A 41-year-old has perished from injuries after running into a 40-foot flaming wooden effigy at Burning Man (graphic pic at the link). Aaron Joel Mitchell died Sunday morning at the UC Davis hospital burn center, after being transported from the Burning Man event in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada.
Mitchell apparently ran directly into the effigy, catching on fire. Doctors said he wasn’t under the influence of alcohol, but are awaiting toxicology results. Keeping people away from jumping into the flames of the burning “Man” is an ongoing issue for this festival, though this seems to be one of the worst “accidents” regarding it—and perhaps the only fatality.
Pershing County Sheriff Jerry Allen explained to The Hollywood Reporter:
People try to run into the fire as part of their spiritual portion of Burning Man. The significance of the man burning, it’s just kind of a rebirth, they burn the man to the ground, a new chapter has started, it’s part of their tenants of radical self-expression.
What drove Mitchell to do this? Was he simply caught up in the moment?
And what is the significance of this seemingly “real” (willing) sacrifice in what was supposed to be a “mock” sacrifice?
What it seems to me is that Burning Man is like this intense occult/shamanic ritual in the middle of the Nevada desert…the “staging area” of a number of other intense/occult events in history such as the Babalon Working (disputed location), atomic testing, Area 51, etc.. That’s cool…I think we need more of these “outlets” for shamanic expression as a whole in our society.
Rituals—even “mock” ones—put “energy” out there.
Looking through this slideshow of photos from this year’s Burning Man, there is an art installation of a pyramid with a “marquee” that reads: “Now Playing: Stage Your Own Death.” And certainly, the symbolism is clear: pyramid, afterlife, resurrection, kill your ego, rebirth, all that. And we do these rituals in the symbolic space to provide us with spiritual development. It’s never meant to be literal.
And this all makes me think, in a tangential way, of last year’s “Ghost Ship” fire (a.k.a. Oakland Warehouse fire)—something that, at the time (December), felt like a very bad omen in addition to being an incredible tragedy. “Ghost Ship”—this sort of commune thing illegally built from a warehouse—also had this very bohemian, shamanic, “Burning Man” type vibe. And I remember at the time I read about this fire—where like 36 people died—it had a real impact on me. I remember looking through an online photo album of the place (before the fire), and it looked like one big “altar” of spiritual items & etc.
I have nothing else really to add here, but…you know, it’s just weird and tragic.