Monday, October 11, 2010

Do You Know Zozobra?

Like Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof, I'm all about tradition. I enjoy learning about new customs, odd rituals and unique celebrations of various cultures. So imagine my utter joy to find out that there is pagan puppet burning going on in New Mexico!

If you don't know who Zozobra is, maybe you know him by his other name, "Old Man Gloom." If you still don't know who he is, well, neither did I until alert reader Jordan sent me an article talking about the ritualistic ceremony.

The idea is pretty simple. You take all of your problems, stresses and other glooms and write them down on pieces of paper. You take those pieces of paper and stuff them into a puppet made of wood. Then you burn the puppet. Simple, yes? Well, now take that idea and multiply it by a whole city.

This is Zozobra:

I know! He's huge! In fact, the 2007 Zozobra, measuring 49.11 feet high, holds the Guinness World Record for largest marionette burned in front of thousands of people in the southwestern United States in early autumn. Now that's gotta be a hard record to hold.

All the people in and around Santa Fe, New Mexico can head to the Santa Fe Reporter (a local newspaper office) and drop off slips of paper into the local gloom box. They build the mighty Zozobra (his hair color changes every year) and then they stack all of the papers at Zozobra's feet. Then, the matches are lit and the party is ready to begin.

The burning of Zozobra usually happens the second week in September (in preparation for the Halloween season, obviously). William Howard Shuster, Jr. came up with the Old Man Gloom tradition in 1924. Since then, it has grown both in participation and the size of Zozobra. Today, the burning of Old Man Gloom attracts more than 40,000 people, which is more than most festivities in Santa Fe.

Still don't believe me that Old Man Gloom is a Halloween-related post? Check out this video (also sent in by Jordan - make sure you have the sound on) and tell me it doesn't look like something straight out of a horror movie!

So, faithful readers, if you're stuck on what Halloween costume you're going to wear this year, might I suggest a giant, flaming Zozobra? You'd have to trick or treat pretty fast, though - this costume only lasts about three minutes.

P.S. Hey Zozobra committee? If you need someone to do the voiceover work for Old Man Gloom next year, I'm available. I'm working on my roar.


Sara Ann said...

I want to know what is going on with the little dancing person at the base of Zozobra...

--jeff * said...

dang.... i was amused until i got to the picture of flaming zozobra with those livid eyes. one year, he's going to come alive and kill people.

and, after my first choice of riding an atomic bomb to the ground, being killed by a 40-foot flaming zozobra is definitely the way to go.

The Former 786 said...

Sara Ann, I think they're just entertainment.

shelly said...

I REALLY REALLY want to see this in person!!! REALLY REALLY want to see this!!!
New Mexico, huh? I think I know where I'm going for vacation next September!
Now, if I can just convince my children that this isn't terrifying....