The Burn

Saturday Night
The Burn
A circle of twenty-five thousand people beneath a full moon
Fire cannons roaming the playa
The Man with his arms extended now
No longer passive, he implores us, “Rise Up!”
Three hundred fire dancers in the inner circle
Spinning pots of fire
Leather and stocking-clad fire dancers
Spinning sticks of fire
“Burn Him! Burn the Motherfucker!”
Four fire cannons at once blast out fireballs the size of a Buick
We are aware of the heat
A red rocket high, higher, higher into the sky
A red flare
Softly falling red light on thousands of upturned faces
“Burn Him!”
Bang! Bang! Bang!
Red, white and blue munitions explode over his welcoming arms
And he burns
A hundred foot pillar of flame
Green lasers drawing on the smoke
The roar
Fists in the air
He burns
And from the leeward side of the fire, dust devils start to spin
One, two, three at a time
Whirling winds 3 to 10 foot in diameter and 100 feet tall
Fire lit and alive
Dancing on the playa
Dancing with the master
Flying from the vortex in a ten minute procession
One after another they chase down the moon
We explode
We dance
We drum
And he burns
One arm falls
We roar
The other falls
And he collapses into a pyre
Drawing all of us into his embrace

by Carl Sander

My Most Vivid Image This Year

Monday. A stalwart few of us struggle to finish cleaning camp in 80-90% whiteout.

Dust slices the air in thick waves like airborne dunes. We kick at ragged rows of drifted dust to see what junk might lurk within. Grumpier and grumpier we get, muttering about the clever campmates who snuck off at 1 a.m. after the burn to beat the traffic. What the hell are we doing here, anyway?

Suddenly, a thin, bent guy in a wheelchair comes racing out of the swirling dust. He has the thing cranked up to what must be maximum speed, so fast it totters back and forth as he zips along, head thrown back and tongue slightly out, a grin of utter ecstasy on his face. He appears grinning out of the dust, and a moment later disappears grinning into the dust again.

We stare after him long after the dust has swallowed him up. We imagine how unusual it must be for him to be out here in the elements, able to race his wheelchair as fast as he likes with the wind and dust on his face.

Grins return to our faces as well. Ah yes, that’s what we’re doing out here.

by Jim Gasperini

You Killed Me

Knew who I was for days now
Its all gone away cause you killed me
Now I am shreds of a paper girl
All blown away cause you killed me
Made a new friend with the dust bones
Wrote out my courage with grinding teeth
Queens fell behind and left early
But I stayed for the burn and his love that was true.
I stayed for the burn and you killed me.

Next time my victory’s blowing
The dust storms will send my eyes snowing
From out of my mouth and my laugh and my fist
I will kill you next time, I will take it all back.
Because my six year old girl can’t be shaken
Cause my haunted saloon only houses ghosts now
When there’s nothing not dead you can’t kill me again.

by Scarlet Speakeasy

Blessed by the Dust

WoW! What can I say?

I knew that burning man would change my life, I guess that is why I waited 4 years to attend after first hearing about it.

Our campsite — 7:15 child — was this an indication?

Our trip down from Canada provided many detours and adventures, and the van – the 1978 VW that no one was able to properly fix… this alone tested the relationship – drive for four hours then stop for four hours, from Denver to Black Rock. Thank-you to the person who pull-started us at the gate!

Thursday morning we arrived, the Tall Tales Tea camp already set-up, our friends slowly starting to stir after a night of fun. What did we miss? We tried to get here, really!

I am here, my partner was here last year, so this is the Playa – I think I am starting to get it. Little did I know that the subconscious preparation that had been going on the whole way down was leading up to Friday afternoon! The VW had recently lost the stereo, so the trip down was spent fully present, fully here and now. My partner & I really got into one another. We explored, we pried, we tested.

