CHAOSTOCOSMOS

Sunday, 23 April 2006

Patron Saint of sheep; skin diseases; skin rashes; soldiers and syphilis, amongst other things ...

image The fact that England's Patron Saint shares a first name with a certain Texas village idiot should be enough to put most people off, but did you also know that St. George is the Patron Saint of sheep; skin diseases; skin rashes; soldiers and syphilis, amongst a whole list of other things you can find here at the Catholic Forum?

"He is patron saint not only of England but also of Aragon, Catalonia, Georgia, Lithuania, Palestine, Portugal, Germany and Greece; and of Moscow, Istanbul, Genoa and Venice (second to St Mark).

He's also patron saint of soldiers, archers, cavalry and chivalry, farmers and field workers, riders and saddlers, and he helps those suffering from leprosy, plague and syphilis.", according to the BBC.

The cult of St George probably first reached the Kingdom of England when the crusaders returned from the Holy Land in the 12th century. When I was a kid, his day, April 23rd, was still remembered. Well, it was marked as the day that you wore your Boy Scouts or Brownies uniform to school and there'd be a Church Parade, but it was never much of a party, as such.

"With the revival of Scottish and Welsh nationalism, there has been renewed interest within England in St George, whose memory had been in abeyance for many years."

Really? Personally, I don't buy it.

We English have never had that same sense of nationalism. Well, we wouldn't. We are arrogant enough to presume we are above needing to (re)claim our identity. We are the kind of people who go abroad and still think that the local people there are the "foreigners". Truly, it's never us.

The Scottish and Welsh, probably in their right minds, do have this sense of nationalism, because they want the rest of the world to know that they are not like us. And whatever it is that defines an Englishman (or woman) these days, it certainly has nothing whatsoever to do with a legendary 4th Century saint.

In fact, any figure pertaining to a particular religious persuasion is a wholly unsuitable candidate nowadays. A cartoon character might work though.

"Are you proud of the Country's glorious history and heritage? Then why not become a member of The Royal Society of St. George? Membership is open to all people who share our love of England and Englishness."

Agreed: England used to be lovely to look at. It is time, I think, however, that we stopped seeing the wholesale carnage we inflicted on vast parts of the world in the name of an Empire, as a "glorious history".

No less contentious and legendary in his way, is the bloke who may have been born and certainly died on this day, William Shakespeare, who, coincidentally, was who firmly placed St George within the national conscience in his play Henry V in which the English troops are rallied with the cry “God for Harry, England and St George.”

If "Englishness" is to be celebrated on April 23rd (though I have seen no evidence of great celebrations), maybe it would be better to call it Shakespeare Day? He has been analysed in almost every language know to mankind, yet, not even the English speakers understand him, so that kinda makes him universal enough.

Having been born in the Midlands, I know Stratford-upon-Avon quite well and, I will admit that it is a pretty town, well worth visiting. However, a stroll around the back streets and a rummage around the antique shops is far more attractive than lining up for the tourist traps. His "birthplace" probably wasn't his birthplace anyway.

Oh, of course, being "typically English" (despite a decade and a half in Spain: it is an untreatable condition), I do have an egotistical reason for proffering this alternative celebration. We have (on my late father's side), relatives with the surname Shakespeare. Just imagine, I could be a "celebrity blogger".

"To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub;" Happy Shakespeare Day!

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