See for yourself what all the fuss is about in this video by Mark Day. Spot your friends! No Diplo or Skrillex in this video, just a few spacey looking Burners.
See for yourself what all the fuss is about in this video by Mark Day. Spot your friends! No Diplo or Skrillex in this video, just a few spacey looking Burners.
As reports trickle back from the Playa, we’re hearing the cops here were much better than the last couple of years. It seems they’re friendlier when BMOrg are feeding them instead of suing their bosses.
Nick asked: Was it just me or did the cops tone it way down this year? Mostly I saw cops doing this:
..Most had BRC ranger minders too
Neftali: yah… i think a big group of billionaires paid them off and are taking over burning man..
Candace: They were really wonderful this year.
Rod: They’ve softened up after the Org started feeding them at the commissary and they got to mingle with the people that makes Burning Man happen and its army of volunteers.
Steve: I talked to at least 5 cops. One told me they were pre-screened to make sure that only cops capable of monitoring without imposing their moral beliefs were accepted. Every cop I talked to was very happy to be there and very friendly. I thanked them all for making the event safe.
Trish: One officer pulled up to my camp and beckoned my camp mates and I over. When we arrived, he gave us each chapstick with the BLM logo on it and told us to have a wonderful burn. Another officer flashed us the peace sign as he drove by. It kinda warmed my heart, I gotta tell ya
Rob: We had a lady Sheriff flag our car down by Camp Q on Burn night to take a picture of it with three of my favorite campmates standing beside the car. The officer was stoked on our car and music. Great LEO experience this year
Alana: I saw a few driving by. They usually waved. Seemed like nice enough folks. On the other hand, our bus driver on the burner bus got pulled over for speeding before we even got off the playa. (Doing 20 in a 5 mph zone.) The cop was super aggro and condescending after he figured out that the driver didn’t speak much English. He was objectively a terrible driver, but that kind of attitude was disappointing after how reasonable the cops were on the playa during the week.
Charity: I agree cop presence was much calmer. I did have a camp mate get pulled over in the gates saying her tags were expired which was not true. They used K9s to search and had 4 hits. She had no choice but to give up her weed stash which was only in 2 places. He fined them both $500 but after one said it was all his at least the copped retracted her fine and he let them go. I also spoke to a cop and he said the people this year were way better than the people he deals with in every day life and he was grateful for the burners and gave me a cool bracelet.
Aaron: My favorite LEO moment was pulling up to an intersection driving a golf cart, I pulled up on the drivers side of the vehicle and kind of gave the driver a nod. He pulled out a small squirt gun and started hitting me w water flashing a huge huge happy smile. They are ok if you are ok. Act the ass and then…..
Daniel: Saw the Sheriffs looking as if they were harassing a woman, we started chanting “let her go!” and it was only a matter of seconds before they were hugging and she gave them both hugs and a kiss on the cheek. Everyone cheered
Becca: We got some LEOs to honk their horns at us and wave, and a few gave me a hug as I wished them good morning as we were all leaving shifts on for the Embrace burn. Even ran into one I’d met named Love who’d lead a pre-burn drill in the open space of our camp in 2012.
Makala: was camped right across some rangers and smoking lots of green and didn’t even know they were rangers across from us lol , they never said anything . Also one cop was asking my friend to pose for him so he can take pics of her out on the playa, and she was naked . They were really friendly and heart warming .
Erie: It would seem my boyfriend and I got pulled over just because we were from WA. Cop tells us it’s because our tag light is out… starts asking us all these marijuana-related questions, medical patient history,etc. We had nothing on us, but still got the K-9 search. We got off with a warning… when we checked later, the tag lights were working fine. Hmph. I agree though, much more toned down than last year!
Kirsten: Yes, toned down. Present enough to remind all they were there but not be total intimidating dicks about it as in past years. Hope this is the start of a new era of balanced enforcement. We were stopped on 447 right after the rain. Cop went by SINGING that Playa was closed & trying to organize the many miles of back up. Another came by few min later barking threatening orders. First cop earned everyone’s cooperation when he asked us to move off road, second dude was ignored & butt of jokes. Go figure, using honey instead of vinegar actually works…
Matthew: I had a sheriff ask me for a hug!!! I like hugging cops!
