Friday, September 11, 2009

Old Man Gloom Dispatched by Fire and Ceremony


Sparkus Illuminus (the Honorable and Exalted), the  berobed, besceptered man on the stage is holding court:

"Santa Fe, it's time to consider the fate of Old Man Gloom:

  • Zozobra, for being a hideous 50-foot bogeyman who scares the innocent children of Santa Fe;
  • Zozobra, for being a menace and making our dogs howl at the moon;
  • Zozobra, for haunting our dreams and upsetting our peaceful way of life;
I ask the citizens of Santa Fe:
  • Shall we now send Zozobra to a fiery death?
  • Shall we burn him?"
The mob of 20,000 gathered at Fort Marcy Park, comprised of upstanding Santa Fe citizens, visitors from New York, Oklahoma City, and Albuquerque, young parents holding their toddlers on their shoulders, white-haired seniors, teens (LOTS of teens), Dems, Greens, and Republicans--roar in unison, "BURN 'IM!!!"

It's unanimous.  Sparkus Illuminus proclaims Zozobra's fate:
  • "I declare that on this evening, September 10, 2009, that Zozobra, otherwise known as Old Man Gloom, shall be dispatched by appropriate fire and ceremony.
  • With the execution of Zozobra, we release all anxiety, suffering, heartache, and gloom of our fair city.
  • Bring on the Glooms and Firedancers!
Zozobra's fate is sealed.  The Glooms (ghostly, sheet-wearing schoolchildren) and Firedancers in red costumes, bearing torches, solemnly proceed to the platform.   At 9:00 on an evening in early September, Zozobra, a towering paper marionette, is consumed in flames to the delight of our people.  For an evening, we watch our troubles go up in smoke. 

In past years I have written notes about a particular personal trouble I wanted to release.  I have deposited that note in the Gloom Box (the contents of which are burned with Zozobra), along with other people's divorce papers, bankruptcy papers, mortgage notes, medical diagnoses--you name it--and felt the thrill of seeing all things troubling from the past year reduced to a puff of smoke, a spectacle of fireworks.

There's a time to let things go, to get over it already, to move on.   Other troubles await us, but for now: Viva la Fiesta!




(The video is from a TV station in Albuquerque.  You can't fast-forward through the opening commercial.  But once you get to the Zozobra coverage, you can fast-forward through segments.  If this ritual interests you, you might want to do that, to see the sentencing of Zozobra, some of the firedancing, some of the burning, some of the pyrotechnics.  I'll warn you though.  It's nothing like being here in person.)

60 comments:

B.T.Bear (esq.) said...

WAt the?

San said...

Bob, Zozobra is one of the many justifications for our city's nickname, The City Different. This has been happening for 85 years now.

Daryl said...

Seems like a wonderful custom ... and there's nothing more cleansing than fire ..

chewy said...

Ours is the City of Homes... keep the matches away!

San said...

Daryl, it's a custom I cherish.

San said...

Chewy, I didn't know you lived in the City of Homes. Hide the matches is right.

ellen abbott said...

What a great ritual.

San said...

Like none other, Ellen.

Lori Skoog said...

OUtrageous! What an experience for your city. I would love to know more about the construction of Old Man Gloom....85 years.

San said...

Lori, if I had the time, I could devote several posts to the construction of Zozobra, the history of Zozobra, my personal experiences with Zozobra. There is an official Zozobra site: zozobra.com. There you will find photos of Zozobra through the years, his origin, etc. And at youtube, if you search him, you will find a video about his construction.

Kim said...

Oh those Santa Fe-ians know a thing or two about letting go of problems. Thanks for showing us how important it is for a whole city to collectively allow issues to go up in flames! I am fond of that culture you have out there!

San said...

Kim, it's a ritual after your own heart. I should have mentioned it was created by an artist.

SandyCarlson said...

That really is great drama. Just lovely.

San said...

And HIGH drama at that, Sandy.

Maggie May said...

What an unusual post. A truly awesome sight.

San said...

Maggie, I live in an unusual place.

:)

sukipoet said...

I HAVE been there in person to see Zozobra burn. My first Santa Fe trip. Wow.

self taught artist said...

again..sometimes i never know what to think or say when you post. just want you to know i've read it. anything i add would just be stupid. you are a blogging goddess

San said...

Wow, Suki, you know what it's like! Fantastic!

San said...

Paula, all I know to say is: You, my friend, are a commenting goddess. A goddess of support.

Sometimes Saintly Nick said...

Thank you, San, for posting this. The only video of the fiesta that I've seen before this one began only after Zozobra was ablaze. I appreciate seeing so much more of the fiesta and I especially appreciate your words explaining the ritual/fiesta. Perhaps I need to make a Zozobra and fill a Gloom Box and burn them!

Blessings, my dear friend.

Raven said...

What a fantastic ritual and powerful done on such a massive scale. Very cool.

