Friday, November 5, 2010

Earrings for the Guy

Guy Fawkes Day, or Bonfire Night, has been celebrated in Great Britain since the first anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot. In 1605, Fawkes and his co-conspirators were attempting to blow up Parliament with numerous barrels of gunpowder they'd stashed underneath. They wanted to oust the protestant King James and replace him with a Catholic monarch. Fawkes was basically caught red-handed on November 5 and soon ratted out his buds while being tortured at the Tower. The other conspirators were drawn and quartered. Fawkes managed to jump from the scaffold, dying when the fall broke his neck, thus sparing him the agony of drawing and quartering, but his body parts were still sent off to various places and displayed as a deterrent to future treason.

November 5 was declared a day of thanksgiving for the plot's failure. Effigies of the Pope and Fawkes were burned in bonfires. The custom continued, and kids would display effigies and sometimes knock on doors asking for a "Penny for the Guy?", ostensibly to buy fireworks, but Wiki says the custom is sometimes now frowned upon because 1) kids aren't supposed to buy fireworks 2) it might seem like begging and who knows what the kids do with the money? and 3) it is sometimes seen as offensive to Catholics. And more recently, the American custom of trick-or-treating at Halloween has been adopted in the UK and sort of replaced the Guy Fawkes ritual - for kids anyway. Bonfires and fireworks still mark the occasion in the UK and some former colonies.

I always find it interesting how holiday customs blend and become distorted. Many believe Fawkes Night fires have as their true origin a pagan fire ritual that cleanses the streets of evil spirits.

I searched online for Guy Fawkes Night earrings, but the closest thing I could find were some V for Vendetta earrings that I didn't like, and some Big Ben charms that I can and will fashion into earrings for next year. I figure, you know, Big Ben... Parliament. I'm not really sure what gunpowder earrings would look like (barrels?), though I have seen some fireworks-inspired earrings. They tend to be all red, white, and blue and American-looking, though. So, for now, I will wear the earrings shown in the photo, which I made by printing out tiny pics of a Guy Fawkes mask and slipping them into the frame earrings I found at Michael's.

I feel that simply printing out a photo and slipping it into the frame earring is a cop-out, but in this case it does have as an advantage that I could, at the end of the night, burn the little pictures if I were feeling particularly festive and then just print out more next year.

But I admit I have some sympathy for the Guy. King James I and VI was not a friend of witches.


  1. I'm against blowing up parliament and all, but always sympathized with the Guy's motives. Get a bit of spilkus (sp?) celebrating the drawing and quartering. Could go on, but not without being offensive about our cousins across the pond.

  2. It's not like back then you could vote out the king peacefully.