Mike: I saw several LEO’s around the playa and walking through the sound camps, never had a bad experience with any of them. One gave me chap stick another flashed peace sign at our camp a group of them told me and my camp mates to have a great burn.
Elise: The LEOs approached me during my security shift at the sound camp I’m affiliated with. They were so nice to me that at first I congratulated them on their costumes thinking they were friendly burners.
Megan: A few people from my camp got a ride home from deep playa from them highly intoxicated. He dropped them off with a smile, a reminder of where to find the medics and a few bottles of water. Didn’t have any negative interactions. Most were very friendly.
Shan: I think the cops at Gate are mostly for show so incoming know they’re there. Everyone I knew got off w/a warning. Every interaction I witnessed was appropriate to positive. One cop I spoke with said he’d been on playa 5 yrs and loved collecting swag for his wife & kid.
Lauren: I saw plenty of folks pulled over after passing through the gate and searching cars, loads of rangers near sound camps, and a gal being searched at midday sunday. Felt like presence was stronger than other years! Nice to hear those who interacted had a positive experience
Adam: I was naked on Tuesday on my bike and a cop flagged us down to tell us we had a tutu violation but that he was gonna let it slide.
AleXander: I was in my adventure time onesie with a glowing crystal ball, and a cop in full gear gave me the respect nod. Made my week.
Jason: All I saw was BLM and they totally awesome! No sheriff or city cops out there. What ever they did to reign in the shitty police, it worked.
Mason: I wound up hugging 5 Feds, 2 asked me for one, could have been to catch a smell but seemed very kind. Danced hard with BLM and Forest Service at Distrikt. Did not see one person in cuffs all week
Robert: Rarely saw them. Didn’t see them on Gate Road this year, unlike last when I was K-9 searched (false hit, we had nothing and never had anything). I did see them one day (Thurs?). They hit multiple camps on F between 4:30 and 5:00. And I saw another K-9 car at the intersection of 4:30 and B when I was returning after seeing the ones on F. Tip perhaps?
Kent: think the big lawsuit payoff to Pershing County might have something to do with the reduced LEO aggressiveness but I still saw plenty around.
Joe: Had a good interaction with the Pershing county sherif, Rich. He’s been burning for 14 years, will retire in Jan, plans to attend the burn as a civilian participant.
Mark Atwood: I was very gratified to discover that a lot of people at the Burn this year had read and heard of my “How to deal with cops at Burning Man” document, and it was fun to introduce myself as the guy who had written it. Apparently, some camps included it as part of their own camp instructions.
Chrystal: We practiced different scenarios at our camp by teaming up with a buddy, one of us acted as the cop the other the camper. Went back and forth over different scenarios in which we could “not agree to a consent for a search.”
Peace with the peace officers was not the only positive experienced by Burners this year. Some were doing their bit for peace in the Middle East as well.
Did you take a picture with this as your backdrop? Did you see this and have a comment or emoton about it? It was right across from Distrikt (9 & G). I want to hear your thoughts and see your pics. I (Jewish) brought my Lebanese best friend to the playa for his first burn. We wanted to represent that there can be unity between our people so we out the flags up. Almost immediately people started to take pictures in front of it and tell us their stories. A group of Palestinians knocked on the RV door to give us a hug. A Lebanese guys told me he was here with a Jewish camp. Several Arab/ Jewish couples made it a point to say hi and tell me about some of their experiences as a result of being a couple of these mixed faiths.
These reactions have inspired me to put a project together for next years burn based on this. Please feel free to reach out to me with comment, pics, ideas, etc.
I hope you had an amazing burn.
Embrace went up yesterday in a ceremony rich with transhumanist symbolism. Humanity got to witness fire start in their eyes, explode into their brains, then blow a hole through the top of their heads before the two figures – man, woman, trans, whatever Alpha and Omega symbolized to you – were gone completely in about 20 minutes. More than a quarter of a million dollars, 170,000 lbs of timber, just incinerated. Sacrificed, in the name of Big Art.
