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Wednesday, September 9, 2015

The Burning of Zozobra - Santa Fe, New Mexico

Zozobra, Old Man Gloom. was banished once again as the 40,000+ crowd in Santa Fe chanted "Burn him! Burn him!". Arms flailing and eyes flashing fluorescent green, the puppet groaned and wailed as  school-aged "gloomies" taunted him and offered up personal troubles written by participants. The fire dancer in her red-sequined jump suit teased Mr. Gloom with her seductive moves. 

Police tossed beachballs to the crowd adding more anger and excitement to the reigning effigy. "Burn him! Burn him!",  cried the crowd until finally, no longer able to contain himself . . .

Old Man Gloom blew up. Lit from within, fireworks exploded igniting the flames. The fire grew, cackling and spitting. Zozobra moaned and flailed. His head rolled. The crowd cheered. And then... Old Man Gloom was gone. Banished for another year. 

The ritual burning of Zozobra , Old Man Gloom, started in 1924 when Santa Fe marionette maker, Gustave Bauman teamed up with artist Will Schuster to create the first effigy. The puppet has grown from its original height from 6 feet to 60 feet tall. The event kicks off Fiestas in Santa Fe, the annual celebration marking the Spanish re-taking of Santa Fe from the Pueblo tribes in 1692. 

Interestingly enough, Burning Man Festival in Arizona was happening at the same time. Researching the beginning of that festival I learned they had similar roots - a couple of guys independently decided to build an effigy and burn him on the beach in San Francisco. From that another annual event grew to become one of the most well know arts events in the world. 

The archetypal root is not difficult to imagine; with the onset of autumn with winter darkness approaching who can think of a better way to offset the dread of winter than to banish gloom with burning hot flames? 

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