In order to rediscover the amazing connection that Patrick made between the Gospel story and Irish life, we need to delve deeper into the consciousness of the Irish people at this singular hinge in their history.
Their consciousness – and, maybe eve more importantly, their subconscious. For in the dreams of a people, if we can read these aright, lie their most profound fears and their most exalted aspirations. We know something of Irish dreams, for we can piece together their mythology – their collective dream-story – from the oral tales of the pre-Christian period (such as the Tain) that were subsequently written down and from the artifacts uncovered by archaeologists. Since neither the tales nor the artifacts can offer us a whole mythology – the complete Irish dream cycle – we must read these materials as if they were the fragments of a great papyrus.
It would be an understatement to assert that Irish gods were not the friendliest of figures. Actually, there are few idols that we have retrieved from barrow or bog that would not give a child nightmares and an adult the willies. No smooth-skinned, well-proportioned Apollos and Aphrodites here.Cahill, How the Irish Saved Civilization, p. 126