A 1676 engraving
A Wicker Man was a large wicker statue of a human used by the ancient Druids (priests of Celtic paganism) for human sacrifice by burning it in effigy, according to Julius Caesar in his Commentarii de Bello Gallico (Commentary on the Gallic War). While other Roman writers of the time, such as Cicero, Suetonius, Lucan, Tacitus and Pliny the Elder, described human sacrifice among the Celts, only Caesar and the geographer Strabo mention the wicker man as one of many ways the Druids of Gaul performed sacrifices. Caesar reports that some of the Gauls built the effigies out of sticks and placed living men inside, then set them on fire to pay tribute to the gods. Caesar writes that though the Druids generally used thieves and criminals, as they pleased the gods more, they sometimes used innocent men when no delinquents could be found. One medieval commentary, the 10th-century Commenta Bernensia, states that men were burned in a wooden manikin in sacrifice to Taranis.
poster and still from 1973 movie
In the modern world, wicker men are used for various events. The figure has been adopted for festivals as part of some neopagan-themed ceremonies, without the human sacrifice element. Effigies of this kind have also been used as elements in performance art, as display features at rock music festivals, as thematic material in songs, and as the focal point of a cult British horror/mystery film, The Wicker Man (1973) starring Christopher Lee. Much of the prominence of the wicker man in modern popular culture and the wide general awareness of the wicker man as structure and concept is attributable to this film. A remake of this film was released in 2006, starring Nicolas Cage.
poster of the 2006 movie