Burning Man Initiation

My informant is a regular attendee of the Burning Man Festival. Burning Man is a weeklong festival held in the Nevada desert. It caps at 50,000 participants and is governed by 10 principals: radical inclusion, gifting, decommodification, radical self-reliance, radical self-expression, communal effort, civic responsibility, leaving no trace, participation, and immediacy. The name “burning man” comes from the ritual of burning a large wooden effigy of a man on the Saturday of the week-long festival.

My informant told me of an introduction ritual for first time “burners” (this is the name for individuals who attend Burning Man)

“It is a tradition at Burning Man, a festival in the middle of the Nevada desert, that all first timers to the festival must first ring a bell and roll around in the dirt. The bell is placed next to the ‘welcomers’ who welcome all burners upon entry into the festival. Next, and in my opinion the most important part– rolling around in the playa dust.”

This process symbolizes ones initiation into burning man. Because burning man takes place in the desert, the experience can be difficult if you are not prepared to deal with the harsh environment. One has to bring all of his or her own supplies to survive for that week as nothing is allowed to be sold there. Thus the action of rolling around in the dirt for first timers not only displays their courage but is done to prove their ability to handle the harsh desert environment.