I happened upon this miniature version ofthe legendary Zozobra in the lobby of the Hotel St. Francis in Santa Fe.
According to the official “All about Zozobra” site, Zozobra, “also known as Old Man Gloom (OMG),” was created by local artist William Howard Shuster, Jr., in 1924 and became part of the annual Fiestas de Santa Fe starting in 1926.
Made of muslin and stuffed with shredded paper, Zozobra is an eerie, groaning, flailing character who appears to be part ghost and part monster.
Amid fireworks and the ceremonial dances of ghosts and fire a growling Zozobra is set ablaze and it is said as the fire consumes the beast so go the feelings of gloom and doom from the past year.
[Howard] was inspired by the Holy Week celebrations of the Yaqui Indians of Mexico, where an effigy of Judas, filled with firecrackers, is led around the village on a donkey, and ultimately set afire. Shuster and his friend, E. Dana Johnson, a local newspaper editor, came up with the name Zozobra, which was defined as: “anguish, anxiety, gloom,” or Spanish for “the gloomy one.”