Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Let Us Burn the Fellow!

Being a brief but nevertheless fairly comprehensive accounting of the history of the sacred tradition of the Burning Fellow athletic symposium.

Genesis
The story of Burning Fellow begins, as do all traditions and customs in civilized society, with Classical Greece. To wit, it was the Romans who purloined the flagstones of Antiquity, and parlayed them into a tenuous dominion over Celtic Europe. The resistance of the pagan tribes is the stuff of legend indeed. And it was this resistance, handed down through generations, which gave us the greatest of all celebratory athletic traditions.
It would seem that the pagan warriors took such zesty umbrage to the Pax Romana, that they set aside each weekend for the purpose of training in the arts of war. This training took the form of competitive feats of skill, such as heaving large rocks, dragging their compatriots about with hempen ropes, and knocking about the severed heads of their enemies with sticks. The training culminated at midnight, when the assembled assemblage would burn Caesar in effigy—or better yet, an unfortunate Roman Centurion burned alive. Or a local virgin, where Centurions were scarce.

Transition
When the Empire fell, the Celtic traditions in question where seen as at least partially responsible. They also had perceived that the strenuous exercises involved were ripping good fun, especially inasmuch as the culmination thereof involved the lighting of a rather large fire. As the years passed, the person burned in effigy began to vary from locale to locale. Likewise, the belligerence of the feats of skill and strength was modified according to local preferences. In Ireland, the noble art of Striving was perfected, wherein the hempen ropes were graciously complicated with a complex system of pulleys and hooks. In merry England, the intricacies of Crooks and Rounders developed as human heads were replaced with rounded oaken balls, and the cudgels of old metamorphosed into the gentleman’s cane. (To say more would be to violate the sacred secrecy of the symposium, and risk one’s place on the Venerated Council of Governance. Let it suffice to say that descendant forms of each competition have been allowed to innocently evolve, and that respectable individuals never participate in any of them!)
At an unidentifiable date (16--?), in an undisclosable location (presumably Europe) a conclave was convened for the purpose preserving the traditions of the past for a privileged minority of the few in the future. It was decided that on the final weekend in June, on every continent where civilization had taken hold, a select group would gather on hallowed ground and pay homage and veneration to our most vigorous forbears. After a fortnight of regimented athletic triumph, they exhumed the bones of Pope Innocent III, posed them in an impious position, and set them aflame with the Torch of Victory.

Presently
In the here and now, as it were, the Burning Fellow Festival is as it should be: an exclusive event held in a top-secret location, and filled with as much pomp as secrecy. Postal carriers have replaced the shorn heralds of old, and high-born athleterati on every continent anxiously await their elegant invitation, finding therein—and only therein—the revelation of the grounds upon which their skill and might will be tested to the utmost degree! (Word to the wise: to reveal the location or true nature of the event to anyone is to find yourself, and seven generations after you, excluded!)
Leaving their young in the competent hands of servants, and traveling incognito, combatants arrive early on a Friday afternoon for the Conclave, officiated and presided over by a true and living member of the Council of Governance. Once the rules, parameters, and appellations of the various forms of competition are decided, a celebratory evening of revelry ensues, so as to ready the nerves and sinews of the sundry participants for the rigors of the morrow.
Early on Saturday, they rise, and following a dainty and nutritive morsel, the athletic symposium begins in earnest. Truly this is a day never to be forgotten—not for the faint-hearted, these feats of strength and grace! When all is done, the victorious team is crowned with the druidic garlands of old, and given the Torch of Victory, which they hold high above the head as all creation hushes in anticipation. “LET US BURN THE FELLOW!” they say, to which the congregated elements respond, “INDEED!”
Then, as flames consume the chosen effigy, a merry time is had by all. Libations and aperitifs are distributed. Music is heard. And an unspoken vow to reconvene one year hence, in a yet undisclosed location, better prepared to triumph in yet undisclosed competions, and, finally, to burn a yet undesignated fellow, wafts into the starry dome on plumes of sacred smoke.

You’ll forgive me for not saying more. Sincerely,

Chauncey Uppercrust, Council of Governance

1 comment:

pssst said...

Get this shit going!