The dousing of Burning Man

This is one of those rare human interest stories to appear in this blog, but it is of interest for many reasons, outlined as we go along. The 2023 Burning Man festival was planned to begin at the end of August and end on September 4th. That was the plan anyway. Then a little storm happened that threatened to rain on everyone’s parade. But in the end, and after a little delay, The Man finally did burn. And a little adventure and some good stories came out of the event. In looking back, the story gets a little muddy, though…

OK, so for those who don’t know, what is ‘Burning Man’? Our (in)famous Wikipedia has the following entry:

“Burning Man is a week-long large-scale desert campout focused on “community, art, self-expression, and self-reliance” held annually in the western United States. The event’s name comes from its culminating ceremony: the symbolic burning of a large wooden effigy, referred to as the Man, that occurs on the penultimate night, the Saturday evening before Labor Day

That was delayed by a couple of days, for reasons to follow. Continuing,

…Since 1991, the event has been at Black Rock City in northwestern Nevada, a temporary city erected in the Black Rock Desert about 100 miles (160 km) north-northeast of Reno. According to Burning Man co-founder Larry Harvey in 2004, the event is guided by ten stated principles: radical inclusion, gifting, decommodification, radical self-reliance, radical self-expression, communal effort, civic responsibility, leaving no trace, participation, and immediacy.”

In other words, it’s an avant-garde arty-farty week of partying for Bohemian types. Back in my day it would have been a hippie love-fest, but without the mess (Woodstock was an ecological disaster zone after everyone left). Black Rock City is set up and dismantled every year at Burning Man. From the 2nd link, above, there is more:

“Participants set up a temporary city, complete with law enforcement, medical care, food, beverages and services (think woodworking lessons and bike repair). There’s music, hundreds of art installations, activities, performances and tons of other shared experiences. Participants often connect with one another on an intensely deep level, much like you used to do at summer camp…”

Yes, I remember those ‘deep connections’ I formed at summer camp as a youngster. I don’t remember anyone from those days, really. Seriously, though, Burning Man all sounds like a lot of fun and probably is (I have never attended) – a week for happy campers. Some of the vehicles at the event were quite something. I haven’t quite figured out what yet, but there was some real imagination and skill that went into them. Then there was also the fashion, after some fashion. Over the years the festival has become a little gentrified, though, as well as a little Hollywood. Chris Rock was there this year, for example. More on him in a bit. The temporary Black Rock City is visible from space, (USGS satellite photo) speaking of another wonder. A little background about the site is in order before moving on to the chart.

Black Rock city is built and disassembled every dear in the Black Rock Desert area in Nevada. The map below (bigger) shows the location (bigger):

As you can see from the map, the Black Rock Desert and High Rock Canyon is a large area. The Man was located in the bottom southwest area of the playa, about 6 miles as the crow flies from the thriving metropolis of Gerlach, Nevada. No doubt, you have heard of the place – Gerlach, that is. It is famous. It’s the fastest town in the West, more than just a pretty name, the center of the known universe, where the pavement ends and the West begins, potluck capital of the world, 5,4,3 bars, no churches, no wars, population wanted. Is it October yet? Maybe, if you are lucky, you can still get Bruno’s ravioli there. You had better have Bruno’s ravioli there. Bruno is from Lucca, Italy. That ravioli, too, is world famous, just so you know. Gerlach is also the gateway to Burning Man.

Of further interest, Gerlach was the base camp for the ThrustSSC team, the team that saw the ThrustSSC jet car break the world land speed record, at the same time breaking the sound barrier, the only car to do so thus far. The record was set in the Black Rock Desert area in 1997, in the northeast of the map, above.

Returning to the matter at hand, that area of the Black Rock Desert where Burning Man was held, instead, is a dry lake bed, the surface of which is known as playa. The lake was present in the Pleistocene era, called Lake Lohontan, which at one time covered about a third of what is now Nevada. The playa is highlighted in grey on the map.

The playa at Black Rock Desert is an alkali flat. Note to self: If alkali playa gets on the skin be sure to wash it off, because it has a tendency to burn and cause irritation. Playa is interesting stuff. ‘Playa’ in Spanish literally means beach. So, Burning Man is literally a few days of vacation at the beach, sans ocean, unless mud puddles will suffice. There are hot springs nearby, though. The playa there is over 10,000 feet deep in some places, composed largely of silt and fine clay from the surrounding mountains. So, mix silt and fine clay with a lot of water and what do you get? – that’s right – a lot of mud. Deep, sticky mud. Enough to trap a woolly mammoth, a camel or sabre-tooth tiger or two. Prehistory aside, why was there so much rain on Burning Man’s parade?

There was another troublemaker that passed through the American southwest at the end of August, one named Hurricane Hilary. There is another ‘Hurricane Hillary’ (note spelling) known for her mischief, but we won’t discuss her here. This particular Hilary dumped record rainfall in four southwestern states. Six inches (150mm) of rain fell on the playa at Burning Man just on Friday (the 28th), with another four inches over the next two days, trapping 60,000 people there, with everyone being told to shelter in place and conserve food. But there is more.

