Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Happy birthday Will

It's St George's Day (and has been since 1222).
I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,
Straining upon the start. The game's afoot:
Follow your spirit, and upon this charge
Cry 'God for Harry, England, and Saint George!' ~ Henry V, 3:1
Historically St George was a third-century martyr. He acquired his dragon-slaying reputation from the Golden Legend. He has only been England's patron saint since 1415. The original patron saint of England was St Edmund.

St George is also the patron of many other countries and organisations. In other countries, George is associated with greenery, and is sometimes conflated with Khidr.

St George is also associated with the Crusades. Not the ideal association, to my mind, since the Crusades were a disaster for interfaith relations, and a brutal and bloody chapter in the history of warfare (and their reverberations are still being felt today).

It is also Shakespeare's birthday today - and personally I find Shakespeare more inspiring, as the creator of great literature. Happy birthday Will.

Shakespeare's plays (and those of his contemporaries) defied the unities of time, place and action, and illustrated a vast panoply of human life. Many of his words and expressions have passed into the English language; he has more quotations in the dictionary of quotations than any other writer, and his characters are a byword for the great tragic and comic experiences of life, love and death. He also wrote a lot of poetry and plays that inspire Pagans and have inspired other fantastical literature. Think of the Three Witches in Macbeth, based on the Three Norns of Norse mythology; Mercutio's speech in Romeo and Juliet; Herne the Hunter in The Merry Wives of Windsor; the whole of A Midsummer Night's Dream, and much more.

What about a patron deity of England? I would suggest Herne the Hunter (often conflated with Cernunnos), Robin Hood, Robin Goodfellow, or perhaps Brigantia, goddess of sovereignty, or Britannia, a personification of Britain.

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