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A Burner Lexicon: Effigy

Posted in A Burner Lexicon, and Burning Man

The Burning Man effigy with the text-based symbol for the event superimposed. Original photo taken in Black Rock City, 2007, by Waldemar Horwat.

Effigy, –noun, The effigy is the central sculpture around which a Burn event and its temporary community are built. Near the end of the event this structure is burned (or occasionally ritually destroyed in other ways).

Burning Man’s effigy has been shaped like a human figure since the Hat began the event in 1986; starting in 1996 the Man has been placed on various elevating platforms which have become increasingly ornate. The modern version of this effigy stands at the center of Black Rock City, lit by neon lights. Its arms remain at its sides until about an hour before it is to be burned when it lifts them in salute to the city.

At regional events the effigy takes on other shapes, including some which are not anthropomorphic. They are usually assembled on site after extensive preparations made first in the default world. Some effigies or their surrounding structures are interactive, allowing participants to play (and occasionally fuck) on, in or around them.

The Burning Man effigy is the trademarked logo of the BMORG and is integrated into many logos for theme camps or regional burns. Its shape also gives rise to the use of the symbol or emoticon )'( in text-based mediums. It is sometimes followed by an exclamation point for emphasis, )'(! or preceded by a # on Twitter, #)'( though it is not a proper hashtag. This symbol is used to playfully signal or celebrate one’s association with Burner culture.

Clearly the idea of ritually burning a figure or work of art predates the Hat and his friends’ first event on Baker Beach. Though the symbolism of the effigy ties the Burn into a rich cultural, religious, and historical tapestry, event organizers have always emphasized that each participant should find their own meaning in its destruction.

Other entries in A Burner Lexicon can be found at

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