I've since found myself wandering about in early Celtic religiousity. There is quite a bit on Celtic spirituality these days, mostly romanticizing it. These posts below are post-its from saint stories of early monastics in rural Ireland 400-700s as Patrick and others arrived to Christianize. The monastic movement was sweeping through Egypt, Palestine and Asia Minor at the time, better known to us the "desert fathers" and mothers. I'd never connected the clover of St Patrick with the desert sands of St. Anthony. Since Ireland had not been absorbed into the Roman empire and was so rural, it did not easily conform to the episcopate model of Roman Britain. Instead, monasticism flourished so that abbots and monks were leaders of the church, entangling saint-stories with pre-Christian practices.
Thought this might help situate these texts as forms of wonder, or at least wonder-ful for us: animal converts. I particularly love the delicate piety of the bees. I paste these stories from A Book of Saints and Wonders, Lady Gregory, 1902 More here
Ciaran and his vegetarian monks
St Kieran 516AD-540AD was founder of the great teaching monastery at Clonmacnoise. Died of the yellow plague, his feast day is Sept 9. He is also remembered for having a number of colorful legends associated with his life.
Blessed Ciaran and his Scholars
The first of the saints to be born in Ireland of the saints was Ciaran, that was of the blood of the nobles of Leinster. And the first of the wonders he did was in the island of Cleire, and he but a young child at the time. There came a hawk in the air over his head, and it stooped down before him and took up a little bird that was sitting on a nest. And pity for the little bird came on Ciaran and it was bad to him the way it was. And the hawk turned back and left the bird before him, and it half. dead and trembling; and Ciaran bade it to rise up and it rose and went up safe and well to its nest, by the grace of God.
It was Patrick bade Ciaran after that to go to the Well of Uaran, the mering where the north meets with the south in the middle part of Ireland. "And bring my little bell with you" he said "and it will be without speaking till you come to the Well." So Ciaran did that and when he reached to the Well of Uaran, for God brought him there, the little bell spoke out on the moment in a bright clear voice. And Ciaran settled himself there, and he alone, and great woods all around the place; and he began to make a little cell for himself, that was weak enough.
And one time as he was sitting under the shadow of a tree a wild boar rose up on the other side Of it; but when it saw Ciaran it ran from him, and then it turned back again as a quiet servant to him, being made gentle by God. And that boar was the first scholar and the first monk Ciaran had; and it used to be going into the wood and to be plucking rods and thatch between its teeth as if to help towards the building. And there came wild creatures to Ciaran out of the places where they were, a fox and a badger and a wolf and a doe; and they were tame with him and humbled themselves to his teach ing the same as brothers, and did all he bade them to do.
But one day the fox, that was greedy and cunning and full of malice, met with Ciaran's brogues and he stole them and went away shunning the rest of the company to his own old den, for he had a mind to eat the brogues. But that was showed to Ciaran, and he sent another monk of the monks of his family, that was the badger, to bring back the fox to the place where they all were. So the badger went to the cave where the fox was and found him, and he after eating the thongs and the ears of the brogues. And the badger would not let him off coming back with him to Ciaran, and they came to him in the evening bringing the brogues with them. And Ciaran said to the fox "O brother" he said "why did you do this robbery that was not right for a monk to do? And there was no need for you to do it" he said "for we all have food and water in common, that there is no harm in. But if your nature told you it was better for you to use flesh, God would have made it for you from the bark of those trees that are about you." Then the fox asked Ciaran to forgive him and to put a penance on him; and Ciaran did that, and the fox used no food till such time as he got leave from Ciaran; and from that out he was as honest as the rest.
Oh those blessed bees...
The Priest and the Bees
There was a good honourable well-born priest, God's darling he was, a man holding to the yoke of Christ; and it happened he went one day to attend on a sick man. And as he was going a swarm of bees came towards him, and he having the Blessed Body of Christ with him there. And when he saw the swarm he laid the Blessed Body on the ground and gathered the swarm into his bosom, and went on in that way upon his journey, and forgot the Blessed Body where he had laid it. And after a while the bees went back from him again, and they found the Blessed Body and carried it away between them to their own dwelling place, and they gave honour to it kindly and made a good chapel of wax for it, and an altar and a chalice and a pair of priests, shaping them well out of wax to stand before Christ's Body. But as for the priest, when he remembered it he went looking for it carefully, penitently, and could not find it in any place. And it went badly with him and he went to confession, and with the weight of the trouble that took hold of him he was fretting through the length of a year. And there came an angel to him at the end of the year and told him the way the Body of Christ was sheltered and honoured. And the angel bade him to bring all the people to see that wonder; and they went there and when they saw it a great many of them believed.