On Thursday, September 6, the City of Santa Fe, NM, hosted the annual “Burning of Zozobra.” Zozobra is a fifty-foot-tall bogeyman, Old Man Gloom in effigy. Each year he is set before an audience of thousands and burned. (Burn, baby, burn!) Most onlookers are ecstatic to see him go; others feel sorry for him in the end.
The ritual was started by artist William (Will) Howard Shuster, Jr. in 1924 and incorporated into the almost 300-year-old Fiestas de Santa Fe. According to the “Will Shuster’s Zozobra” website, Shuster’s “inspiration for Zozobra came from the Holy Week celebrations of the Yaqui Indians of Mexico; an effigy of Judas, filled with firecrackers, was led around the village on a donkey and later burned. Shuster and E. Dana Johnson, a newspaper editor and friend of Shuster’s came up with the name Zozobra, which was defined as ‘anguish, anxiety, gloom’ or in Spanish for ‘the gloomy one’.”
Watch the two-part documentary of the 2005 burning made by producer, director, and writer DL Fitch. You can decide for yourself what you think about the ritual. No matter how you feel, you’ll probably agree that the notion of releasing gloom — letting go of heartache and jealousy, giving up anger — is a powerful intention.
Again from the website, there is this quote from A.W. Denninger:
Zozobra is a hideous but harmless fifty-foot bogeyman marionette. He is a toothless, empty-headed facade. He has no guts and doesn’t have a leg to stand on. He is full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. He never wins. He moans and groans, rolls his eyes and twists his head. His mouth gapes and chomps. His arms flail about in frustration. Every year we do him in. We string him up and burn him down in ablaze of fireworks. At last, he is gone, taking with him all our troubles for another whole year.
For this writing topic, watch the videos. Then do a 15-minute writing practice starting with the words, “I want to let go of… .”