The English language is a continual delight. As is our history with which the language is entwined like some lovely rose. Long before Henry VIII had thoughts of a union with the court’s resident prick teaser,Ann Boleyn the country was having its doubts about the established religion. The people wanted a bible they could read and through which relate directly to their faith. William Tyndall obliged. Thomas More and his thought police felt differently,burnt Tyndall and banned the book.
But when it came to transubstantiation ,the enlightened folk in their pews felt something was amiss. Surely it was symbolic, not real, what the priest was doing with the bread and the wine. And so it came to pass that the memorable communion line which in Latin starts Hoc corpus est (this is my body) became hocus-pocus. Thank goodness .The Catholic Church has got round to limiting the number of people who are allowed into the Sistine Chapel. Who knows what other reforms are in the pipeline…
All this is an introduction to the great Guy Fawkes Night celebrations in Lewes, Sussex. Here the 16 local Protestant martyrs who were so cruelly burnt(0f the 277 in all) by Bloody Mary Tudor are celebrated. There is no political correctness here,the effigy of the Pope will do. Many of the participants black up.None of that, lets call it Bonfire Night, this is about Guy Fawkes and the dastardly attempt to overthrow England’s Church. And in the end it’s the Scarlet one himself in all his majesty and nonsense who is tossed onto the flames. An end which he and his Inquisition over the centuries have been only to happy to give to others.
In Lewes the numerous Bonfire societies all based on pubs and nearby villages all dress up in fine and distinct uniforms-Civil Wars, US and British, Roman legion,Zulus and redcoats,pirates galore ,some fine Tudor ladies, many priests, puritans and even some Battle of Britain pilots etc As they parade round the cobbled streets with their burning barrels,fireworks are thrown and ,each then, has its own bonfire and fireworks before the grand finale. Five thousand burning torches dance through the streets for several hours,burning crosses leading the way and drum bands beating the Ptotestant fury..It is wondrous and the fact that is tolerated in this elf and safety ruled era is remarkable. Small wonder it is a major tourist attraction.
But when I asked a very fine Zulu complete with shoe polish and magnificent feathers what he had to do with the 16th century martyrs. He said,”Not a lot ,its just about dressing up and having a laugh”. Oh dear.