Friday, March 11, 2022

The Truth About Burning Man - My four years inside California's sex and drug cult

Burning Man is a week-long "art festival" held each year in the Black Rock Desert of northern Nevada. The event draws tens of thousands of people to the desert and they build a temporary city there called Black Rock City, which is the second largest city in Nevada while it's there. At the end of the week, the festival culminates with the burning of a wooden effigy of a person, hence the name "Burning Man".

Have you ever wondered what Burning Man is about? Well I'm about to let you know the big secret behind it. It's actually very simple. 

I've only been to Burning Man four times but I've hung out with some long-time burners for years, and I helped start a theme camp at Burning Man and was its leader for a couple of years. During that time I was also a part of the Burning Man community that exists all year round, not just during the one week of the Burning Man event, and I have attended various Burning Man endorsed regional events in Southern California.  

Burning Man itself is a large publicly accessible event.  It has law enforcement and is mostly a giant party and art festival on the dry lake bed of the Black Rock Desert in northern Nevada.

What kind of people go to Burning Man?
Burning Man is a gathering of many different "tribes".  The event began as a counter-culture festival in San Francisco. Since its inception more than 30 years ago, the event has drawn people from various counter-culture communities such as:
  • Disenfranchised artists
  • Artists who work with unusual media such as fire and light
  • Ravers
  • Pagans
  • Sexual deviants such as Swingers, Polyamorous, BDSM, and the LGBT community
There are also a lot of ordinary people who don't fit into the above categories, generally young people, thrill seekers, or those who go just want to see what it's about.

What unifies all these groups?
DRUGS!!  Burning Man and the Burner community are mostly about drug use.  This is why they often have their regional events on Native American reservations, so that law enforcement can't just show up and start nosing around at their big drug parties.

What kinds of drugs?
First and foremost, Burning Man is about hallucinogenic drugs.  These are the drugs that spawned the hippie era of the 1960s in the USA and other western nations. These drugs make you hallucinate, but they also make you feel "peace", "love", and "oneness with the universe".  From my experience I have personally seen or heard of the following drugs being used within the Burner community:

  • LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide)
  • Psilocybin-containing mushrooms (Psilocybe and related species)
  • DMT (dimethyl tryptamine)
  • 2CB & 2CI (Bromo-dimethoxyphenethylamine and Iodo-dimethoxyphenethylamine )
  • Mescaline (from Peyote and other cactuses)

  • Cocaine
  • Ecstasy (MDMA - Methyl​enedioxy​methamphetamine)
  • Amphetamines of various types

Dissociatives & hallucinogenic dissociatives
  • Nitrous oxide
  • Ketamine
  • PCP (phencyclidine)
  • Deschloroketamine
  • GHB (gamma hydroxybutyric acid) and GBL (gamma-butyrolactone)

Legal drugs
  • Alcohol
  • Cannabis
  • Designer drugs that skirt around controlled substance laws by having a different molecular structure but have similar effects as the drugs they're intended to mimic.

From that list you can see that the drugs being used among the Burner community are mostly party drugs, the kind of drugs that alter your consciousness or that allow you to party all night like a rockstar.  Not surprisingly, you don't see nervous system depressant drugs being used much at Burning Man. Drugs like heroin, morphine, opiates, opioids, benzodiazepines such as Xanax, rohypnol, and barbituates don't seem to have a following.  They may get some usage but I didn't encounter them at all. Perhaps I just wasn't moving in the "right circles".

In short, Burning Man is about creating art that is inspired by, and intended to enhance the psychedelic drug experience.

That's it, that's what Burning Man is mostly about.  Well there's art and community and friends and a whole lot more, but the one thing that really ties it all togeether is...


So when you hear Burning Man being self-described as an event focussed on community, art, self-expression, and self-reliance, what they really mean is....


- Dave Badperson

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