So! For all fellow Brits 23rd April marks St Georges Day. A day to remember to be proud to be English. To remember the martyr St George and bask in all the glory of the red and white Cross….
I am British as opposed to English. My heritage is Scottish Celtic on my father’s side and English up to a point on my mother’s side although my cousin traced our maternal family back to Germany I believe.
Anyway I digress. The reason for this post is that I was browsing Facebook and seeing everyone’s posts and memes and pictures of how we are proud to be English on this day and something struck me as a little amusing. I wonder how many of us actually know anything about St George?
That infamous man who slayed the dragon…..
In truth George was not English. Little is known of the true man but history suggests to us that he was actually born in Cappadocia, an area which is now in Turkey, in the 3rd century. That his parents were Christians and that when his father died, George’s mother returned to her native Palestine, taking George with her. George became a soldier in the Roman army and rose to the rank of Tribune.
The Emperor Diocletian, had begun a campaign against Christian’s and being Christian himself, George is said to have objected to this and resigned his post in protest. George was imprisoned and tortured – but he refused to deny his faith. Eventually he was dragged through the streets of Diospolis (now Lydda) and beheaded. It’s said that Diocletian’s wife was so impressed by George’s resilience that she became a Christian and that she too was executed for her faith.
So. Interesting right! And you’re still wondering what any of that has to do with the St George of our day. The patron saint of England…
Well legend and myth are what come in to play. We actually do not associate the real man with the St George we celebrate today. It’s believed that Saint George was adopted in England because the story in the Golden Legend was similar to an Anglo-Saxon legend. Saint George was quickly incorporated into miracle plays adapted from pagan sources and is a prime figure in Spenser’s famous epic poem The Fairie Queen.
George’s popularity faded after the Reformation when religious beliefs changed. He also lost ground as gunpowder became the primary weapon of war and protection, making the lance and sword less significant. In 1778 Saint George’s Day was demoted to a simple day of devotion for Catholics in England.
So the dragon??? In truth the dragon is actually a symbol that was used to describe evil and the devil back in George’s day. So in terms of him actually slaying one, that is unlikely. Instead the story is that of a man who refused to deny his faith, stood up against the emperor for what he truly believed to be right for the Christian people and was tortured and murdered for it. The dragon is the Emperor and the Romans attacks against Christian people. That is the true dragon- The evil that George fought back against and was forever immortalised for.
Of course this is just one persons opinion on the thoughts and opinions of other people. As are most legends and folklore. Stories passed down over time and the real truth lost in translation.
St George is merely a symbol and a religious one at that. I wonder how many of us blindly celebrate this day as a proud and joyous event, when in fact this man has absolutely no links to England whatsoever. Know your history is all I can suggest and these things greatly interest me as does the human condition.
I will give St George one thing though. He is a symbol to believe in what you choose and do so wholeheartedly or not at all. Even if death were to be the only other option. Believe in you and have faith.
But the absolute irony of this day has to be the amount of racism that occurs on this day in particular. How this day is used as a day to say ‘give our country back’ ‘go home immigrants’ and other such absurdities. How silly and small these people would feel to discover that our very own patron saint of ENGLAND was in fact from TURKEY. Had maternal heritage from PALISTINE and was in fact not even 1 ounce ENGLISH.