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de Vos: Don’t blow it on the ninth

Jon DeVos

Jon DeVos

Don’t you wish that all the politicians would just blow away, taking their vitriol and lies with them? Ever wish for the entire government to vanish in the blink of an eye? Want to start with something entirely new? Well, if so, tomorrow’s your day!

November 5 is Guy Fawkes day, an occasion that commemorates a fellow who, in 1590, was apprehended with a smoking match in a failed attempt to blow up the entire English government. Mr. Fawkes and crew had secreted 36 barrels of gunpowder in the basement of the English House of Lords hoping to kill the king, the Prince of Wales and obliterate the entire Parliament due to their persecution of Catholics.

Like most good stories, this one starts with a witch’s evil spell on a pair of royal newlyweds. In April of 1590, the king of Scotland, James VI married the daughter of the king of Denmark, a happy moment in a dark time. Denmark was roiling in witchcraft hysteria. Sorcery and the Black Arts lurked in every shadow, threatening the life and soul of every Dane. On the return voyage to Scotland, James and his new bride Anne encountered unseasonably fierce storms, obviously caused by an evil spell.

A witch hunt for the foul hag that dared curse their journey was begun. Appropriate torture revealed five witches who confessed to sending demons to swarm the barge and agitate the seas. Several women were quickly dispatched with no noticeable reduction in hysteria or the storm surge.

Witch panic was rampant in Scotland as well, where innocent women were pilloried, tortured and hanged, again, with no notable success in curbing all those horrible witch activities that never existed in the first place.

In a royal twist, James was also king of England and his antipathy for witches got tangled with his mom’s hatred for Catholics, so what to do, but pillory, torture and hang them too, which did not sit well with the Catholics.

A dozen disgruntled Papists concocted a conspiracy later called the “Gunpowder Plot” and successfully carried it to the point of lighting the fuse. This task was assigned to Guy Fawkes, fumbling with the matches as the king’s men roared through the door and slammed him on the ground, extinguishing both the fuse and the plot.

You were probably waiting for the treachery part. Some from the Papist party were aghast at the thought of all those body parts and feared blowing up lots of innocent bystanders might not look so well in the eye of the Lord. So a few of them sent letters to pals in parliament warning them it might be best to make November fifth a sick day and stay home.

Despite having no Russian hackers or Wikileaks, the king quickly tumbled onto the plot and had his soldiers scour the building, thereby defusing the Gunpowder Plot. This led to Mr. Fawkes summary torture and ultimate decapitation. To this very day, Westminster Palace basements are ceremoniously searched before every session of parliament.

There’s definitely a lesson for terrorists in the Guy Fawkes story: Let’s not lose our heads on November 9, no matter how it turns out.