One example of the darkly-steeped form of nature-worship that Patrick encountered in Ireland comes from the story Tirechan tells about a time when Patrick and a fellow bishop stopped by a fountain to rest. According to his account, two daughters of the king Loigaire (named Ethne--the fair one, and Fedelmnufa) came to the fountain to bathe, but halted when they saw the men there whom they did not recognize. Their instant impression was that the men were gods of the earth, or phantoms, and they asked who the men were. Patrick wasted no opportunity but responded, "Were it not better you should confess the true God, than to ask our race?"
The eldest daughter coyly taunts and questions, drawing from her knowledge of nature and her desire for romantic pleasure to inquire after a God worth her while:
"Who is God? And where is God? And where is his dwelling? Has your God sons and daughters, gold and silver? Does he live forever? Is he handsome? Has he many sons? Are his daughters beautiful and beloved by the men of this world? Is he in heaven or on earth? In the sea, in the rivers, in the mountains, in the valleys: tell us his description. How he can be seen, how he is to be respected, how he is to be found, whether in youth or age?"
Saint Patrick's response exactly answers her questions, overpowering her with the truth of God's expansive lordship over all the "nature gods" the maiden inquired about, and brings her questioning mind to more of the truth than she could have imagined possible. In one fell swoop he gets rid of all her presuppositional misconceptions about God and nature, and astounds her with a sermon, beautiful in its poetical symmetry.
"Our God is the God of all men, the God of heaven and earth, and of the sea, and of rivers; the God of the sun, and of the moon, and of all the stars; the God of the lofty mountains, and of the lower valleys; God is above the heavens, and in heaven, and under heaven; his habitation is above the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and all things which are therein: He inspires all things, He enlivens all things, He overcomes all things, He supports all things, He enlightens the sun. He strengthens the light of night and our knowledge-- he made fountains in dry places, and dry islands in the sea, and he placed the stars for the office of greater lights. He has a son, who is coeternal with himself, nor is the son younger than the father, nor the father older than the son, and the holy spirit breathes in them; the father, son and holy spirit, are inseparable. But I wish that ye were united to the heavenly king."
After this, the sisters wanted to see God face-to-face, but Patrick instructed them in the gospel and questioned them about the sincerity of their repentance, life after death, resurrection, and unity of the church. They answered satisfactorily to all that he questioned them about, then he baptized them. They had come to the fountain to receive an outward washing, but received a washing of the heart instead. They had entered the cool, misty grove, with dark and erotic confusion in their minds, but left the grove being shown the true and clear God, and being espoused to a heavenly king.