Today’s a new day. The big one. The ceremony is scheduled to begin at 8, with a ritual procession. Then, at 8:45 Fire Conclave will present a spellbinding performance of twirling fire, hot dancers, and thumping primal drums. At 9:15, the Man burns.
The video feed this year is being brought to us in mobile HD by the Desert Wizards of Mars. Yes, really.
The whole concept of Burning Man is modelled on Ancient Babylonian Magick called the Rites of Eleusis. Using a combination of magic mushrooms and LSD, which was synthesized from a bread fungus, the wealthy elites of olden times were able to control the entire population of their cities. This stuff has worked for thousands of years, and Burning Man is the latest and greatest incantation and incarnation of it.
Don’t believe me? Read below for some of Larry Harvey’s writing about all of this.
From CEO Maid Marian’s public profile:
Her first love and escape from work is her two sweet-tempered kitties, and her second is her level 80 fire-specced Blood Elf Mage.
Familiars and avatars. Fire and blood are the elements of her Mage.
The producer of this bewitching event loves cats. Her art car is a cat.
This Skull and Bones tree has been on display all week in front of First Camp:
It spends the rest of the year at their work ranch, next to a giant occult mask.
Here the Magickal Symbols are today, all wheeled out and symbolically presented for the world on the HD UStream feed. This is what we get to see before darkness falls and the warm-up starts.
The camera pulls back just wide enough to get all 3 symbols in. The Control Tower to the right, much loved last year, has been all gussied up this year. People are climbing in it and looking out from the platform at the top. It looks like a Shake Weight with a rapier stuck on the end, but it also looks like a magic wand.
The symbols have been displayed, the ritual can commence, the ceremonies can begin.
Remember, good people. Harmony is stronger. Black magic thrives on chaos, it loves to breed discord and mistrust. White magic is unity, truth, love. Connection to source, Universal Infinite Love is our power. We don’t need no magic ritual connection to artificially intelligent False Idols in a re-creation of ancient rites of death, rebirth, and control.
“By the power of your fellowship…Dull Care is SLAIN!” – from the Bohemian Grove Cremation of Care ceremonial effigy burn. The crowd cheers “Murder! Murder! Bring fire!”
In the Year 2000, Internet counter-culture personality Alex Jones, who broadcasts his show Infowars.com with the tag line “if you are receiving this transmission, you ARE the resistance” – crashed Bohemian Grove. After doing some on-site reconnaissance, he decided to just walk through the gates and bluff his way past any security. In conjunction with UK filmmaker Jon Ronson, he got some never before seen footage of the Bohemian Grove’s Cremation of Care ceremony.
His associate was quite disturbed after the experience. “When you’re in the patriot movement, you hear rumors about stuff like this going around. You don’t know whether it is true, well it is. I saw it.”
Jones broke it down in his usual succinct manner: “you’ve got death on this black boat bringing a pallet with a papier mache person, they take it over and they burn it for some idol, some Owl god, it looks more like a demon, it’s got horns up there and they just call it an Owl… We’re not supposed to worship Jesus or anything…it’s worship the Owl God”.
Robed lamplighters conduct a ceremony, leading up to the lighting of the effigy. It is the high point of the Bohemian Grove’s midsummer encampment, occuring half way between its “Low Jinks” opening and “Hi Jinks” afterparty. Jinx is a word from witchcraft, a jinx is a spell. To “jinx” something is normally interpreted to mean to put a curse on it that will make it radiate bad luck. A fundamental principle of magic that is agreed upon by both sides, light and dark, is karma – if you curse something, you curse yourself. That is why white magicians say prayers and cast positive spells – the only consequence of their goodwill is more luck and happiness and goodwill in their own lives. White magic leans more toward the acquisition of wisdom and a general feeling of faith and trust in the universe. The Black form is concerned more with the acquisition of power and is reflective of a basic faith in oneself. Black magicians revel in pain, and torment, and suffering. In evil. That is why their occult rituals always happen in secret, and why they organize themselves in secret societies, often quite literally under ground in caves.
Everything is permitted, and nothing is true, said the Magicians of Chaos.
