Sunday, November 05, 2006

Guy Fawkes Day & Dave’s Badgers

Entry for November 5, 2006

Today is Guy Fawkes Day, perhaps the strangest national holiday that I have encountered. Ostensibly, it celebrates the foiling of the Gunpowder Plot of 1604, in which the Catholic political dissident and proto-terrorist Guy Fawkes tried to blow up King James I (aka King James VI of Scotland) and the English Parliament.

As Diane wrote in a message to her friend Linda, after being caught, Guy Fawkes “was tortured and managed to break his own neck before they could hang and quarter him. As part of the remembrance, they burn him in effigy in large bonfires throughout the UK and set off a lot of fireworks. It feels like we are living in a war zone with all the rather big fireworks people are setting of all over the city. I find the whole thing rather awful and like the 4th of July, I hate the carelessness of people setting off fireworks. A bit judgmental but there you have it.”

Actually, people have been setting off fireworks for several days now, but the festivities peaked tonight (in fact, as I write, there are still a few detonations continuing in the distance). The difference to the American 4th of July seems to be that there is a lot more DIY (Do It Yourself) spirit and a lot more serious private fireworks, of the skyrocket type that have been banned in most parts of the USA for most of my lifetime.

The strange part is that the holiday seems to honor Guy Fawkes more than celebrate his defeat, especially here in Scotland, where the the burning-in-effigy part seems to be largely lacking. Although GFD is generally and perversely celebrated all over Britain, it seems to me that the Scots take particular pleasure in remembering a catholic fellow who tried to blow up Parliament. The Gunpowder Plot was also an attempt to blow up a Scot who had recently acceded to the British throne, but today it plays more like an extreme tactic in support of Scottish devolution and independence. Plus, mayhem of this sort is consistent with the part of the Scottish and specifically Glaswegian spirit that is drawn to anarchy and lawlessness (the dark side of its friendly, egalitarian spirit?).

As I thought about this, I suddenly thought Dave Mearns' little toy stuffed "sociopathic" badgers that he takes along with him to express his dark side. I reasoned that they must love Guy Fawkes day, and sure enough when I phoned Elke and Dave tonight to catch up and wish them well, Dave confirmed that Guy Fawkes is the badgers’ Special Day.

There is obviously something in me that resonates deeply with this dark, anarchic side, also, because I am fascinated with Dave’s badgers and always ask about them, much to Elke’s disgust (“Don’t encourage him,” she says.). My dad would say that in shamanistic terms, Dave’s badgers are trickster figures who act as his power animal and enable him to creatively channel power from the Lower World. However, I suspect that Dave prefers not to put ideas into their heads, so he simply refers to them as “sociopaths.”

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