Wicker Man

The Wicker Man was a large wicker statue of a human allegedly used by the ancient Druids for human sacrifice by burning it in effigy, according to Julius Caesar in his "Commentarii de Bello Gallico" ("Commentary on the Gallic Wars"). [Caesar, Julius; Hammond, Carolyn (translator) (1998). "The Gallic War". "The Gallic War", p. 128. ISBN 0-19-283582-3.] In modern times the figure has been adopted for festivals as part of some neopagan-themed ceremonies, [ [http://www.gallica.co.uk/celts/wickerman.htm Wicker-Man: The Burning Question] . Retrieved October 23, 2006.] notably without the human sacrifice element.

Wicker Man in history

While other Roman writers of the time described human sacrifice among the Celts, [Cicero, Suetonius, Lucan, Tacitus, and Pliny the Elder refer to Celtic human sacrifice.] there is no other evidence for the use of the wicker man beyond Caesar's account. He mentions it as only one way the Druids of Gaul performed sacrifices, and does not claim to have witnessed it for himself. He says some of the Gauls build the effigies out of sticks and place living men inside, then set them on fire to pay tribute to the gods. Though the Druids generally used thieves and criminals, says Caesar, as they pleased the gods more, they sometimes used innocent men when no delinquents could be found. Caesar's words are looked on with skepticism by some Who|date=August 2008 scholars, who claim a lack of corroborating evidence and point out that the general, as the leader of the Gauls' enemies, may have just been repeating a sensationalistic rumor as propaganda to encourage his supporters back home.dubious|date=August 2008

The Wicker Man today

Today, a wicker man is burned as part of neopagan festivities, especially Beltane, a rite of spring. Wicker men are tall, humanoid wooden structures, woven from flexible sticks such as those of willow as used in wicker furniture and fencing. The Wickerman Festival is an annual rock and dance music event that takes place in Kirkcudbrightshire, Scotland; its main feature is the burning of a large wooden effigy on the last night. Similarly, a Wicker Man is burned each year at Butser Ancient Farm in Hampshire, England, and the American Burning Man festival features a large burnable man as well.

Perhaps the use of the effigy that is most prominent in modern culture is the 1973 British horror film "The Wicker Man", directed by Robin Hardy. The film tells the story of a devout Christian policeman played by Edward Woodward who uncovers the malevolent secrets of a pagan cult on a remote Scottish island. An American remake of the film produced by Boaz Davidson and starring Nicolas Cage was released in 2006 with the story being set on a private island in Puget Sound, Washington. The set for Iron Maiden's 2000 "Brave New World" tour featured a large mechanical wicker man as part of the special effects as a reference to their song "The Wicker Man", based on the 1973 film.


External links

*"Caesar's Gallic War"- "De Bello Gallico", English translation by W. A. McDevitte and W. S. Bohn (1869); Latin text edition, from the Perseus Project [http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/ptext?lookup=Caes.+Gal.+toc]
* [http://onlinebooks.library.upenn.edu/webbin/gutbook/lookup?num=3623 Project Gutenberg text for Frazer's The Golden Bough]

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