Every year, a cadre of weirdos, freaks, deviants, hippies, would-be circus performers, drug aficionados, spiritual wanderers, itinerant sexual spirits, pyromaniacs, and squares trying to escape the shackles of everyday life descend upon a sparse flat in the Nevada 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 that 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.
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.
It seems counterintuitive - you'd think the environmentally conscious people that populate Burning Man would be horrified by the idea of eating an animal - but Burners freaking love bacon. It's one of the festival's biggest commodities.
If you're looking to make friends, offering them bacon is a solid way to break the ice.
Depending on what type of person you are, the "no money" rule is either a much-needed break from the meaningless construct of currency, or a nightmare. According to festival founder Larry Harvey: "Burning Man is like a big family picnic. Would you sell things to one another at a family picnic? No, you’d share things."
It's not a barter system; you just share without the expectation of reciprocation.
That's right. Out on the playa, you don't go by your real name. You need a name specifically for Burning Man, and you don't even get to choose it. That's the tradition at least, according to the glossary on the Burning Man website.
"Originally spawned by the need for unique names on the staff’s 2-way radios, playa names have become almost ubiquitous, and are sometimes used to provide an individual with an 'alternate' personality or persona," organizers wrote. "Playa names are traditionally given to a person, rather than taken on."