Thursday was spent setting up another shade structure and getting re-acquainted with the group. Thursday-night we walked around, looking, laughing and playing – all those lights, so many lights. Friday morning 6:00 my partner & I got up, everyone else was still asleep – we took the bikes and rode out into the playa – dust blowing over our bodies, christening us. After riding and seeing nothing for so long we were amazed to see a small shack, a house were dancing took place the night before, there were people sprawled out getting some sleep before the sun became unbearable. At the front of the house there were two cushions with wind blockers behind them, what a perfect place to meditate – so there we sat and sucked up the energy, the sand blowing past, the goggles pressed firmly and the hypnotic state of now. After our bliss we made our way back to the camp, grabbed some friends and went for Yoga – nice…

The day progressed and we found ourselves taking a cool shower, followed by a visit to the VW. What was initially a quick hug turned into a timeless moment where our energies met and someone else thought they would come along for the ride as well. That evening friends of ours committed to each other in the middle of the playa with the group watching and my partner and I strangely joking about the afternoon and what could be. As we sat around under the stars we giggled and hugged and laughed – what a special moment, even if it wasn’t what we thought… The next day was the burn, with the sun going down and the howling starting we put on our burning best and headed off for a night of dancing, mystery and expansion. As I go on and on – my partner goes on and on and the bundle of energy goes on and on… everything so in sync.

Driving back to Canada we talked we shared and remembered the adventure, kept bumping into people that were down for fun… we crossed the border back to Canada on September 10, the winding road of the coast behind us and just a quick jaunt over the and through the mountains and 3 days later we were home. Home with an experience that was fresh and still full of energy, energy that was growing! My partner went to the drug store and came over to my place and confirmed our suspicion and now, what else to do but enjoy and share and be.

Well here I am 9 months to the day sitting at my computer preparing for what might be tonight or early tomorrow morning – amazing what a conscious environment can do to one’s reality.

Name: Luna
Sex: F
Weight: 7. 11
Time: 17:47
Date: May 29th, 2002

A beautiful home birth with beautiful Energy.

I don’t think we will make back down this year, but guaranteed we will be back, and this time with a new experience – is this what they mean by ‘no spectators?’

Peace, Love & Now,
Rob & Lara & Luna

by Rob Sinclair

The Story of the Rolling Mountain of the Black Rock Sibyl of Delphi

It was going to be my sixth year at Burning Man. I wanted a mountain from which to prophesy.

Don Jon DeCles, priest of Apollo, briefed me, and I did a ton of reading on the Sibyls and prophecies and tripods and peplodes (the dress the Statue of Liberty is wearing) and the possible toxic/magic effects of burning (or eating, smoking, inhaling) bay leaves, which are sacred to Apollo (I will never get that smell out of my nose; the smell to me of the Man burning on Saturday night was just like tons more burning bay leaves.) I downloaded Greek art and read plays, and considered iambic hexameter.

My husband built me a wheeled platform, to be powered by walking, with 1×4 mountain bones, about ten feet high; and I stretched canvas and painted snow-peaked mountains, and made a low, curtained door and cut several small cloth-covered windows. I made about four big plastic-covered art collages, sandwich-cardboards, with a little history and commentary on the Delphic and Cumaean traditions of prophecy, in text and pictures (including several good representations of the God), with quotes from Aristophanes and Yeats and Virgil and several of the Sibyls, everything picked to be meaningful to dehydrated, multiply-chemically-enhanced strangers in a blinding dust storm. These boards of course all blew away the first time I took the mountain out onto the playa and gave it to the wind.

The concept was: a slowly moving mountain (propelled by walking, or pulled by ropes), an Oracle inside (with a Toys-R-Us voice-changer), a few simple signs explaining the procedure; they drop something, anything into the Offerings basket, ask any question, and they get, for peanuts, cheap personalized miracles. I was prepped either for ego surrender, to duck low and let the God answer, or, possibly, to fake it, answering people’s questions feverishly, using great books, my wit, and delaying tactics having to do with pointless ritual utterances. I was to have had extensive lights, EL wire and flashers and such, or torch fire, or something, for the nights…..but that was not to be. I was also to have been easily located right near the beachfront, on Infant, near the Temple of Ishtar, and an easy distance from the open playa, so I could walk the mountain daily from my camp out to the playing field…..ha ha, ho ho, the playa laughs.

