ancient portal tomb
carpeted with Irish moss long
before St. Patrick
Today many people celebrate St. Patrick's day, whether or not they have a drop of Irish blood, by wearing green the color of shamrocks and moss. Do they know that March 17 was not his birthday but his death day? Or that he was the son of Romans living in Scotland? Or that he was captured and lived as a shepherd slave in Ireland for six years before he escaped back home? Perhaps they know about his call from God to return to Erin to convert the pagans druids to Christianity.
Thousands of years before the death of St. Patrick or the birth of Jesus, neolithic peoples built huge stone burial sites on the island. At the entrance to the passage leading into the house of the dead, these New Stone Age farmers erected a megalithic portal. The huge stone entry, much taller than a man, consisted of two thick pillars supporting a massive capstone. Few of these portal tombs still exist intact, but wherever they stand, they are sure to be carpeted with moss.
Irish moss (Sagina subulata) has a different color, texture and smell than any other moss. Cushiony, velvety, earthy, this tiny evergreen ground cover proliferates in the moist island climate. A lowly plant, it flourishes in the narrow space between a rock and a hard place; it survives being trod upon. Irish moss will surely keep regenerating long after the rigid structures of humans have crumbled.