Rituals have grown up around the burning of the Man that date back to the day when he was first burned in San Francisco on Baker Beach in 1986. He was probably soaked in kerosene and lit by a match, although I don’t know that. I do know that white gas, which I occasionally use to start campfires with when the wood is wet, has a little too much poof, like BOOM.
The days of lighting the Man with a match have long since passed, however. Now it is much more akin to preparation for the Olympics where eleven Greek women representing Vestal Virgins focus the suns rays using a parabolic mirror to create the fire that is then transferred to the Olympic Torch. The tradition dates all of the way back to classical Greece and Rome, although I doubt virginity is still a requirement.
A parabolic mirror is also used to light the fire for Burning Man. The fire is started on Monday and then maintained throughout the week in front of Center Camp until Saturday night. We watched this year as four women wearing white, carrying torches, and perching on stilts led a solemn parade that carried the flame out to the Man.
Once the parade has arrived, the fire dance starts as hundreds of dancers arrayed around the Man twirl fire in every possible way. Musicians ranging from bongo drummers to marching bands provide the rhythm. Next comes a very impressive fireworks display, and finally, the Man burns.
NEXT POST: Burning Man 2013 wrap up.