We rented a 24′ Budget truck, loaded everything we own, and barrels of water, and bikes for everyone we know, and then laid the mountain sideways and slid it up in there. Long cramped trip, eight hours, finally made it.

Once we were over the initial shock at reaching BM, we unloaded the mountain so we could get to our bed, and by Wednesday I had sanctified the space within the mountain, and fitted it out with vines and flowers, a basket for offerings (we took anything, though we mostly got condoms and candy and little toys and p*t) located under a window whose dark cloth was unattached at the bottom, so they could drop things in (but they mostly tried to look at me through it), a roof of cloth (oh yes, whew), some inspiring words and pictures, a canteen of consecrated water from our spring, and a bottle of ordinary drinking water, both clearly marked (but from the same spring.)

I also had several “crib” books, chosen out of a vast selection, of inspiring verse, great quotations, Greek drama, and random stuff, Leary and Crowley, all very light, thin books (in case I failed to receive signals from the sacred radio station). I never needed any of them, but others might have (after a few days, I retired from (quit) the soothsayer business, leaving instructions on the mountain to permit most anyone to use it as a do-it-yourself “Sibylatarium”).

The mountain also contained: the plain white shift (not linen, but classically simple) that I ended up wearing, when on duty, instead of the Greek fashions I had studied and drawn and practiced and fully intended to wear (duh), hung from a hook with a knotted girdle, and a flowered wreath for the sibyl’s head; a huge pile of our tree’s bay leaves, heavily tied to the struts in great aromatic bunches; a candle, a lighter, rope and duct tape, writing materials, a flashlight, another hook for my pack and my clothes and such, and the voice changer. And a stepladder to support the literature boards, until they blew away, and I have no idea what happened to it, either….I set my display up near the Mountain, then I got in and brainlessly sailed away, looking for customers, and I never found any of it again.

Grover had created for the Oracle a tripod seat (traditional, to balance over the crack in the sacred mountain from which the prophetic inspiration came), but I found it unsettling to sit on, and more dangerous (when I was speeding around on the playa, the wind at my back) than sitting with my feet on the ground, a human brake, especially while trying to squint and peer out, while dropping and losing things feverishly out of the holes in the floor, every time I moved; I lost my best purple canteen that way, and a lot, I mean a lot, of bay leaves, . Every bay leaf they found on the playa was probably mine, and some even bore revealed Cumaean messages that occurred to me when nobody was asking much of anything…

So. We had discovered on arrival that, surprise, Liars Camp, which I thought reserved to us, had actually been reserved and was already inhabited by a techno-maddened crowd of noisy strangers, who had had the same idea as ours, and had claimed Liars Camp, our theme from last year also, apparently innocently, but before us. Mediation was attempted, in the blinding sleepless cranky sun, but eventually we slowed and stopped our unpacking and then started throwing everything back in the truck (except for the Mountain, which we left at 8:15 Infant overnight), and took off in a huff, moving to Enlightenment and 7:00, hear Hushville, where they knew how to treat people.

But it meant that nobody seeking us, such as my three grown kids, could have found us at our pre-announced address, and it caused problems, not least of which was how to get the mountain from our new distant location to the playa and back again (I am lazy and half-blind and fairly accident-prone, with chronic knee and foot pain, and I’m a nervous, unlicensed driver of cars; I usually crash my bike into people and things a lot at BM, and that’s when I can see where I’m going). So I made arrangements to park the mountain near the Blue woman, at 7:30 on the Esplanade, where the Opera Diaspora crowd kept an eye on it, and I dragged it out to the playa with a friend, using a consecrated purple rope from Sebastopol.

