The largest and most obvious ritual in this film is the ending scenes where the island people and Howie move toward the location for the sacrifice. They all dressed up in specific costumes. The regular townspeople all wore animal masks.
The more important figures like the Mayor wore costumes that symbolized figures in their ritual.
On the right we see Howie dressed as the Fool in the ritual. As the procession goes on they stop and have 6 men with swords interlock their swords together and make a sort of guillotine in the shape of a star.
This shape is likely symbolic of the Wicca star. The patrons of the ritual move their heads into the swords one by one almost like a trial with failure meaning decapitation.
Everyone moves through and eventually we move to another location. There we find Rowan tied to a pole. Officer Howie acts fast and free her. They both run off with Howie following Rowan. Rowan actually leads Howie into being cornered by the island people. The Mayor explains that this was all a trick to get Howie into coming there voluntarily for them to sacrifice him. From there they brake Howie’s knees and carry him to “The Wicker Man.” Here, the lock him inside and set it on fire while they sing.
One really odd scene that came up was when Officer Howie went to go look around the old destroyed church and found a woman breastfeeding a child and holding an egg in her hand.
My first thought is that this has to do with something about fertility although I’m not sure what. I looked up meanings behind eggs and found that they may represent growth and new beginnings. This interpretation would make sense. The island people wanted to sacrifice Howie in order to appease the sun god to bless their crops so that they will grow again. I take what the woman is doing is in a way a message to Howie that he will be involved in some kind of growth.
Egg information received from: https://crystal-cure.com/easter-eggs.html
After Howie became very suspicious of the island people and discovered that they planned to sacrifice Rowan to appease their god he went to the inn so he could sleep and think of a way to stop them. While he was in bed, Willow and the innkeeper came in and set a dismembered hand on a mantle and lit the finger tips on fire. From what they said it would keep him asleep for a long time.
Howie actually heard what they said and as soon as they had left the room he turned over and put out the fire. This scene was so odd and I’m curious about couple things. Did they really want him to sleep? The whole thing was a trick in order to get him to come to the area that they planned to sacrifice him, so why would they want him to sleep for so long? My second question is what was their rationale for thinking that this burning hand would keep him sleeping? What kind of ritual is this?
Upon researching this I found that this ritual is called the “Hand of Glory.” This process involved cutting off the hand of someone who had been hanged, drying the hand, and then pickling it. The hand usually cut off was the left hand as it is perceived as the “evil” one. The hand used in this scene is also the left hand of some one. The old European belief is that using this as a candle would cause anyone it was used on to become motionless.
There was actually a short scene in which we see a dead person with two coins covering their eyes as well as a missing left hand. I couldn’t find and screenshot of this though. I’m curious as to why they killed this person if they don’t believe in murder. I will update this if i find a screenshot of this scene.
Hand of Glory Information Received From: http://www.pitt.edu/~dash/hand.html
During the film, Officer Howie had lived in a room at “The Green Man Inn”
I wondered if this had any significance and why they used the color green. I felt it had to have some meaning because the camera zoomed in on the sign. My first thought was that since green is often associated with nature and plants and because the island people believe that no one dies, only that their spirits live on in nature, this made sense that they would call it the “Green Man Inn.” After researching any pagan meanings behind the color green I found that it is a symbol of fertility, another common topic in this film. We see pregnant women walking through blossoming trees and young women doing rituals praying to be fertile.
Paganism information received from: http://www.colormatters.com/the-meanings-of-colors/green
In the beginning of the film, Howie goes out for a walk at night and finds many couples there having sex. He also notices there is one woman naked and crying over a tombstone, likely her partner before he died. Howie is disturbed and confused by what they are all doing so he heads back to the inn to sleep. While in bed, Willow, the innkeeper’s daughter is in the next room singing and tempting Howie to come in and have sex, Howie resists though and eventually goes to sleep.
Later in the film when Howie goes to meet Lord Summerisle, he see’s several young girl singing, naked, and jumping over a fire. When researching any meaning behind this, I found that in some forms of Paganism, there is no conduct of what’s inappropriate in terms of sex. All that matters in consent and they believe that you can do whatever you want to do. But now I’m wondering why Howie’s resistance to Willow qualified him as a sacrifice? At the end when he questions why he is being sacrificed, Willow calls him pure because he didn’t want to cheat on his fiance and have sex out of marriage. I thought to them it shouldn’t matter because they believe that nothing about sex is wrong, but they still call him a pure sacrifice.
In the film, the island people have many items depicting hares. At the begging we see a chocolate hare in the candy shop as well as a little girl that is drawing a hare. When Howie says rabbit, he is corrected and told it is a hare, not a rabbit.
We also see a hare later in the film when Howie goes to exhume what he was told is Rowan’s body. When he opens the casket all he finds is a dead hare. When looking at possible explanations and symbolic meanings of hares, I found that there are some Pagan sects that regard hares as a symbol of foolishness or trickery. This ties into them fooling Howie on several occasions like getting him to come to the island to search for Rowan, tricking him into thinking they were going to sacrifice Rowan, and having dress as the fool before the sacrifice.
Hare Information Received From: http://homepages.uwp.edu/martinm0/Spring2007/167/symbolism_of_rabbits_and_har.htm
At the end of the film when the island people were preparing to sacrifice Howie to their sun God, I noticed that the wind pushed Lord Summersile’s hair into a certain shape which looked very similar to their depiction of the sun God. The hair fans out around his face like the streaks faning out around the sun. This could symbolize him playing God in this scenario by sacrificing Howie.
In the film, one of the school teachers explains to Howie that they do not use the term “dead” as they do not believe anyone truly dies, only that when their human life ends their spirit life continues on in nature such as plants or animals When Howie visits what is like their graveyard, he finds young trees planted on all the graves. This symbolizes the concept of new life coming from the human body’s death.
“The Wicker Man” follows to story of a Scottish police officer, Howie Woodward, who is investigating the reported disappearance of a young girl, Rowan Morrison, on the pagan island of Summersile. While on the island the officer finds the people to have a heavy focus on sex and symbolism. The people consistently deny the existence of Rowan but eventually Howie discovers that they plan to sacrifice her to a pagan God so that they may have a good harvest in the coming year. Howie disguises himself and is able to get to Rowan before she is sacrificed. While they escaped rowan actually led Howie into a trap as he was the true sacrifice. The people held the belief that he was the highest sacrifice and planned to burn him in the wicker man, a large person shaped figure made of wicker, from the very beginning. Howie resisted but was subdued, had his legs broken, and burned to death along with some animals in the wicker man.
While watching this film it was very easy to pick up some common themes within it. The themes that I was able to see included rituals, symbolism, and spirituality. The most significant theme I would say is the use of rituals. The whole plot of the movie seemed to be a ritual of the island people.