An effigy is a representation of a specific person, especially in the form of sculpture or some other three-dimensional medium. Effigies are common elements of funerary art, especially as a recumbent effigy (in a lying position) in stone or metal placed on a tomb.
Figures damaged, destroyed or paraded in order to harm the person represented by magical means, or merely to insult them or their memory are also called effigies. The best known British example is the burning of an effigy made of straw and/or old clothing depicting the 17th century Catholic conspirator, Guy Fawkes. In the past, criminals sentenced to death in absentia might be officially executed "in effigy" as a symbolic act. In southern India, effigies of the demon-king Ravana from the epic poem the Ramayana are traditionally burnt during the festival of Navrati.
In many parts of the world there are traditions of large caricature effigies of political or other figures carried on floats in parades at festivals. Political effigies serve a broadly similar purpose on political demonstrations or annual community rituals such as that held in Lewes, on the south coast of England. In Lewes, models of important or unpopular figures in current affairs are burned on Bonfire Night, formerly alongside an effigy of the Pope.
The word comes from the Latin, and originally was used in the plural only—even a single image was "the effigies of ...". The word occurs in Shakespeare's As You Like It of 1600 (II, vii, 193), though it first appears in 1539. "In effigie" was probably understood as a Latin phrase until the 18th century.
The term gisant (French, "recumbent") is associated with the full-length effigies of a deceased person depicted in stone or wood on church monuments. These most often lie on their backs, with hands together in prayer, but may also be kneeling in prayer or even standing. Effigies may also be (half) demi-figures and the term is occasionally used to refer to busts.
The Marzanna ritual represents the end of the dark days of winter, the victory over death, and the welcoming of the spring rebirth. Marzanna is a Slavic goddess of death, associated with winter. The rite involves burning a female straw effigy or drowning it in a river, or both. It is a folk custom in Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic, taking place on the day of the vernal equinox.
See also 
- OED; "Effigy"
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