Mike The 8-Foot-Tall Voodoo Doll

When people ask me why I make the cross-country journey to Burning Man year after year, I tell them it is intensely therapeutic. And then I watch them laugh.

“What do you get at Burning Man?” they’ll probe, as if the price of admission includes something.

“What you get at Burning Man,” I tell them, “is entirely up to you.”

I like to arrive with a purpose—purge the sediment that currently clogs my default world and replenish it with joyfulness. It is everywhere here.

One year, my sludge was the lingering sting of rejection.

By my own limited vision, the source of this rejection was Mike—a man I randomly met on the playa and then camped with for the next four years. During our playa playtime, he fed me a great deal of attention. He was smart and powerful in his default world but here, he was a toy for me to play with.

Mike didn’t expect sex. He was happy chasing after someone who didn’t complain about the elements, looked comfortable riding a bike and could dance wildly from dusk till dawn.

Call me crazy but hearing, “Damn you look smoking hot in that outfit,” and “Come over here baby and let me rub your feet,” never gets old.

I allowed him to chase after me, to lust over me. I even tricked him into thinking he loved me. In truth, it was all a ruse. He had no idea who I was.

Back in my default world, I was 10 years into a monogamous relationship with a man who could not feed my constant need to be told I was lovable. And so I gave myself permission to play on the playa.

Somewhere along the line Mike must have had a mental growth spurt because one year, with less than a week to go before the start of Burning Man, he disappeared and I was devastated.

I was now an orphan, with no one to camp with and no camp to affiliate myself with.

I thought about showing up solo and leaving it all up to chance, but I knew myself well enough to know I’d create a mental Dicky Box, and isolate myself from the driving pulse of the playa.

Instead, I put an ad on the social network Tribe, asking if anyone needed a “drama free” campmate.

A newbie from New Mexico named Dust Bunny was the first to reply. She had been in contact with another newbie from Washington named Lazy Boy. Lazy Boy had befriended a super cool, Silver Guy from Portland. Together, we gravitated towards a free spirited duo from Southern California.

The fact that none of us knew each other prior to the playa, and that we were all orphans, was oddly comforting.

Uniquely different, together we formed a soulful bond. Each year more orphans found their way into the camp and deep, yearlong connections flourished.

Our camp also developed creatively. We now had a name, a theme, an official playa event, an elaborate shade structure, a fabulous sign and banner, and our newest addition—a great big shiny art car.

When a question was raised as to how to keep people from climbing the art car when not in use, I offered to make a giant voodoo doll.

That same year—as sometimes happens when camps evolve into something greater than you—opinions differed, personalities clashed, and a shift erupted.

For me, the camp split magnified my fear of rejection.

Why did Mike dump me? What was the catalyst? And why can’t I let it go?

I knew the rejection would build at the burn if I didn’t release it, so I decided to make my voodoo doll in Mike’s image.

I integrated the stuffing with gifts Mike had given me over the years. I added a large, red heart on his chest and a slimy snake on his leg. I bound him with rope and dressed his neck with a dominatrix collar and chain.

I took my time making Mike. I also made giant pins that you could stick into him; large crochet needles with a clown noses glued to each top.

Mike became my interactive, mental health, art project.

I could feel a positive shift begin even before he was complete.

I started taking him places. Wherever we went, Mike made people smile. Somehow, lugging an eight-foot tall, voodoo doll around my sleepy, New England town made me feel lighter.

With two weeks to go before the burn, I shipped him to a west coast campmate who agreed to have him sit shotgun on his journey to Black Rock City.

Due to an untimely east coast hurricane, Mike beat me to the playa. He celebrated Fat Tuesday without me, dined on gumbo and danced it up with campmates old and new.

Because of the severity of our east coast storm, I arrived physically and emotionally drained and immediately sensed a bombardment of disapproval.

People were questioning why I made Mike; as if there was something evil or masochistic about dragging around a giant, pin pricked, voodoo doll.

I felt judged. I felt condemned. I felt rejected. When I focused on this, I realized this was a reoccurring theme in my life—something I had attached myself to since I was a child.

And then it hit me…

Mike is not one man. Mike is every man who abandoned or abused me.

Mike is my father; who left when I was two.

Mike is my stepbrother; who molested me when I was seven.

Mike is my first boyfriend; who told me I had to have sex with him or he’d dump me, and when I did, he dumped me.

Mike is a relationship I destroyed because I was too afraid to love; and then I punished myself by allowing him to toy with me for more years than I care to admit.

But the deepest pain of all came from my son.

How could he abandon me?

It had been ten years since his suicide and I continued to defend him in death just as I did in life. I understood his mental illness was a brain disease and that he was not thinking logically, but the pain of his abandonment was undeniable.

Once you see it, you can set it free.

Here in this barren lakebed, I am healing. I am challenging myself to grow as a spiritual being. I stimulate myself creatively. I am finally finding peace within myself.

What do you get at Burning Man? Well, you don’t always get what you want, but if you’re open and willing, you do get what you need.

by Green Monkey

About the author: Tales From the Playa

Tales From the Playa

Tales From the Playa are dreams and memories of events that took place at Burning Man, as told by participants. Submit your story here.

