Jul 15

I blame Hemingway

I do. I also think Ernest Hemingway is overrated. Obviously a great deal of the world does not share my opinion. His novel The Sun Also Rises continues to lead people to their death by popularizing the "Running of the Bulls" in Pamplona, Spain.

Or at least serious bodily injury.

The event is not,in spite of Hemingway's best efforts, a celebration of reckless machismo, or at least not just that.

Pamplona's festival is an 8 day event tied to the Festival of San Fermin, supposedly a 3rd century Christian convert who had been a member of the Roman Senatorial class (the nobility) and the first bishop of Pamplona. The tour guides in Pamplona will tell you that Saint Fermin met his end being dragged through the streets of the town with bulls chasing him. But you wont find any evidence of the celebration before the 12th century.

Most likely it is the combination of the commercial fairs of summer, when butchers would bring their bulls into town and slaughter them, and the original October 10th Saints Day of Fermin.

All well and good, but the truth might be a little more complicated.

Fermin, it is said, was baptized by Saturnius (San Cernin) of Toulouse. Cernin was traditionally martyred in Toulouse by having his feet tied to a bull and being dragged through the streets. There is a church built where the bull is said to have stopped, but archaeological evidence suggests that the sight was,in pre-Christian times, the sight of an altar to Mithras - usually depicted as a bull.

(I can't help but point out that Cernin is a cognate of the Latin "cornun" and the Gaulish "karnon" which in turn becomes, via Germany, the English "horn" and that Saturnius is from Saturn who is, among other things, the Roman god of agriculture. Oh and lets just give a shout out to the horned nature god Cernunos while we are at it.)

Basically any time you have an ancient festival involving bulls and possible human bloodshed anywhere that was once in the borders of the Roman empire, at the very least, you should probably think "This has pagan origins."

So once again we have a probable pagan festival celebrated in veneration of a Christian saint, and now by people all over the world with actual human blood shed/sacrifice.

Which, if you know what you are doing when you get into it, is your business; I just think that we should all know what we are getting into when we do something.

But who is responsible for its continued popularity?

I blame Hemingway.

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