No matter who you are, where you live or what you look like, there is one place in which you are always welcome- Burning Man festival, in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert. Once a year for a week, thousands of people come here to build a temporary city dedicated to “community, art, self-expression, and self-reliance”. As August comes to an end and September rolls around, we decided to dedicate this month’s World Celebrations blog post to this event.
How it all started
The festival started in 1986 as a small bonfire ritual created by Larry Harvey and Jerry James. With a few of their friends, Larry and Jerry got together at a beach in San Francisco and burned two wooden statues- a man and a dog, describing the action as “a spontaneous act of radical self-expression". The function later became a yearly tradition, however, in 1990, because of legal reasons, the event was moved to the dry lake, The Playa in the Black Rock Desert. Over time it grew in popularity and became one of the world’s most popular festivals.
The 10 principals of Burning Man
Even though Burning Man is seen as a festival that gives people the rare opportunity to feel completely free of social norms and expectations, there are ten rules that should be obeyed:
Everybody is welcome and accepted at burning man.
The tradition of giving has been around at burning man since its beginnings. It used to be a way of creating an economy based on trading goods, but now the festival encourages the acts unconditional gifting.
Money transactions aren’t allowed between burning man attendees. You can only use money for some services, charities and cafes.
Because of the remote location and limited resources at burning man, the organizers require participants to come to the event fully prepared and self-sufficient.
This is one of the most important principles, because it is what burning man stands for. You are supposed to be yourself here in any way, shape or form, and accept others for unapologetically being themselves. “It [self-expression] is offered as a gift to others, the giver should respect the rights and liberties of the recipient.”
People who attend burning man are encouraged to help create, protect and promote art as well as public spaces.
If you were to organize any kind of event at Burning Man you must respect local, state and federal laws and guarantee the safety of people taking part.
Leaving No Trace
This rule is one that is very strictly respected; it means that you are not allowed to leave any trash behind.
If you participate, you should take part in all events, instead of just observing. Everyone is welcome and invited to every activity, which gives the festival a heart-warming aura.
“We seek to overcome barriers that stand between us and a recognition of our inner selves, the reality of those around us, participation in society, and contact with a natural world exceeding human powers.”
Language of Burning Man
Over the course of over 30 years of Burning Man’s existence, the festival has gained its own glossary that can be found on its website. Here are some of the words/phrases commonly used at the festival:
Spiralling, tornado-like dust plumes that traverse the playa, produced by wind and thermal phenomena. It is a traditional belief of the Paiute people that these plumes represent the spirits of their ancestors.
One who pursues a way of life based on the values reflected in the Ten Principles of Burning Man.
The annual process of collecting unused supplies from departing participants for use by the event crew during teardown and clean up.
Derogatory term for a participant who fails to embrace the principle of radical self-reliance, and is overly reliant on the resources of others.
The uniform sheen on the surface of any object which has been on the Black Rock Desert for more than an hour.
Many people claim that the main reason for which the event has so many fans both in the United States and worldwide, is unexplainable for someone who has never attended the festival. There is something magical in spending a week in almost complete freedom, that many have described as life changing. Have a great Burning Man!