The lamplighters are commanded, “Bring fire! “
The Owl Moloch responds, in a voice recorded for the event by famous broadcaster Walter Cronkite:
Fools! Fools! Fools!
When will ye learn..
That me ye cannot slay?
Year after year ye burn me in this Grove
Lifting your puny shouts of triumph to the stars
But when again ye turn your faces to the marketplace
Do ye not find me waiting as of old?
Fools. Fools. Fools to dream ye conquer Care
Year after year within this happy grove. Our fellowshiop bans thee for a space,. So shall we burn thee once again this night,
And with the flames that eat thine effigy, we shall read the sign
Midsummer sets us free!
Ye shall burn me once again? Laughter
Not with these flames
Begone dull care. Fire shall have its will of thee!
Once again, mid summer sets us free!
Midsummer is the ancient Druidic term for the Summer Solstice, the same Pagan and astrological event that Burning Man was started to celebrate.
The use of wording is interesting. “Fellowship” has Masonic overtones, and brings to mind Lord of the Rings, a book most certainly based on knowledge of the inner workings of The Man, the secret society networks of the Round Table groups. Larry Harvey’s father was a Freemason, and his brother was in their DeMolay youth lodge.
“Ban” means to cast out, to forbid; but there is another sense of the word. “bann”, like Banner, is a flag that would be used on the battlefield by Celtic soldiers of the Robert the Bruce Braveheart type.
“The banns” is a term for a proclamation of an alliance, a partnership such as marriage. It is seen as a celebration in Pagan culture.
a notice read out on three successive Sundays in a parish church, announcing an intended marriage and giving the opportunity for objections
“Care”, the effigy of Molech, their god of wisdom and blood sacrifice, calls out three times that they are FOOLS. No-one objects. This is the bann, between the Grovers and The Man. Their effigy, their giant statute.
So “our fellowship banns thee for a space” is saying “our fraternity is proclaiming our partnership with you for this event, we will be joined together in this celebration”. When they burn Care, they are becoming one with it.
When you burn The Man, you don’t become one with it, anymore than burning an Owl at Bohemian Grove removes care from the world – or from these participants. It’s an excuse for a party, but it’s also a mass ceremonial ritual, symbolizing The Man as being between the people suffering physically in the dust, and The Gods, towering above them with the power of shock and awe. We look up to it on a pedestal, with a fire so hot capturing all our energies, that if we get too close to it we could burn. The power to kill, and we are powerless against that. The only thing we can do is respect its power, and be humbled by how great The Man is. Before everyone goes back to their lives, working for The Man. Obeying all the rules of The Man.
Why can they burn Care at the Grove? Because they are the owners of The Man. The ones building the hives to control us like to go to Burning Man. Bohemian Grove is for the owners of the hives like Google and Facebook and Apple that we’re all glued into – and the ancient bloodline families that own them. Many Grovers also attend Burning Man, and have from very early on in the event’s history.
The conceptual structure of the Burning Man is ritual. Rather than “Dull Care”, their idol is called “The Man”. When they burn the Man at Burning Man, they are celebrating their freedom and independence. Free to be who they want to be and do what they want, without the expectations and pressures and responsibilities of “The Default World”. In fact, The Man is reprogramming their minds with lessons and impressions that it wants them to return to the Default World with, and spread out to those around them.
At Bohemian Grove, when they burn Care, the captains of industry and government and academia and the arts, the Generals of The Man, can forget about their responsibilities and just party for a bit. This occult ritual goes back to the Cult of Dionysus, also known as Bacchus. The Dionysian mysteries combined ritual, costume, repetition of phrases, rhythmic beats and music, smoke, lighting effects, fire, intoxication, hallucination. The whole society were expected to participate in the Mysteries at some point, even slaves. Over time, as religious oppression pushed the so-called “Pagan” religions underground into secret societies, the selection of candidates to indoctrinate became more strategic. Over time, the ancient orders became more exclusive and powerful. Their focus on being male-only removed them from the need to deal with issues of primogeniture – hereditary title. A Man would be chosen based on the judgement of other men. The Society would hold the wealth and continue the man’s power after he died, because by replacing a Man’s place within the secret society, replacing his larger position in the outside world became a fait accompli.
