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A Burner Lexicon: Greeter

Posted in A Burner Lexicon, and Burning Man

A Greeter and a virgin burner creating dust angels together. Black Rock City, 2009. Photo by Greg Z.

Greeter, –noun, You’ve traveled a long way to get to the Burn, but before you can set up your camp you have to get out of your car and visit with the Greeters. Their job is to give you a hug, tell you “Welcome Home!” (a phrase shared with the Rainbow Gathering) and make sure you know what you are getting into. A greeter will ask you about your plans; it’s possible they will turn you away if they notice something strange really strange (or you think a sixpack is enough to survive a week in the desert), but all of that should have been caught at the Gate. In return, it is traditional to offer gifts such as snacks, water, or cold beer; this is effectively your first transaction in the gift economy.

A Greeter will pay special attention to initiating a newbie — or virgin. At That Thing In The Desert, virgins are often asked to lay down on the playa and create a Dust Angel. This is a replacement from the old days, when a Greeter would use a handful of playa dust to leave a hand-print with a dust spanking. Virgins are also sometimes given coupons for spankings which they can collect inside Black Rock City.

While it may seem like a largely frivolous role — designed mostly to ask silly questions, dispense hugs, and collect gifts — the greeter is actually playing a pivotal role in ensuring a healthy atmosphere. As any ritual magician knows, if you want to create a temporary autonomous zone apart from the default world it’s important to enforce its psychic borders. You don’t have to just keep out interlopers — which is the job of other volunteers — but you also need to ensure that those who are allowed to enter do so with the proper attitude. GP&E may enforce the physical borders of the city, but the Greeters defend its mental perimeter.

In the old days of Burning Flipside, a virgin would be initiated in a slightly different way. The bewildered newcomer would be surrounded by a host of Greeters who would rub their posteriors all over them while chanting “Ass Wash! Ass Wash!” It is the lexicographer’s opinion that the decline of this noble tradition is a sign of the decay of civilization itself.

Thanks to Ghoast and C for input to this entry.

Other entries in A Burner Lexicon can be found at

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