Every year, a cadre of weirdoes, freaks, deviants, hippies, would-be circus performers, drug aficionados, spiritual wanderers, itinerant sexual spirits, pyromaniacs, and squares trying to escape the shackles of every day life descend on a sparse flat in the Nevada desert desert for eight days of anarchic communal living. Burning Man isn’t just another festival, it’s an experiment in temporary society that’s grounded by a set of principles set upon the event's inception in 1986 (at least in theory; it may also be a playground for the wealthy). While it seems to be in direct opposition to the concept of the festival, there is Burning Man etiquette.
One of the biggest points organizers stress is to leave the desert the way you found it, and this deceptively simple idea has branched out into a twisting garden of rules for Burning Man that have to be followed in order to ensure everyone’s good time. The foundational principle of "don't f*ck things up" applies to almost every facet of life.
If you’ve ever seen footage of this extravagant celebration of mutated art cars, naked dancers, and fire fire fire, you’ve probably thought to yourself, “Are there rules at Burning Man? Or is it a parched state of chaos in which fornicators and pyros set out to eradicate the fabricated meaning imposed upon our natural state of nihilism?"
You better believe there are rules, jabroni. Like any festival, Burning Man has to concede some of its freewheeling status to keep everyone safe and local government happy. Some Burning Man rules are as simple as cleaning up after yourself and being nice. That's easy enough. It's the unspoken rules can be a bit confusing. If you’re planning on attending Burning Man and don’t know what to expect, it would behoove you to learn the secret laws of the land so you don’t make yourself look like a fool in front of seasoned Burners.
Study these strange rules at Burning Man that you didn’t know people have to follow and get weird with it.
You Have To Dispose Of Your Own Garbage (There Are No Trashcans)
Let's try to break this down logically (they said before smashing their head through a wall). Because of Burning Man's "leave no trace" policy... there are no trash cans? Whatever the rationale behind this is, you should know to bring means of storing and removing all your own MOOP ("matter out of place," or things non-native to the ecosystem) before heading out to the desert. Burners take this seriously, too: many will clean up trash left behind by strangers just to avoid damaging the land.
Don't Use The Hot Springs!
Let's set the scene: You just danced your pants off in the middle of a pile of dirt and you're covered in the thick, glistening sweat-filth tar that comes with taking drugs in the desert. You want to relax. Common sense says that you should take a dip in one of the many hot springs in the Black Rock Desert, right? WRONG.
You'll probably die. According to one Burner, in 1994 they witnessed a dog boiled alive in one of the hottest springs.
We've all seen photos of Burning Man, but have we really seen photos from Burning Man? Think about it. The no photo policy is in place so attendees can cut loose and do whatever they would naturally do if they weren't surrounded by thousands of pocket-sized cameras, and the kind of people who can really afford to do this desert anarchy festival correctly are some of the wealthiest people in the world, and it wouldn't endear them to their uptight colleagues if they were photographed zonked out of their mind on molly and wearing a diaper.
Leave Your Career At Home
One of the unspoken rules of Burning Man is to leave your career at home, which is meant to engender a sense of community among the festival goers that flock to the desert every year to get weird. The point of Burning Man is to sever ties with mainstream society and become the animal you were born to be. No one needs a career while doing that, especially if you hope to achieve nirvana be inducing a Hobbesian state of nature.
If You're Going To Burn Your Art, You Better Have The Approved Platform
Obviously. Who burns art without an adequate platform? As a part of the "leave no trace" policy, any art you bring to the Burn has to be lit on fire before you leave, thus releasing you from the chains of possession, and making sure there's not a bunch of art trash left in the desert. The platforms act as a way to keep from scarring the desert, thus ensuring more Burning Mans (Burning Men?) for years to come.
No Public Swimming Pools
One of the last things you probably think of when it comes to Burning Man is a public swimming pool, but apparently people have tried to make that happen before, and it did not go over well. It has something to do with people using disgusting water to fill the pool.
Feathers Are Item Non Grata
Hearkening back to the "leave no trace policy," feathers are a big no no when it comes to Burning Man. Your feather boa may look really dumb cool, but when it gets caught by the wind on the playa, the feathers will inevitably detach and start blowing all over the place, thus ruining the desert's classic, non feathery ecosystem. Feathers and glitter are two of the hardest things to clean up and remove, so if you bring any, expect to get some major side-eye from Burning Man veterans.
Kill As Many Rabbits As You Want
One of the quickest ways to relieve yourself of desert-festival-based stress is to get medieval on a bunch of bunnies who are living their rabbit lives while you take part in an experimental community. According to Burning Man's survival guide, "There are jackrabbits in the area. It is not worth jeopardizing your safety to swerve in an attempt to avoid them." So, you know, f*ck 'em.