~Babs said...

POOF!
I too have borne witness.
Magical place your Sante Fe.
If I had it to do over again, I'd have been born there.
:-)

San said...

Nick, it's good to see you here. I believe we all need a Gloom Box sometimes. And a bonfire.

Blessings to you, friend.

San said...

Raven, the massive scale does elevate the coolness quotient.

:-D

San said...

Well, Babs, the next best thing is to move here. Like I did.

;)

C.M. Jackson said...

San--brilliant!! I am returning from a sojourn in red rock country--so I wrote the post before I left-I truly think it is just one more thing that makes Sante Fe special-

best-c

Karen said...

In all my years of living in Santa Fe I only saw Zozobra burn once! Fiesta days were hard working days as the town numbers swelled and what I saw of fiesta was from ducking and twisting my way through the Plaza to Rauls resturant where I worked days and again off to the Bourbon and Blues which was more like play then work...oh I remember it well! Thanks for the peek at it now!

Shrinky said...

What a wonderful custom! I have a similar ritual.. I take a note book to the river, scribble my woes down, tear out the page, and away it floats (the ink melts and bleeds as it goes). Works for me!

Lee said...

What a wonderful way to bring hope to an entire community! And what a wonderful post to wake up to! Thank you San! When I first saw this I was thinking "was this burning man?" but you guys seem to have your own unique culture. What a wonderful city you live in, so culturally rich and exhuberant!

Love,
Lee

Jeanne said...

That is great. Very cleansing I'm sure. Wish we had that here I could use to cleanse some thoughts.

murat11 said...

Burning Man, without the desert winds and sands (and some of its other delirium). Kind of spooky, the sounds of Zozobra's growling howls - the kind of howling fear all our glooms and despairs hope to inspire in us, so we'll give them yet another day/week/year to live on in us.

San said...

CM, I could do with a sojourn in red rock country myself. That sounds great.

San said...

Karen, our gallery is downtown and I completely understand the fact of working the hardest when town is full. The one week that isn't true for us is Fiestas week. We try to find time to play too. These days certain restaurants close early for Zozobra. But some have to be open for the multitudes!

San said...

Shrinky, that is a lovely ritual, so perfect for a person (such as you) to whom words are crucial, and so fitting in that water-drenched place you live. Seeing the words bleed and vanish--YES.

San said...

Lee, the exuberance factor is really special, and that Zozobra is for families, all generations.

I know you would love it. Maybe you can visit some time and partake!

San said...

Well, Jeanne, why not buy some sage and burn it and smudge yourself? Or write the thoughts down and burn the paper? Or visit Santa Fe next year?

:-D

San said...

Paschal, you listened to the moans and groans! And you understood their sneaky ways. You are a perceptive man.

Carol said...

Wow! What an awesome community! It must be powerful to experience that with so many others.

(I know that, as a little kid, I would have been scared to death! - but then I was afraid of snowmen...)

Jeff B said...

B-E-A-U-T-I-F-U-L

Blue Sky Dreaming said...

How magical and even more magical to play this out as a community! Sigh, it is done!

San said...

Carol, as a little kid I was scared of circus clowns, so I'm sure Old Man Gloom would have been absolutely terrifying.

I've also heard a little kid in the crowd say she "felt sorry" for Zozobra.

San said...

Jeff, Y-E-S.

San said...

Mary Ann, yes, I believe the community aspect is the most magical quality of the event.

Sparkling Red said...

Woah, that thing was freaky! Especially with all the scary growling. I believe you when you say it was really something to be there in person. Those images really make an impact.

San said...

Spark, freaky's a good word here.

;)

Thumbelina said...

Well, that I did't expect! Hope you had a great evening.

The Things We Carried said...

I have never heard of this. But how lovely to burn the stuff you want gone!

Celebration of Life said...

Very funny blog, San!

Poetic Artist said...

What a wonderful ritual. A time of letting go..Everyone needs a time of letting go and I think you guys are caring on a wonderful tradition.
Katelen

San said...

And Thumbelina, I didn't expect you here. I hope this means you're back to blogging!

San said...

The Things We Carried, yes, it's something we all need to do.

San said...

Jo, good to see you around these parts!

San said...

Katelen, you're right. We all need to let go. There's a time.

Lynette said...

What an amazing event and I can only imagine the excitement of being there in person, wow!

Nishant said...

like a wonderful custom ... and there's nothing more cleansing than fire.
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indicaspecies said...

I am here after a long time San, please accept my belated birthday wishes.:)

This post, as always, brought a smile at this end, as it reminded me of Dussehra festival time when ceremonies are held across India in varying forms including the burning of effigies in celebration of the triump of Good over Evil. Viva la Fiesta!

Nomad said...

i am going to have nightmares from this thing now.

Anonymous said...

And variants are possible still?

Anonymous said...

What remarkable topic