13 Comments on “Mike The 8-Foot-Tall Voodoo Doll

  • trimble says:

    >“What do you get at Burning Man?”

    I got herpes out of Burning Man, and that’s no joke. She was a circus performer and was talking about how all the circus people were into kinky bondage stuff. She was really cute. I didn’t think too much about what she was saying until we got back to her tent… Then we ripped our clothes off and she said, ‘I want to fuck you!’ … great, i thought. No condoms – whatever, this was a playa experience.

    So we fucked for a few hours. Then in October, I developed something very nasty on the shaft of my penis. The incubating time for herpes is about 30-60 days. So this “blemish” happened while I was at a local decompression burn.

    That was in 2006. Since then, I’ve heard from her friends that she has herpes and in fact, many of these circus gals also have herpes – so it’s no big deal within the community. It’s all sort of matter-of-fact.

    Anyway. Have a great burn.

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  • toothfulwon says:

    Um, that’s a personal tragedy borne of a bad decision. I’m sorry it happened to you, but it’s not really pertinent to the beautiful message from Green Monkey.

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  • John L says:

    Rock on, Green Monkey! Thank you for sharing how launching full-heartedly into the pain in all its many manifestations helped you heal and love yourself more fully. I hope your journey is finding ever-increasing love, support, and joy!

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  • Arnold says:

    Wow Green Monkey! Thank you for sharing. Me and my wife will be the newbies at the playa this year. I trust we will find what we need there. I hope you will be able to build your inner Playa that you can turn to whenever you need it so you don’t have to wait a whole year. You were not an orphan; you arrived in another stage of your life were he could no longer help you. Be thankful for what he gave you; with leaving you he pushed you to where you are now. See ya on the playa!

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  • Les Cole says:

    Hi Green Monkey. Good luck to you. I think it is much more important that you found yourself. Finding others is great, but a healthy SELF is the clue. I was probably the oldest (according to others) man on the playa in 2007. I’m now 89. The dust was tough on me but I had the advantage of sleeping in an air conditioned trailer belonging to a friend. A special reward was that David Best took me on a tour through his area where his Temple was being constructed. I lived in the Bookmobile camp with friends. I’m a “friend of Bill” if you know what that means. If not, look at my website to see info about my book which I published last year.

    I wish for you continued good health, from a fellow ‘New Englander’.

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  • Les Cole says:

    Hi again Green Monkey. I forgot to tell you that my website is http://www.LesCole-AA.com.

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  • Todos says:

    Green Monkey, thank you for sharing this. I am so happy for you to have found this way of healing!!

    Trimble, I have good news for you. I learned how to heal herpes at Burning Man, and you can too. Since I was 14, I would get a ‘blemish’ on my lip every Fall and Spring. In my twenties, this started to get VERY annoying. I tried all sorts of things, including anti-virals from med companies. Nothing worked. In 2011, I caught a presentation by Paul Stamets up in Black Rock City. He detailed how medicinal mushrooms can help us fight off the very worst of cancers, viruses, fungi and bacteria.
    I looked into what types were most anti-viral, took a “medicinal dose” of them for 6 weeks, and I HAVE NOT HAD A BLEMISH SINCE! Please, take a look at my site – I wrote an article all about this. It’s been almost an entire year now, and I’ve felt the herps try to come back maybe 3 or 4 times now, each time it’s disappeared without even becoming a sore in about 24 hours.

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  • Stevie's Dad says:

    Brightest blessings from me and my girl >i< to you, Green Monkey as you follow your path and continue on your journey…I think of you and your son each and everytime I see a cardnial

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  • Green Monkey says:

    Thank you Todos, Les, Arnold, John, Toothful, for reading and commenting.

    trimble, thats a bad story.

    So great to hear from you Timm….and I think of Stevie when I see dragonflies.

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  • Bad Ass Chick says:

    Oh Green Monkey!

    This story was refreshing, heart breaking and amazing! I think it’s time you set Mike under the Man and watch him burn away! Burn away your past and wake up and live and love like there’s no tomorrow. Learn for past, but don’t live in your past. Break the chains and quick lugging him around! Make a new Mike every year and burn him away w/ the sorrow and hurt. Just take the love away from the experience and enjoy your new found life!

    Love and Light to you Green Monkey!

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  • Mike says:

    Okay, now I finally know why I was suffering all those weird aches and pains at the last burn.

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  • Mike says:

    Okay, now I finally know why I was suffering all those weird aches and pains at the last burn.

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  • Jim says:

    Green Monkey,
    I’ve always wanted to go to Burning Man to do exactly as you have done. Not so much in the way of making a voodoo doll, but to come to terms with what’s really keeping me from happiness. And The Playa seems to be a great place to look when people need to find themselves.
    I’m sorry you’ve had so many men walk out on you. You’ve carried the burden of all those bad experiences for too long. I sincerely hope that in the very near future you find the man who will dance with you all day and rub your feet at night.

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