|Yesterday was Shrove Tuesday, or Mardi Gras, and today the first day of Lent. As all good Christians know, this period marks the beginning of 40 days of fasting in memory of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness, to prepare believers for the celebration of Easter.|
BUT, according to James Frazer, author of The Golden Bough, the carnival of Shrove Tuesday and the period of fasting that follows have their roots in Pagan festivals to honour the god of vegetation. The corn god had to die every year in order to be reborn with the youth and vigour required to bring an end to winter for an agricultural people. These ceremonies in turn had their roots in even older rituals in which a priest-king, thought to have personal power over the elements, is killed, mourned for a period, and finally replaced by a younger candidate.
Our Mr. Earwicker, the god of an urban people, in his present iteration is perhaps most simply summarised as a statesman whose character is assassinated so that his people may live. But like Jesus (and through Jesus), he has his origins in these ancient tales of blood sacrifice and natural revivification. So as I (painfully slowly) illuminate his “fishabed ghoatstory”, and as leaves and blossoms return to the trees, remember to give a thought to the Passion of Mr. Earwicker.