For Fawke’s Sake

Consider this an early Sunday, it wouldn’t have quite the same impact tomorrow.

Guy (Guido) Fawkes set out to destroy Parliament on the 5th of November 1605, positive that people would remember him. Remember, remember, the 5th of November…

And we do. But why? The Gunpowder Treason and Plot. But poor old Guy was the fall guy. He’d only been left there to guard it. It’s possible that the entire thing was just a frame. (A really good conspiracy theorist could work out that Parliament wanted to frame the Catholic Church, so they planted it there… I’m sure Dan Brown would be right on that.)

I know of no reason, Why the Gunpowder Treason, Should ever be forgot.

Well, a good reason is that it’s over 400 years old. Even the Great Fire of London, which was vastly more devastating (although only claiming 6 confirmed lives), is less important.
Quick quiz: Can you name the days it happened on? (It’s in white below)

Sunday, 2 September to Wednesday, 5 September, 1666

So why do we remember, hang and burn Guy despite him being 30th in the BBC’s Greatest Britons.

My guess is that it’s less to do with the Catholic Church trying to overthrow the Parliament, and more to do with the old tradition of taking a celebration from another culture. In this case, Samhain.

Look at the similarities. It’s the end of Harvest, it has huge bonfires and often has bones of livestock thrown onto the fires.

But wait, you may type, isn’t Samhain also Halloween? (née All Hallow’s Eve) Well, yes…but let’s have a look at when Guy Fawkes night was originally introduced.

We already know that mince pies were banned during the Civil War as being linked with the Church, and All Saint’s/All Soul’s Day must have been equally looked down upon. But what to do with the farmers that wished to celebrate the end of the Harvest?

How about a rousing story of a man hired by the Church to kill the Glorious Leaders? And the strangely nameless people who caught him? That would make for a good holiday, wouldn’t it?

Interesting to think of.

Maybe Guy Fawkes never existed apart from in the minds of the Chief Whips of the time?

But why does it continue today, especially when we have Halloween, which is a very similar idea? Well, all of the festivals around this time are about pushing back the night, gathering together and eating finely before the terrible winter times comes around.

And with Christmas edging ever nearer to summer, perhaps Guy Fawkes reminds us of the last days before everyone turns towards worshiping the increasingly Corporate winter months.

Perhaps the 5th of November is the time when we can put off Christmas no longer. And why we hold onto it so tightly.


About Mike Grace

Constitutio Ergo Sum
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