Zozobra (Old Man Gloom)
Zozobra is staged each year by the Kiwanis Club of Santa Fe, as a fiery and exciting kick-off to the annual Fiestas de Santa Fe, during the first weekend in September, following Labor Day. Thursday evening, at dusk, the popular Zozobra event takes place at Fort Marcy Park, located just a few blocks from the historic Santa Fe Plaza. This is the annual ceremony of the burning of Old Man Gloom.
Zozobra, the inspiration of artist Will Shuster, was introduced as part of the Fiesta events in 1926. Old Man Gloom first appeared as a six-foot puppet, but the Zozobra figure has since grown to be over 50 feet tall. Made of muslin and stuffed with shredded paper, Zozobra is an eerie, groaning, flailing character, who looks to be part ghost and part monster.
Amid fireworks and the ceremonial dances of ghosts and fire, Zozobra is set ablaze by torches. As Old Man Gloom burns, it is said that with him go the feelings of gloom and doom from the past year. The sound of the groaning Zozobra can be heard throughout the city and for miles around. (~Jean)
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Definition (fetish): An inanimate object worshiped for its supposed magical powers, or because it is considered to be inhabited by a spirit. Traditionally, Zuni fetishes are small carvings made from various materials by the Zuni Indians of the Southwestern United States. These carvings serve a ceremonial purpose for their creators and depict animals and icons integral to their culture. But as a form of contemporary Native American art, they are sold with non-religious intentions to a growing number of collectors worldwide.
A fetish may be signed by the carver, or not. Often a Zuni carver feels that their own unique style is readily identifiable and that will be enough to identify them. Most carvers come from a centuries-old family tradition, and having learned their skill from parents, grandparents or siblings, have passed the art on to their own children, as well. (~Jean)
NOTE: See our special feature on Native American Zuni Fetishes in Multicultures
Pictured top to bottom: 1} Zozobra is celebrated each year in Santa Fe, New Mexico; 2} Collection of Zuni bear fetishes