This Thursday, September 6th, city of Santa Fe, NM will be burning the 49‘ animated human figure Zozobra (aka Old Man Gloom), at the beginning of Fiestas de Santa Fe, a festival that has been celebrated in Santa Fe since 1712. Zozobra is a creation of Santa Fe artist Will Shuster who added the sculpture to the Fiesta in 1924 and in 1963 the Kiwanis Club of Santa Fe made it their main annual fundraiser. Zozobra is burned each year to help to dispell the troubles of the previous year.
Shuster constructed the figure of Zozobra until 1964, when he gave his detailed model to the Kiwanis Club to continue the tradition. Over the years the effigy has grown larger, reaching a height of 49 feet in 2001. Zozobra is a well crafted framework of preplanned and pre-cut sticks, covered with chicken wire and yards of muslin. It is stuffed with bushels of shredded paper, which traditionally includes obsolete police reports, paid off mortgage papers, and even personal divorce papers.
Many believe that both Zozobra and the 1973 film “The Wicker Man” were major influences on Burning Man. On the Burning Man website they deny the connection to Wicker Man, but make no reference to Zozobra either way.