Monday 22 June 2009

The prize for cultural ignorance goes to Hampshire

The real motive power behind fascism isn’t racism or monopoly power or any of the other aspects that scare us about the BNP. Those things will never inspire the nation – or not our nation anyway. The power lies in its romanticism. Fine within limits, but when the authoritarians team up with the romantics, the imperialist dreamers, the folk historians and the cultural snobs, then you’ve got trouble.

I believe that is why the European nations which dumped their empires and their monarchies during the 20th century nearly all flirted with fascism at some point. Monarchies are safe conduits for this national romanticism. They render it harmless.

The point I’m trying to make in this roundabout way is that folklore and history is important politically. When it is misused, it encourages extremists and nationalists. When it is suppressed, it encourages them too.

So imagine my surprise, when I arrived at Danebury hill fort in Hampshire on Midsummer’s Day, an important Iron Age site, to find a notice from the county council explaining that this was the summer equinox – and setting out an absolutely bizarre outline of traditional midsummer beliefs and rituals.

Kostrub? Surely there was no celtic deity called that, I asked myself. Baked larks called zhaivoronky? I don’t think so.

I concluded that Hampshire County Council was so staggeringly ignorant of our national heritage that they had muddled it up with somebody else’s. A quick look on the internet confirms it. The county council’s notice was taken word-for-word from a website called ‘Spring Rituals’

As you can see from the address, it is taken from the Encyclopaedia of Ukraine. What does this mean?


Joe Otten said...

Perhaps they thought UK Raine was some sort of British pagan alignment.

Alec said...

I'll cogitate on your missive at length, but I wish to be the first to get this in... Midsummer Day is tomorrow, i.e. 24 June.

I've read my Philip Pullman!