All the rain that fell on Black Rock City this year also awakened a swarm, of dinosaur, a.k.a. third-eye shrimp, along with sea-monkeys (fairy shrimp). The puddles left after the rain were teeming with these extremophiles. Perhaps next year’s Burning Man will have a third-eye shrimp vehicle in the mix. The rain also awakened sensibilities in people.

Some people at the event decided enough was enough and decided to hoof it out of the playa before things got really sticky. Six miles to Gerlach, in the mud. Such fun! That sort of thing builds character, you know? Chris Rock was one of the celebrities who decided to do so, along with DJ Diplo, both of whom made it five miles in the mud before they were picked up by a passing pickup. Pansies. Cindy Crawford and her daughter – model Kaia Gerber were among the mud-sluggers, too leaving early. That would have been a sight. They could have stayed and shared in the community spirit. Actually, the sheltering in place brought out the best in most of the festival goers, sharing food and keeping each other company. Hey, it was only a few days, described by actor and content creator Justin Schuman:

“What I have seen personally is resilience…I’ve seen a huge amount of people coming together, I have seen strangers hugging strangers, I have seen people gifting things to others.” Mr Schuman and his friends have enough supplies to last them several days and have been sharing what they can with those in need.”

Awww…You see? All you need is love. Love is all you need. Well, two of the principles of the Burning Man are resilience and communal effort. Perhaps celebs are exempt.

So, what about the astrology for this event? This year the gates to Burning Man opened at 12:01 pm on the 27th of August, which we might suppose started the event. The chart is below (bigger):

Even at the opening of the gates the problems to come are already evident from the chart. Neptune (ruling Big Water) is in the 5th house of recreation (also relating to fantasies with both factors combined). But it forms midpoints with the Sun/Moon and Uranus/Pluto pairs, is in 45° modulus with the Horizon axis, denoting weakness and tensions. Neptune receives only 8th harmonic aspects. Neptune also forms a midpoint with Mercury/Mars: “The pursuit of fantastic plans, speaking without acting, not keeping of promises. – Hopeless plans, the tendency to harm others through falsehood or underhanded behaviour, the process of undermining another person’s position.”

Then we have the clincher – Plu=Mars/Ura – one of the midpoints one does not wish ot have prominent in an event chart. In this case it applied to 3rd house matters – logistics, transport, communications, etc. It reads as follows: Force, violent interventions, Higher Power. Then we turn to the day when Hilary made her statement to the gathered crowd. The chart is below (bigger):

There is no Ascendant, as the chart is set for midday. We note the Moon on that day was conjunct Neptune and formed several midpoints at noon. It was also opposite Mars, which was also included in those midpoints. As a general interest, the ‘Force Majeure’ midpoints are as follows:

      • Sun/Plu in general
      • Sat=Ura/Plu
      • Nep=Jup/Sat
      • Plu=Sat/Ura
      • Sat=Ura/Plu
      • Pluto in general

We note Saturn is associated with almost all of them, so we look to the midpoints in the chart involving Saturn for clues, then also with the other ‘outers’ – Uranus, Neptune and Pluto. The following come to light:

    • Ura=Jup/Sat: sudden change in circumstance, making great efforts, a change of residence, a change of occupation. – Damage to a building, a stoppage of motors, the breakdown of a car.
    • Moon=Sun/Plu: Brutal suppression of the feelings, irritability (illness of the female organism).
    • Mars=Sun/Plu: “The desire to perform record achievements, over-exertion or overtaxing one’s powers, ruthlessness. – The tendency to work to the point of a physical breakdown.
    • Nep/Plu=Sat/Ura, described next:

Neptune/Pluto is of particular interest regarding the Burning Man event itself: “Peculiar people, mystics, mediums, occultists, people engaged in Psychical research. Probable Manifestations: + The tendency to occupy oneself with unusual problems, the pursuit of peculiar hobbies and aspirations, a progressive, spiritual evolution.” But then, it is coupled with the Saturn/Uranus midpoint, noted above: “a quarrel, separation, the use of force, interventions in one’s destiny, the limitation of freedom.”

Also of particular interest here is the Nep=Ura/Plu midpoint: “A sympathetic understanding of other people, the knowledge of human nature, deep study of a subject of special interest, the inclination to delve into the Supernatural Realms. – Insecurity and uncertainty, unfulfilled wishes, fatigue, nervous diseases…” The event went along the line of the old nursery rhyme: Rain, rain, go away! Come again some other day!

But then, the preceding midpoints – Sat/Ura=Nep/Plu – also form midpoints with Sun/Jup, which generally points to health, wealth, increase and joy, noting also the Sun and Jupiter were trine on the day, forecasting a good outcome. And indeed, the event went ahead after the rain, the mud and the ‘beautiful people’ (celebs) subsided.

The Man did finally burn, on Monday, 5 September. Have a look: 

In all, Burning Man 2023 was one of those events of a lifetime, one for the books, etc. It wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns, and there was mud in strange places, but in the end, despite the mud, there were tens-of-thousands of happy campers. What more could you want?

Featured pic from Billboard

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