Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Burning Effigies, "No Popery," and Torch-Carrying Mobs: Guy Fawkes Day/Bonfire Night in Lewes, England, November 5

Last night at I participated in what believe is the most amazing spectacle I have ever experienced: Guy Fawkes Day/Bonfire Night in Lewes, England. It was about 7 hours or tramping through the cold damp, passing liquor bottles and following the flaming-torch wielding mob. Photos and video above; more photos can be seen here, and following is more about this curious celebration of barely controlled mayhem, care of Wikipedia:
Lewes Bonfire is a series of celebrations in the town of Lewes, East Sussex which form the UK's largest and most famous Bonfire Night or Guy Fawkes Night festivities, [Guy Fawkes day celebrates the foiling of the Gunpowder Plot in 1605, where Guy Fawkes and a group of English Catholics attempted to blow up the British House of Lords]. [T]he event... also commemorates the memory of the seventeen Protestant martyrs from the town burnt at the stake for their faith during the Marian Persecutions...
... After several processions, including acts of Remembrance for the war dead, each society marches to its own fire site on the edge of the town, where there is a large bonfire, firework display and burning of effigies. The societies then return to their HQs for Bonfire Prayers. Whilst marching nearly all members carry torches, some ignite and drop bangers, locally called rookies (short for rook scarers), and some carry burning crosses, banners, musical instruments or burning letters spelling out the initials of the society. In recent years the police presence on the night has increased to deal with the large crowds attracted to the event.
Many of those processing wear smuggler uniforms (striped jumper, white trousers, black boots and optional red hat). All Societies have different coloured striped smugglers' jumpers. A number of large effigies are drawn though the streets including Guy Fawkes and Pope Paul V, who became head of the Roman Catholic Church in 1605. In addition, each of the five main local societies creates a topical "tableau", and the Cliffe and Southover societies display on pikes the heads (also in effigy) of its current "Enemies of Bonfire", who range from nationally reviled figures to local officials who have attempted to place restrictions on the event. Restrictions are generally ignored by the Societies. The local St. John's Ambulance team has posts around procession routes to care for anyone who has been injured.
As mentioned above, you can see a full set of photos by clicking here. And special thanks to friend and collaborator Mark Pilkington of Strange Attractor Press (as pictured in bottom photo) for organizing the excursion, and stressing its import. This truly is a spectacle not to be missed.

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