Greetings! In the words of an Old Irish blessing, “May the road rise to meet you; may the wind always be at your back, and may God hold you in the palm of his hand.”
As you probably know, tales of fairies and the like fill Irish folklore. There are two kinds of fairies, the sociable kind and the solitary kind. Leprechauns are of the solitary variety, avoiding contact with humans, other fairies and even other leprechauns. Leprechauns are, of course, superb shoemakers. Being thrifty by nature, they are charged with the task of guarding the fairy treasures. It is said that you can find a leprechaun either by the sound of his shoemaker’s hammer, or at the end of a rainbow guarding his pot of gold.
Hundreds of years ago, my great, great, great Grandfather, Paddy Mac Cool of the Mac Cool Leprechaun clan came to realize there was an easier way for leprechauns to make their way in life. He observed how house cats, for the most part, enjoyed a life of leisure. Since leprechauns can change their shape, he turned himself into a handsome, ginger cat and set about finding an Irish household that would keep him in the fashion he felt was his due.
His search had taken him on a long journey and he was in need of a meal. As his Irish luck would have it, he came upon a young lad tending his sheep. Seeing that the lad was about to eat his lunch, he approached, and in his most charming voice, said, “Good day, to young sir.”
Of course the youngster was surprised to hear a cat speak. To his credit, he did not panic, but replied, “And what is it I can do for you, Mr. Cat?”
“My name is Paddy Mac Cool,” Paddy replied. “I have been on a long journey seeking a proper home, I couldn’t help noticing you were about to have your mid-day meal and I was wondering if you would be so kind as to share it with a weary traveller.”
“You are welcome to be my guest, Paddy Mac Cool. My meal is but a poor one, at best and probably not up to your standards,” said the boy, “however, I would be glad to share it with you.”
They shared the young lad’s meal. When the time came for Paddy to thank his host and be on his way, the shepherd said, “It will be late soon and not safe to travel. My home is humble, but it is dry and warm and you can rest there for the night in safety.”
Paddy saw the wisdom of this and replied, “I am honoured to be the houseguest of such a kind and generous host.”
Together they herded the sheep back to their enclosure and settled them in for the night. To repay the youngster, Paddy sprinkled fairy dust over the sheep in order that they would rest peacefully for the night.
The shepherd’s home turned out to be a tiny cottage; sparse of furnishings save for a table, chair and a rough, wooden bed. It did have a fireplace in which the lad set about making a fire and cooking them another meal. After eating, they settled before the fire and talked.
“You have not told me your name, young sir.” Paddy remarked.
“I have no identity now,” the lad said sadly. “I was kidnapped by Irish raiders from my homeland, and brought here as a slave.”
“I see,” Paddy replied, “Have you not tried to return to your homeland?”
“I have, but they always find me and bring me back,” the lad said, wistfully, with a faraway look, as though he could see an image of his home and family. Then he sighed as he added, “There is no use in my trying.”
After cleaning up the table and fluffing the lone blanket on the cot, he said, “We best be getting some sleep. I must rise early to tend the sheep. You may take my cot for the night. I shall sleep here on the floor.”
Before the lad went to sleep, Paddy saw him kneel before a cross on the wall made of twigs.
“Our Father in heaven,” the boy prayed, “thank you for this beautiful day; for keeping my flock safe; for my food and my shelter, and for bringing me my new friend, Paddy Mac Cool, with whom I have shared this day. May you keep him safe on his journey and may he find that for which he searches. Bless us this night, Father, and all the days of our lives. Amen.”
Although this was by no means the destiny that he had sought, Paddy was so taken by the kindness and generosity of his new found friend that he devised a plan.
The next day when the youngster woke, they were no longer in the cottage, but on a ship bound for Britain. In payment for the lad”s many kindnesses, Paddy Mac Cool, the Magic Leprechaun Cat, with a wave of his magic paw, had brought about the escape that the boy had been unable to accomplish in the past.
The lad returned home, together with his cat. After a prophetic dream, the boy, now grown to manhood, returned to Ireland, not as slave, but as St. Patrick, who is credited with converting Ireland to Christianity. He became the beloved, patron saint of the Emerald Isle. A little know fact is that accompanying St. Patrick everywhere he went was a handsome ginger cat.
St. Patrick died on March 17. So, every year on March 17, in honour of St. Patrick and my great, great, great Grandfather Paddy Mac Cool, Magic Leprechaun Cats everywhere become the most social of fairies. I ask you, knowing what you now know, can you be after separating the Magic Leprechaun Cats from St. Patrick’s Day? I be thinking you cannot. Of all the symbols of this festive holiday, the most recognized is the Magic Leprechaun Cat dressed in green finery, guarding his pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
“And why does everyone wear green on St. Patrick’s Day?” you ask. This is the way of it. The Irish believe that Magic Leprechaun Cats remain hidden because they blend so well into the green of the Irish countryside. So, green became associated with all things Irish and especially St. Patrick’s Day.
It was not until after Irish humans, together with Magic Leprechaun Cats, settled in the United States in a city named Boston, and faced serious discrimination, that they decided to be ‘getting their Irish up’, so to speak. Green is the colour of Ireland, so on St. Patrick’s Day everything is green; the beer, the hats, the shamrocks worn in their lapels, their clothes, and in the city of Chicago even the river turns green for the day.
Occasionally, just for the fun of it, Magic Leprechaun Cats like to revert to some of their old, mischievous habits. One favourite St. Patrick’s Day habit is to pinch unsuspecting humans on the behind, when they are not looking. The only remedy for this problem is to wear green. Since wearing green makes Magic Leprechaun Cats invisible, it is believed if you wear green, they cannot see you either.
© Finn McCool, the Magic Leprechaun Cat. All rights reserved.
Illustrations by Cheyenne Booker – All rights reserved
Floyd the Dog has donated Euro – 44.27 (US$ 60.29 UK £39.50) to: “Cause for Paws”, Florida, U.S.A.
First published by www.floydthedog.com