At Burning Man, when they burn The Man, the elements are all the same as Bohemian Grove, because they are the same as the Dionysian Mysteries. Fire and darkness. Lamplighters, costumes, masks, symbols, robes, ritual. Rhythms, dancing, lights, drugs…an entrancing and intoxicating spectacle. The feeling of being part of something exclusive and special, not available to “regular” people in the outside world. At Bohemian Grove, The Man gets to burn Care, then party without it; at Burning Man, We The Burners get to burn The Man: for one night, anyway.
There is only one remotely similar event to Bohemian Grove and Burning Man in the US, the Pagan ritual burn called Zozobra. It started shortly after Bohemian Grove. The idol they burn is called Anxiety rather than Care. Almost all the other pagan effigy burns in the country are related to Burning Man as regional events, or spun out from Burning Man’s networks. It is only Burning Man and Bohemian Grove that share so closely the concepts of theme camps, alternate names, a ban on commerce, emphasis on theater and lectures, ritualizing of the effigy burn, and extreme decadence.
Both events were modeled on, and inspired by, the Rites of Eleusis. Gordon Wasson was Vice President of Public Relations for JP Morgan. In the official story, he “discovered” magic mushrooms, and got them on the cover of Life magazine through a chance meeting at the Century Club, the East coast version of Bohemian Grove. In the less widely publicized version, which comes with FOIA-requests and other evidence, Wasson’s expeditions were financed by the CIA’s MKULTRA program. Wasson wrote a book with Albert Hoffman, the “inventor” of LSD, called The Road to Eleusis: Unveiling the Secret of the Mysteries.
Thomas Hardy wrote in The Cutting Edge Magazine:
“Burning Man offers a no-holds-barred “Woodstock” style festival where neo-pagans, wiccans, transvestite entertainers, curiosity seekers, and old hippies can go to trance, perform rituals, burn sacrifices to deities, fornicate, and otherwise ‘express’ themselves freely.”
Brian Doherty is a historian who has studied Burning Man for a long time, and wrote a book on it, “This is Burning Man”. Writing in Reason magazine in 2000, he said:
“To many long-time attendees, the festival has turned away from its promise as what underground social theorist Hakim Bey calls a “temporary autonomous zone”-a place where a chosen few could create a new, free social order outside the purview of dominant authority… The agencies that sign off on Burning Man’s permits have come to see the festival more as an opportunity than as a problem and have thus forged a relatively easygoing relationship with the openly danger- and drug-filled event.
…To Harvey, Burning Man is more than just a party. But he’s vague about exactly what it represents. Harvey talks a lot about the meaning of the event – the word sacred comes up often-and he once wrote an article in the neo-mystic magazine Gnosis in which he compared Burning Man to Rome’s ancient mystery religions. But it’s hard to be sure what he wants to come out of the event. In fact, he’s proud that the event’s central symbol-the Man-is enigmatic. “We never say what the Man means,” he points out. “He’s just there to provide a unified focus for the community. It could become a wonderfully coercive tool politically-like, ‘The Man doesn’t like that, the Man says …… We could make The Man The Man, right? But he stands beyond the social circle, like a god or the prospect of war, something that unifies everyone.”
The mystery religions are linked to the Cult of Dionysus, and can be traced back to the even more ancient rituals of Mithras. Bacchanalian revelry outdoors is a big part of it.
The path of paganism goes back to the same theology that the ruling elites have been following, worshipping, in secret rituals for centuries. “Man is God” is the occult belief behind the New Age movement, Paganism, Luciferianism and Satanism. The Church of Satan was founded in San Francisco, next to the Presidio Military Base – just like Burning Man. Satanists do not worship the Devil as a separate being that gives them orders. Rather, They themselves are the God. Satanism is the true essence of the Mystery Religion, the religion of no religion. There’s nothing at its core, just an Abyss. An empty void of nothingness, in which nothing is real and everything is one. Similarly, Pagans and Burners do not directly worship the devil as their Lord and savior. “The greatest trick the devil ever played was convincing us he doesn’t exist”, says Kaiser Soze in the movie The Usual Suspects. That is the Devil’s goal, to make man believe that neither god nor the devil exist. The core belief of the New Age, that you will find to be widely held at Burning Man, is Self is God. The belief that Man is God transforms people into a vehicle by which They can drive humans into perpetual conflict under the guise of “saving the world”.
