Title: Weird History: Kissing the Fundament? Credit: Craig Young Comment Thursday 6th April 2006 - 12:00pm1144281600 Article: 1184 Rights
In 1659, startled English Puritans were aghast to learn about a new radical political and religious sect that welcomed "Fellow Creatures" by kissing them on their posterior. Well, actually, no they didn't. These hospitable folk were labelled the Ranters, although debate has swirled about whether or not they were actually as friendly toward their 'fellow creatures' as contemporary (and hostile) pamphlets have made out. In one such example, a female Ranter is shown greeting a 'fellow creature' at the door, while a startled male visitor finds his breaches around his knees, and is kissed in an unexpected place. Add to that naked cavorting, sex and gluttony, and one has an interesting group indeed. The Ranters have been cavorting around radical historiography for a while. Along with their counterparts, the Levellers and Diggers, the Ranter phenomenon lasted only about a year, but consisted of particular individuals who thought that as they were 'saved,' they could do whatever they liked, including swearing, getting drunk and having wild sex. Although Tamsyn Williams reproduced an anti-Ranter pamphlet which accused the sect of 'sodomy,' there seem to have been no gay Ranters for the duration of the existence of this loose grouping. One Massey University historian weighed in during the heyday of interest in the unusual 'sect,' claiming that the Ranter 'movement' was actually the creation of a media 'moral panic' involving the anti-Ranter pamphlets, and little else. To J.C.Davies, it referred to little else than a loose collection of individuals, stigmatised as 'heretical' religious folk devils and dissidents. The theological label here is 'antinomian', or being labelled as one thing and doing quite another, under the pretext of religious 'salvation.' Did it include gay sex? We really don't know. It's possible that one or two of them got "really drunk" and showed some unexpected solace toward a fellow creature of the same sex, but that's surmise. However, the Ranters did show resistance toward Puritanism's desire to regulate every facet of human activity, and may have been ancestors of contemporary movements for individual freedom and social change. We should remember them for that reason. Recommended: J.C.Davis: Fear, Myth and History: The Ranters and The Historians: Cambridge: Cambridge University Press: 1986. A.L.Morton: The World of the Ranters: Radicalism in the English Revolution: London: Lawrence and Wishart: 1970. Nigel Smith (ed) A Collection of Ranter Writings From the Seventeenth Century: London: Junction Books: 1983. Tamsyn Williams: "Magnetic Figures" in Lucy Gent and Nigel Llewellyn (ed) Renaissance Bodies: London: Reaktion Books: 1990. Craig Young - 6th April 2006    
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