The fifth of November,
The Gunpowder treason and plot;
I know of no reason
Why the Gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot!
It's become the symbol of protest and anti-establishment feeling throughout the world but what is the origin of the Guy Fawkes mask? How did the Occupy movement and the Anonymous hacking group come to use the effigy of a 17th century English terrorist?
It started way back in 1605 with the Gunpowder Plot. Guy Fawkes was part of a group of English Catholics who were angry with the lack of religious freedom under King James I of England and VI of Scotland. The plan was to blow up the House Of Lords however an anonymous letter tipped off the authorities and Fawkes was found guarding 36 barrels of gun powder. He was hung, drawn and quartered as a result.
Since then, Guy Fawkes Night has been observed in England with bonfires and fireworks, a tradition still in place to this day. Effigies of Guy Fawkes were burnt and children would wear masks in his likeness. In the early 1980s, they began to be given away in magazines.
The origin of the mask we know today began in 1982 in V for Vendetta, a comic book written by Alan Moore and illustrated by David Lloyd. It's about a vigilante who is trying to destroy an authoritarian government in London. Set in the future, the government have begun to control many aspects of people's lives and the V, the story's hero, attempts to fight back wearing a Guy Fawkes mask to hide his identity.
In 2006, a movie based on V for Vendetta was released and as a result, the stylised Guy Fawkes masks began to be used by activist groups wanting to keep their identity secret. The hacktivist group Anonymous used masks in their campaign against the Church Of Scientology in 2008 and since then has become a symbol of the group. The Occupy movement adopted the mask in 2009 for it's campaigns around the world. It has since become a symbol of protest and revolution. It was banned by Bahrain and the UAE during the Arab Spring revolts and subsequently by Saudi Arabia who called it a symbol of rebels and revenge. It is the top selling item on Amazon.
Since Guy Fawkes first attempted to blow up the Houses Of Parliament in 1605, he has gone from terrorist to icon of hope for those "sticking it to the man". His face has become symbol of justice over 400 years after his failed gunpowder plot and ensures that we will always remember, remember the fifth of November.