The Best of Burning Man Series: Conclusion… Things That Burn

The Man goes to his fiery demise. Like the Phoenix, he will be back next year.

The Man goes to his fiery demise. Like the Phoenix, he will rise again.

At an event called Burning Man, you would expect to see the Man burn. And he does— in a spectacular fashion. It is almost worth the price of a ticket itself. But the Man is only one of many things that burn, including the Temple.

As to why they are burned, my understanding is that the burns represent the impermanence of life; don’t get attached to worldly goods. The Man goes beyond this, however, and behaves like the Phoenix. He goes up in flames at the end of Burning Man and is born again the next year. Hmmm.

Burning the Temple also has an extended meaning. The thousands of messages left for loved ones who have passed on go up in flames and are released to the heavens.

Beyond these reasons, there is a certain beauty and danger to fire that draws us to it like moths to flame. Great drama accompanies burns. Small fires grow to conflagrations. Mini-tornadoes whirl off like dancing dervishes. Burners hold their breath waiting for structures to crash to the ground. Shiva is at work.

Fireworks often accompany the burns and a whole show (including hundreds of fire dancers and drummers) accompanies the burning of the Man.

The Man, with arms raised, welcomes Burners to the night of his burn.

The Man, with arms raised, welcomes Burners to the night of his burn.

A fireworks show always precedes and often accompanies the burning of the Man. You'd think you were at a Fourth of July show.

A fireworks show always precedes and often accompanies the burning of the Man. You’d think it was Fourth of July.

Yoohoo!

Yoo-hoo!

Sometimes the Man burns quickly. Other times he may take an hour or longer.

Sometimes the Man burns quickly. Other times he may take an hour or longer.

As the end approaches, Burners wait expectantly and raise their arms in salute. The mutant vehicle, El Pulpo Mechanico looks on.

As the end approaches, Burners wait expectantly and raise their arms in salute. The mutant vehicle, El Pulpo Mechanico, looks on.

Many things burn at Burning Man. Here it was Kokopelli. He seemed to be playing his flute to the fire.

Many things burn at Burning Man. In 2012 the New Mexico regional Burning Man group brought Kokopelli to the Playa. He seemed to be celebrating the flames with his flute. Thoughts of Nero fiddling while Rome burned come to mind.

The New Orleans regional group brought an effigy of the Baby King that shows up in cakes at Mardi Gras time.

The New Orleans regional group brought an effigy of the Baby King that shows up in cakes at Mardi Gras time.

And Lithuanian Burners added a bird sculpture.

And Lithuanian Burners added a bird sculpture.

Fires start small.

Fires start small.

Turn into conflagrations.

Turn into conflagrations. (A pair of firemen get a close up view.)

And send dust devils whirling off.

And send dust devils whirling off.

The Temple burns on Sunday Night. Unlike the Burning of the Man which is a bit on the rowdy side, Burners watch silently and respectfully as the Temple Burns.

The Temple burns on Sunday night. Unlike the Burning of the Man, which can be a bit on the rowdy side, Burners watch silently and respectfully as the Temple burns. NEXT BLOG: I am off to Portland this weekend for the Press-Publish conference of Word Press. I will report on the event next week.

29 comments on “The Best of Burning Man Series: Conclusion… Things That Burn

  1. One of the most interesting things about my response to Burning Man is how ambivalent I am. Sometimes, I think, “That would be a great event to attend!” Other times I think differently. But I must say — it’s one of the best combinations of weird, impressive, kitschy and just plain out-there I’ve ever seen. Great series.

    • All of the above, Linda. 🙂 And thanks. There is no doubt that it transports people into another world. The most impressive aspect of the event is how it unleashes creativity. There are a number of other positives. And there are several aspects that hold little interest to me, the extensive partying, for example. –Curt

  2. Boy, your pictures really transport us there. The images are beautiful, yet disturbing. Mesmerizing… I can only imagine what it must be like to be there in person. You captured it all beautifully.

    • Surreal at times and magical. It can also be something of a marathon getting through the week. Photos capture the event better than words, and, of course, nothing matches being there. Thank you. –Curt

    • Yes I am sure Dante would, Gerard. 🙂 Sometimes when I wander lost through the streets of Black Rock City late at night and encounter fire breathing dragons and all sorts of strange creatures, I can empathize with Dante’s journey. –Curt

  3. Wow! I love all of these. We know exactly what that little baby in the King Cake means, so what a natural that the folks from New Orleans would bring that. And how interesting it is that the burning of the temple is less rowdy and almost quiet compared to the burning of the man. This whole thing is fascinating, and I wouldn’t have known anything if it hadn’t been for this series Thanks so much!

  4. Really surprised to see these pics…here in India we too have a burning ceremony where big statues of Ravana are burned on a festival called Dussehra…nice pics 🙂

  5. I’m sure some sociology grad student has done a dissertation on what draws people to this–what cultural impulses it taps into. If not, it seems to me it’s just begging to be done.

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