In 2014 Burning Man published a “book club” cultural discussion series on their official blog. The entire basis of the series was “The Death of God”.
If Burning Man is more than just a party, like Larry says, then what is it exactly? What experiments are going on, socially and spiritually, within this pentagon-shaped petri dish?
In the summer of 1995, as the tenth effigy burn was approaching, Larry Harvey reflected on the rituals in the magazine Gnosis. He published the story under the name of Darrel van Rhey, but later admitted on his own web site that he wrote the article. In the past Burning Man have always denied having any awareness of the movie “The Wicker Man”, but that is not the same as denying any awareness of Druids and their rituals. This article clearly exposes that not only were the founders aware of the occult, it is a fundamental element in this fire magic event which takes place inside a Pentagon, with a .666% circle touching the edges of the pentagram within it.
Although Darryl van Rhey is beleived to be a pseudonym for Larry Harvey, he interviewed Darryl in 1999 and 2000 – according to official Burning Man blog. He was photographed with him in 2004 – again, according to Burning Man, since this photo is from Danger Ranger’s Flickr. In 1995, he wrote in Gnosis magazine. If this didn’t come straight from Harvey himself using DVR as a pseudonym, then it was certainly straight from the horse’s mouth to Darryl’s pen. Rearrange the letters of “Darryl Van Rhey” and you get “ND Larry Harvey” (ND presumably stands for nom de’plume). In his 2000 Reason article, Doherty attributes Larry Harvey as the author. Erik Davis also attributes the article to Harvey.
Larry Harvey himself, writing on his own web site, claimed he was the author of the story – obviously oblivious to the other articles there where he had therefore interviewed himself:
We concentrated on the desert, instead. We no longer needed to publicize ourselves in San Francisco and could now rely on ticket revenue from the Burning Man event. The title of our performance that year was Mysterium. It was subtitled The Secret Rites of Burning Man. This was accompanied by a memorable motto: “Let’s put the cult back into culture!” It focused on the idea of fertility…I had been reading literature about the many Mystery religions of the ancient Greco-Roman world. The participatory character of these ancient religious movements intrigued me. Earlier in the year, I’d written an article for Gnosis, a San Francisco-based magazine.
The Revelation of the Method serves to make the magic more powerful. The true meaning of the event has been deliberately obscured from those who willingly participate in its rituals – which is the way of the dark wizard. Harvey tells us that this amibguity is not by accident, but rather has been very carefully calculated. A smoke screen, smoke and mirrors. A glamor.
In the following story from Gnosis Magazine 20 years ago, the emphasis is our commentary. The article is presented in its entirety, so that no-one can claim the author is being quoted out of context. On the contrary, Mr Harvey references this piece in his own writings on his company web site.
On Labor Day weekend in early September, thousands of people will converge in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert. Somewhere near the center of this awesome space – reputedly the largest flat expanse of land in North America – they will erect a giant effigy. The Burning Man, as it is called, will tower over a spontaneous community, a miniature civilization complete with clubs and cabarets, several radio stations, and a daily newspaper, The Black Rock Gazette. The masthead motto of this journal sets the tone of the ensuing weekend. “Welcome to Nowhere”, it reads, “Its name is whatever you name it. Its wealth is whatever you bring it. Next week it will be gone, but next week might as well be never. You are here now”.
Throughout the festival that follows, people indulge their whims and creative impulses. However they choose to express themselves – through costumes, dance, sculpture, or the construction of elaborate theme camps – they are encouraged to do so in an environment where distinctions like “professional” and “amateur” or “audience” and “spectator” soon become meaningless. By day the campground is a colorful community of tents and fantastic shelters with flags and banners flying in the wind. By night it is transformed into a dreamscape as artists craft light, sound, neon, and the primal element of fire into luminous spectacles.
