire to be lit until the chief Druid himself had kindled the sacred fire. Therefore they sought to poison St. Patrick, and a cupful of poison was given him by one of the Druids j but the danger was revealed to him, and thereupon he pronounced certain words over the liquor, and whoever pro-nounceth these words over poison shall receive no injury from it. He also then composed the prayer, " In nomine Dei Patris," and recited it over the cup of poison.