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Saint Patrick the Fool
Toward the end of the account of Saint Patrick’s mission written by Tírechán, in the seventh century, there is a strange little story about the saint’s youthful experiences as a slave in Ireland. According to Tírechán, Patrick’s master was a druid called Miliucc, and during this time he himself was known as Succetus; he instructed Miliucc’s children in Christian doctrine, ‘and he taught them in silence under oath for fear of the druid’. In a dream one night, Miliucc saw sparks from the mouth of ‘the fool Succetus’ passing to his children, who were burnt to ashes, and other strange things. The symbolism of the dream is then explained, but we are given no explanation of why the young Patrick is called a ‘fool’, or fatuus. Was it because he had not yet learned to speak Irish well? Was it because his constant praying seemed unhinged? Or was he a sort of jester in Miliucc’s household? This single word hints at a part of Patrick’s story that has otherwise been forgotten.