On the final evening of the festival, participants join in a grand promenade. Dancers bearing torches lead them to the Burning Man along a pathway flanked by monumental spires. Clamor, cries, and high pitched ululations are succeeded by a hush as the four-story figure is ignited. Then a wild pandemonium ensues as lapping flames engulf the torso in a solid sheath of fire. Mounting upward, they ignite a fuse: fountains of fireworks spew out of the giant’s head. Most animate now, at the moment of his demise, he soon shudders, and the three-quarter ton figure comes crashing to the ground.
Organizers shroud the meaning of this celebration in a cloud of calculated ambiguity.
Pressed to explain their intentions, they cite a simple doctrine. “The Project never interferes with anyone’s immediate experience”. Participants are urged to create their own interpretations.
The weekend might be described as an avant-garde art festival, a ritual enactment of creation and destruction, or an exotic free-wheeling party.
Yet, to the student of religion, these rites suggest a time, a place, and a social setting that has precedents in ancient history.
Throughout the classic period of Western civilization, there existed a diverse spiritual movement that is known as mystery religion. The mystery cults, as they were called, arose within a new world order. The conquests of Alexander and the subsequent spread of Roman rule throughout the Mediterranean world had greatly expanded the scope of classical civilization. Stretching from the shores of the Atlantic to the Caspioan Sea, it occupied a vast cosmopolitan domain, teeming with commerce and hosting the ideas of many cultures . Immense allocations of men and monies had displaced entire populations. The citizenry of the empire, uprooted and heterogeneous, now congregated in large urban centers. Within this sophisticated and self-conscious milieu, huge societal gaps separated rich from poor and urban from rural populations, and intense economic specialization further divided the classes. It was a world, in other worlds, remarkably like our own.
Arising from this complex milieu, the mysteries derived from diverse sources. Traditions drawn from many cultures flowed like tributary streams into the great Mediterranean basin, bringing with them the worship of Isis and Osiris of Egypt, Mithra of Persia, and the Anatolian Great Mother. Yet the mystery cults had much in common. All were grafted onto the stock of agrarian fertility festivals – relics of a prehistoric past – yet were essentially urban in character. They typically employed theatrical parades and pageants to attract a pool of individuals who might share little else in common, and they were organized as lodges. Membership within a cult implied broad equality with fellow mystai or initiates.
Ceremonies often took the form of pilgrimages. Participants removed themselves to sacred sites. Mystai sang and danced to flutes and cymbals, others wore masks and sported strange attire. Such celebrations might take many days, and while they lasted, class distinctions were dissolved. “Persons who are being initiated into the mysteries throng together at the outset amid tumult and shouting”, wrote Plutarch of the Eleusinian mysteries celebrated near Athens, “but when the holy rites are being disclosed and performed, the people are immediately attentive in awe and silence.
Such initiations were performed by firelight at night in enactment of a central myth of death and rebirth. They were often highly theatrical performances, and, unlike the tribal traditions from which they sprang, placed a unique emphasis on personal choice.
Many people probably attended the festivals simply to have fun. Intense, ecstatic and immediate, the rites did not stress doctrinal belief, but valued toward show and inward feeling. Artistotle states the mysteries weren’t about a teaching, they were initiations focused on direct experience.
The mystery cults, long a dominant form of idol worship in the late classical world, perished with the fall of Greco-Roman civilization. Yet the modern immolation of the Burning Man, surrounded by impromptu rites of celebration, forms an arresting analogy. The parallels are striking, fire, sacrifice, pilgrimage, visionary spectacle, egalitarianism, revelry, recruitment from an urban population, direct experience opposed to doctrinal belief, and central to it all, a myth of death and rebirth.
Organizers of this modern mystery disclaim any conscious plan to reproduce the past. Yet it might be that culture itself, is responding to the changing needs of our society. As students of ritual understand, the past and present rotate on a single wheel of time.
See Live-Blogging the Burn for all the occult references that happened at this year’s re-enactment of the Magickal Mystery Rituals.
[Update 8/31/14 2:22pm]
Thanks to Curt.Net for sharing these images he created.
The description of Bohemian Grove ceremonies is from the recording in this documentary, filmed secretly at their annual event.