The Great Grump, The Vinotok Effigy


The sacred sacrifice for greater Earth healing

In our community, one of the most important things the Old Timers wanted to communicate and pass forward was, was that although many of them lived extremely difficult and desperately dangerous lives underground and above ground serving the neverunionized mines at the north end of the Gunnison Valley, they were also courageous, fun-loving and rebellious.

In the old countries, including Slovenia and Croatia, folks created wild, sacrificial effigies, a send-up of a local bigwig, filled with grievances, often about the ruling class. The effigy was was tried and sentenced, banished, hanged, and then for extra good measure – burned.

The Old Timers spoke of this as a practice conducted in the autumn, during a time called “Vinotok,” a word translated from Slovenian meaning “the celebration of the season when the grapes were turned into wine.” In Crested Butte, many of the European cultures competed to see who had laid down the best Zinfandel from the
passing year.

This rowdy festival of feasting, generosity of spirit, polka and folk dancing, and drinking up all of the zinfandel led to the hanging and burning of the Boss Man effigy. It was one of the few revolutionary statements the working people, ruled by the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company, could make, hopefully without being fired. This celebration was also a seasonal reminder that this was the last time of abundance before the first snows and the coming of the long, hard winter. It was a time to remember the profound importance of community commitment to each other and the sharing of great generosity of spirit.

For us, today, the Grump symbolizes all we want to rid ourselves of for the coming year. In its creation are all the angers, resentments, frustrations and disappointments of the past ranging from the personal to the political. Indeed, it is full of the community’s “grumps,” slips of paper with an individual’s pains s/he wants to get rid of, and put into the communal Grump Box. The Great Grump itself, is then stuffed with these boxes. It is everything that does not serve us.

In the Trial of the Grump, as the battle between the primordial Earth Dragon and the technocratic Sir Hapless the Knight wages on, it is decided a sacrifice must be made in order that the Green Man and the Red Lady may live, and a luscious and abundant future may prevail. It is decided through a “trial” that the Grump will become that sacrifice and it is paraded to the Fire Circle, where you stand now, to be burned, and all the community’s
woes collectively transformed, to indeed make way for a brighter, and as local legend has it – snowier – year ahead.