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Irish Voice News
No Snakes in Ireland!
March 12, 2008
By April Drew
IT’S the season where folks celebrate St. Patrick, the man best known for banishing snakes from the green grasses of Ireland.
Yes, there once upon a time, snakes did slither and slide around the Irish countryside — but their disappearance had absolutely nothing to do with any saints.
Legend has it that St. Patrick stood on a hilltop, donned in his formal green attire and waved his staff to herd all the slithering creatures into the sea, expelling them from the green isle forever.
And lo and behold, there hasn’t been a snake seen in Ireland since 461 AD (except for the odd household pet and zoo creature).
Snakes, according to the Smithsonian website, are just lizards with no feet. When snakes first evolved about 100 million years ago, Ireland was still submerged under water so migrating to Ireland wasn’t an option for the serpents.
However, when the ocean finally did fall and Ireland surfaced, it was attached to mainland Europe, therefore allowing the slithery creatures, to make their way onto the Emerald Isle.
However, just three million years ago the Ice Age arrived, turning all snakes into popsicles. And since then, the climate has changed more than 20 times, often blanketing Ireland with ice.
Because snakes are cold-blooded animals, they can’t survive in areas where the ground is frozen so they all had an icy ending. According to scientists, Ireland’s last time to be covered in ice was 15,000 years ago.
After this time although a snake would have comfortably survived in Ireland, the country had by then separated itself from mainland Europe, causing a 12-mile water gap — the North Channel — between Ireland and neighboring Scotland. The channel became a barrier that no terrestrial snake could cross.
So the moral of the story is, there are no slimy slithering serpents roaming the Irish countryside today because they have simply no way of getting there!
So why has St. Patrick been so heavily hailed as the hero who banished snakes from Ireland? Well, some believe that the snake was a symbol of paganism, and it is St. Paddy that can be accredited for ridding Ireland of paganism and bringing Christianity to the green isle.
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