The Null Device


The Gävle Goat, a huge decorative straw goat erected in the town square of the city of Gävle, Sweden, every year before Christmas, has been burned for the first time in five years; a man was arrested on suspicion of arson.

The goat's recent 4-year span of surviving unscathed is an anomaly, with it having been destroyed by fire (usually deliberately lit) most years since the first Gävle Goat was erected in 1966, one time by assailants equipped with fire arrows and dressed as Santa Claus and a gang of gingerbread men, and another time by a confused American tourist who believed that burning the goat was a respected local tradition (he was only half right). In recent years, goat-burning has taken on the patina of a sort of antisocial cultural phenomenon, celebrated in song (1, 2). A documentary on the goat interviewed ordinary townsfolk who were fond of it, and a hooded figure purporting to speak for a neo-pagan underground of goatburners seeking to strike a blow against the Christian faith. Which may exist, and/or may be merely an epiphenomenon of small-town boredom, alcohol and the drive to rationalise one's actions to imbue them with meaning.

It does appear that burning the Gävle goat has its fans, so perhaps a compromise could be found. Currently, the goat is erected in late November or early December, and dismantled sometime in the new year, its constituent straw presumably finding its way into a waste incinerator, as does most refuse in Sweden. Perhaps, instead of this anticlimactic ending, the desire to see the goat burn could be officially sanctioned, with the goat's period in the town square culminating in a massive in situ bonfire. There would be musical entertainment and a general carnival atmosphere; a minor celebrity, perhaps a local radio DJ or former pop star, could act as compère. Then, at the given hour, the goat would be set alight, each year by a novel means. Fire arrows, kamikaze drones, possibly even a Wintergatan-style Rube Goldberg machine, and so, the cycle of death and rebirth would be completed for another year.

crime gävle goat gävlebocken paganism sweden 0