This year, as it happened, was a wonderful feel-good year at BM for me, though my husband stayed mildly cranky; the music seemed so much better than usual, with traveling bands and jazz and taiko drums and guitars, and much less piped and pounding beat, so I hardly needed my ear plugs. The attendees’ average age seemed so much older this year, I felt myself for once among my peers. Also, I had a good new Costco bike, though I got the honorable blisters from riding too much on those washboard roads. Ow. So I only took the Oracle on the road three times during the week, and made one person assume the mantle, late one night; then it was just a painted mountain waiting to burn.

So, it was Wednesday, two days after I arrived, and surely time. I fasted. I prayed. I removed everything, jewelry and ego and socks…..I assumed the garment, the wreath; I made offerings, water on the ground and bay leaves burning; a dance of preparing to be (ridden?) (borrowed?) (given a lifeline?). I walked, making the mountain glide; inside the mountain, I tranced myself trolling, repeating in booming electronic anonymity (robot setting), “The…Oracle…will…answer…your…questions!” ….and they ignored me in droves.

Any safe place for an unlighted semiblind rolling mountain in a dusty wind at night is off the path beaten by people who know what their questions are. I finally had to dismount, fake a brake, step into the windy dark, squint and holler for custom….and I found some. I would boom my message (I can still hear it; it scared me, and still does) until someone headed toward me, when i would quickly duck down and crawl back in, stand up and turn, and resume anonymity and dignity so as to keep the (wormhole?) open.

Some people were puzzled despite everything. And they fucked with me. I was asked dumb questions (Should i go to 9:00 and Child? What’s up? What’s your name?) and it was a lot like when Homer Simpson travels to Tibet with his neighbor Apu, to consult the wisest man in the world. They are permitted only three questions, and Homer wastes them (“Are you really the president of Quick-ee-mart? Really? Honest?”); it was like that. I didn’t get the respect that a couple of dozen undraped accolytes deployed ahead with bullhorns, torches, bows and bulging quivers could have gained me; I probably didn’t get the respect that Lucy got in her moveable “Psychiatric help five cents” booth, on the playa a few years ago.

But who understands the will of the gods? Poetry did erupt from my lips once or twice, and an awesomely unrepeatable comic tirade of rhythmic scolding, when some clumsy oaf ripped my window out, trying to pillage the offerings or grope the oracle. Answers came easily; drumming up business was hard. I often played two people, the ponderous ancient Sibyl and a more streetwise priestess who ran interference and explained the procedure. It was always necessary to be ready to defend myself; curious people kept sticking their hands in wherever they could, or trying to get me out; running lights (or an alligator) would have lent me identity, status and protection. Next time?

The one last longest night, before i gave up prophecy for the duration, came on a windy, warm, sugar-cube-soaked night of purity and danger, a combination I love. I was able to sit inside the mountain and just lift my feet and be blown around freely, and at times i lay communing with Whomever while traveling, and I never hit a thing. At one time, a jolly willing woman heard my litany and begged to try the Oracle’s mantle herself, so I told her this story so far, repeated to her all Don Jon’s words of guidance, showed her around, the cave, made her undress and then put on the white robe and wear the wreath, passed the consecration over to her easily, mouth to mouth, and then I lit out to roll in playa dust and smoke and babble. She spoke once with the Voice, drew someone instantly to her from the horizon, whispered the answer to his question, and then called me in to take back the role again! She was finished with it after two and a half minutes.

I continued to have adventures and oraculate for several hours, stoned as a monkey, driving blind and upside-down, but protected as though held in someone’s large hands, while my possessions and several bodily fluids fell through the holes and were lost at light speed. I was powerfully filled with huge and God-pleasing music for seven or eight ages, until I found myself suddenly back where I had begun, about to run over my bike, with it’s headlight left on, back at the opera camp, and I knew i was through. I could barely make it home, what with one thing and another.

