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Pagan Eye: The Oldest Bonfire Night "Guy"

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The head of this Guy Fawkes effigy is said to be the oldest still in existence, dating back at least 200 years. It’s in the Battle Museum of Local History, in Sussex and is still taken out on parade on Bonfire Night celebrations. Guys are normally burnt on  bonfire on November 5, the anniversary of the foiled Gunpowder Plot to blow up Parliament in 1605. That’s the reason few survive from the past. 

Many Sussex towns, including Battle, still have huge bonfire festivals as an annual folkloric event. However, before the 20th century, it was more common for effigies of unpopular figures other than Guy Fawkes to go on the pyre – sometimes foreign monarchs or the Pope. I saw that an effigy of Liz Truss with a lettuce is to be set on fire at Edenbridge Bonfire Night this year, so that particular alternative custom seems to be making a comeback.
In my opinion, the burning of a Guy is a bit like poppet magic, except that the effigy is huge and most people taking part in November 5 celebrations don’t think of it as more than a bit of fun.
My Pagan Eye posts show photos that I find interesting – seasonal images, pagan sites, events, or just pretty pictures. If you want to send me a photo for a Pagan Eye post, please email it to [email protected] Let me know what the photo shows and whether you want your name mentioned or not. For copyright reasons, the photo must be one you have taken yourself. 

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