Part of the blog series for the 2017 theme, Radical Ritual.
The Temple of the Golden Spike
“Consider the Golden Spike. Each year, the re-creation of Black Rock City from the empty desert is celebrated by driving a gold-painted length of steel into the playa at the spot where the Burning Man will stand, and from which point the entire city is surveyed.”
— Stuart Mangrum
“This may be the essential genius of Burning Man:
Out of nothing,
We created everything.”
— Larry Harvey
This year the Burning Man will reside in a temple that is dedicated to the Golden Spike. Every space and turning, the entire grid of our collective home, derives from this singular point in space. We will mark this spot with an omphalos, a sculpture that will represent the navel of our world. Aligning with the spine of Burning Man, this will create an axis that continues upward, emerging high above the temple as a gilded spire. The sculpture of the Man will stand directly on the ground, and it will be like every one of us; he will live in a house, he will inhabit a home, and should you wish to visit him, you must get up close and personal. Participants will witness the figure in intimate detail, including every beveled edge and compound joint our Man Krew has employed in fashioning its body.
At night, this Temple of the Golden Spike will throb with light. A pulsing beam, ascending from its altar, will pass through shrines imbedded in the giant figure’s spine. Five hundred and forty-four ceremonial niches will wrap around the altar. Lit by eight thousand flickering LED lights, they will form a luminous honeycomb. These lights will look like votive candles, but are flameless. Anything that smokes or burns — wax candles, incense sticks or smoldering sage — will not be allowed in the temple.
In contrast with our city’s traditional Temple at the 12 o’clock position, which fastens our attention on the end of life, this temple is about life’s origin. This is not a place of grieving, but will instead evoke nativity and new beginnings. Participants are invited to place offerings in the many niches that will perforate the inner and outer walls of this structure. If the Temple is about spirit, release and transcendence, this year’s Temple of the Golden Spike will be devoted to the human soul and all that issues out of it — or to put this even more simply: bring a housewarming gift.
Build and Burn Your Own Burning Man
The original Burning Man was the work of an afternoon. Crafted from scrap lumber, it was transported to the beach and installed near the tideline. This was a spontaneous effort; it did not require a grant, and it exemplified the principles of Radical Self-reliance and Communal Effort. This year we invite participants to create their own burning woman or man. Our theme is Radical Ritual, and what could be more appropriate than to reenact the ritual that founded Burning Man?
These figures may be constructed prior to the event, but perhaps an even better option is to craft one in your camp. Rather than hiding your effort away, consider doing this in full view of the street and inviting your neighbors to join in. Should you choose this option, be sure to lay down tarp in your work area to prevent the spread of matter out of place, otherwise known as MOOP — this is a Leave No Trace event. Because these sculptures can’t be burned within our crowded city, we propose to ignite them at the site of Burning Man on Sunday morning, the day after the Man burns. To ensure ease of installation, we will limit their height to eight feet, the dimension of the original sculpture.
These wooden figures may be transported to Burning Man’s burn circle via art cars, but we suggest that you consider carrying your sculpture to its destination. At Baker Beach, the workers who created the Man carried it down a sand dune. This was certainly a labor, but we have found that when community members work and play together, authentic rituals begin to coalesce. Look at it this way: This is an opportunity to literally walk the walk of Burning Man, rather than talking its talk. Organize a procession, and parade your effigy through our city’s streets — you will be following in the footsteps of the carpenters who first built Burning Man.
Make sure to read this second post with specific information about safety, cleanup, and how to mount an effigy around the Man’s Burn perimeter.