The next day (Friday? the day of the Black Madonna parade, in which I drummed and sang and throat-sang with a dedicated group of people and puppets) I wrote a list of procedures, which I taped inside the Mountain, with a large clear sign stuck outside, that directed hopeful Pythons to fast hard for three minutes, change the arrow on the “THE SIBYL IS IN/OUT’ sign, and then strip, enter the mountain, and follow further directions.

I assured them that they could make no mistake, that the water and bay leaves and other prep were both subjective and idiotproof (similar to taking a trip guide and prerecorded musical accompaniment on a journey of the soul), but I urged them to be ready, to take Immortal Possession very seriously. I left all the sacred gear inside, and only saw the Mountain once again, when we collected it on Sunday and hauled it to the nearest burn platform to burn it. There were more offerings in the basket, and empty water bottles and butts were neatly stashed, and a package of jellybeans had been tucked inside the horn of the voice changer.

It all burned beautifully.

by Sadie Damascus


The pile of aging couch cushions was spread on the ground under the shade of the open walled tent. I lay on top of them breathing in the dust that permeated the cushions and the desert air, the dust that turned everything the same ghostly gray. It was only nine AM and it must have been near ninety degrees. I had danced until dawn under the milky way and the waxing moon and now my brief sleep was being disturbed by the heat and the urgent rasping of dehydration. As I blinked through the dust my head slipped back off the cushion onto the ground and I was looking upside down at the top of the tent. Then she appeared. Who was she? Her purple slip and sunned skin were silky and smooth and clean and as she leaned down towards me her long hair slid effortlessly forward while in her hand she held out a light-colored orb. As if in a dream I accepted it, this baby coconut, and drank deeply from the hole she had drilled. “Natural electrolytes,” she said, my goddess of the rising sun.

by Siddhartha

How I Spent My Summer Vacation (or, A Norwegian Lutheran In the Court of Woo)

Sixty foot dust devils twisted north like enraged belly dancers and from the back of the Ryder I could see every other nascent camp on the playa. Brent had hit upon the brilliant idea of turning our heavy vinyl concession tent on its side to act as a wind break and Chris was busy lining the bottom edge of the tent with carpet and water containers. This worked well enough to give us about 150 square feet of wind resistant “living room”, which we promptly laid with carpet-topped foam, couches, and pillows. Our duties at Burning Man 2001 were two-fold. First was to install sound and lighting for The Coliseum, a bastard stepchild that was the repository of about a dozen good ideas unable to peacefully occupy the same space; second was to wire a performance dome for The Woo Woo Field, new friends whose space we had agreed to stake with our arrival.

Returning from the Coliseum site-to-be on our second day, Chris and I walked into a huddled conference on the corner of The Woo Woo Field — a grizzled DPW old-timer (insert a Nevada rancher stereotype here) and his city-slicker-hottie sidekick were insisting that they had reserved this space. Brent wisely referred them back to the Placement Coordinator for the area (Frog, who originally sited us) but was being blown off with what became a conversational subtext for the rest of our time in Black Rock City.

“Son, I don’t care what you THINK — I BUILT this city. Y’see that trash fence — my people walked every foot of that fence. I built this city and I helped lay out that map. I know the man who drew it. I don’t know this ‘Frog’ but I built this city and this is OUR camp.”

Brent was kind enough to help them pull their rebar back out when they packed up.

A week of isolated living didn’t prepare us for the rapid mushroom-growth of BRC. We knew our nearest neighbors, The Nuclear Family — a block away, but after five days of wake’n’wave there was suddenly a wall of tents blocking us and alleys had sprung up to negotiate. The Woo arrived in a trickle and a flood and even as The Coliseum fell apart in scheduling hassles, time-differentials and sheer selfish silliness the amazing house band of The Woo began rehearsals, the fire dancers arrived and the three of us discovered a family we hadn’t known.

