Lighting a fire for Guy Fawkes
Guy Fawkes Night or Bonfire Night is curious tradition. On 5 November 1605, a plot to assassinate King James I and to blow up the English parliament at Westminster was discovered, and a man called Guy Fawkes was arrested at the scene.
To celebrate the King’s escape from the attempted assassination, that evening Londoners were encouraged to light bonfires. A subsequent Act of Parliament designated each 5 November as a day of thanksgiving.
Fawkes was one of 13 men believed to have been part of what became known as the gunpowder plot, but it’s the name of Guy Fawkes that has become synonymous with the event.
Over the centuries, the celebrations have evolved to include the burning of effigies, and also fireworks.
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In recent years it has also become a night celebrated by anarchists — a call to arms for those rejecting government and corporate control.
The most visible of these is the group Anonymous. Anonymous is a loose collective that describe themselves as hactivists — identified by the stylised Guy Fawkes masks that they wear, and their use of social media channels to draw publicity to their activities and targets, often using 5th November as a call-to-arms for disruption and mayhem.
The 5th November is often the kind of night where it feels as if almost anything can happen. The night sky in London quickly fills with fireworks in every direction, the constant rumbles and explosions are reminiscent of a violent thunderstorm, or what I imagine being in a war zone might feel something like.
Guy Fawkes was executed for treason on 27 January 1606. It’s 5 November 2018 and he’s still causing trouble — that would probably put a smile on his face.