By Thursday, the crowd was in place and Black Rock had hit a gorgeous melange of light, sound and spectacle — a sort of not-so-alcohol-fueled Bourbon Street that never ended. After a disastrously frustrating day preparing The Coliseum for an event that never showed (“Don’t worry, man, it’s just playa time…relax and go with it…it’ll all happen eventually.”), I was wishing I had never committed to it. Behind me in the darkness, I knew, the Woo’ers were concentrating on the dome to unveil an amazing troupe of fire dancers, incredible musicians and a mountain of good food and drink. While proud of the crew assisting me (major thanks to Randy Inaz, in particular, who was a font of good sense and handy gear), the sad fact that the rest of the Coliseum folks spent their mornings in bed, refusing to prep for the evening until the scorching afternoon heat galled me — we were killing ourselves through the afternoon for things that could easily be done at saner times. This made me grumpy. By the time I finally headed for my camp that evening I was ready to simply pack and leave. Thursday evening was my lowest point.

Trying to find our camp was a challenge. Since leaving early that morning it seemed that the world had changed and nothing looked familiar. Finally stumbling through a line of cars and RV’s, I came upon a gently lit bedouin encampment, a sort of Berber village of candles and dim reflections. Standing entranced, wondering how this had come about so close to where I thought my camp to be, I finally realized that what I had found was…my camp. Walking the circle around toward our living room, the most magically-glowing area of the bunch, my jaw dropped further and further. Finally clicking in on an orientation, I turned to my right and could see the performance dome surrounded by a wall of revelers. I had chosen a hypnotic lull in the music to walk in and now the band was building a riff back up, a new girl on her knees in front of them moaning into the microphone and guiding them toward a climax. As I walked toward the sound it struck me that I had arrived home, really home, and that this was where I belonged. Someone at the edge of the crowd turned toward me and extended a hand saying “we’ve been waiting for you — we saved some dinner because we knew you’d be hungry.” A girl I had found wandering the playa in a sandstorm and brought back to camp gave me a kiss and pressed a glass of sake into my hand. Someone else handed me a cigarette and Dax sat and laughed through my dinner with me.

I was home. I was happy. It was all going to be OK.

The night of the burn, the band came to serenade The Man and we wired the Coliseum to accept feeds from the bus that acted as a stage. After the burn, Cap’n Kelly took us on a tour of Black Rock City and its art. I curled into the comfort of a plush couch with the warmth of new friends and contemplated the spectacle, amazed. No matter where we were, I was home and nothing could disturb that certainty.

Thanks, everybody — “I wuv woo”, as Heatherbomb might say.

by Clint Darling


When I started getting ready for my first Burning Man…hearing about what I was about to get involved in…I made a bag full of marbles.

It was only right knowing anyone that really wanted to go spend a week in the desert had lost theirs.

2000 was amazing.

It was like a giant hand was guiding me and making amazing things happen.

We got there and built it up.

And we danced…

And we fried…

And we burnt it down.

Then we came home and slept.

And then I went home and found everyone seemed a bit crazier then before. Including myself.

I lost a job.

I dumped the girl that thought I went out there just to have sex.

I bought a truck and drove it back out there in 2001.

This year I brought two bags of marbles for trade.

2001 was amazing.

I was home again.

Everything was different and yet I never felt so in tune with where I was.

We got there and built it all up.

And we danced…

And we fried 30 lbs of pancakes.

Every day was just a little better then the one before it.

On Friday my camp mate brought me out to help him as a gate keeper at the Temple of Wisdom where I find great wisdom when in my dusty foolishness I tell Larry and M.M. they can’t enter the man. Shortly afterwards I am seen in the Pillar of Darkness eating my shoe quite whole and intact.

I must have given all my marbles away at this point.

And we burned it all down.

And then I was home again.

I guess the point of this story is….

I am finding marbles.

In the yard.

Down by the river.

Random places.

None the same.

Where do they come from?

I am being guided.

Bring me home.

by Hylocori