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A Burner Lexicon: Lamplighter (Guest Entry by Alan Markow)

Posted in A Burner Lexicon, Burning Man, and Guest Bloggers

This Lexicon entry is by Alan Markow, who recently created the Sunrise Burners, a blog dedicated to Burners over 50.

A Lamplighter carrying lamps. Black Rock City, 2011. Photo by Lemur2.

Lamplighter, –noun, Technically, Lamplighters is just another theme camp like the others which dot the Burning Man landscape. However, Lamplighters is more than just a theme camp, and is similar to groups like the Black Rock Rangers, the medics, and Center Camp Café. These camps are integral to the operations and principles of Burning Man itself.

Lamplighters’ prime directive is to “Light the City Nightly” with a world-class collection of approximately 1,000 kerosene lanterns that are hung from stanchions placed strategically along major thoroughfares including the Esplanade, the “keyhole” plazas at 3 and 9 o’clock, Center Camp, the Effigy, the Temple and routes to those landmarks.

The lanterns are set out in a nightly ceremony that’s a true celebration of the spirit of Burning Man; it requires volunteers from among the Black Rock citizenry. To recruit volunteers, the 200 or so full-time Lamplighters hold two of BRC’s largest parties of the Festival — the Sangria Soiree on Monday and the Bloody Mary Brunch on Wednesday. Open to all, these parties are marked by free-flowing libations served by Lamplighters who remind all attendees to come out at least once during Burning Man to volunteer as a “carrier,” “lifter,” or “support” during the lighting ceremony at 4 p.m. each evening. Many regular burners wouldn’t miss the opportunity of playing a role in lighting the city. At that time, one can hear the cry of the Luminaries (leaders), “Make Way for the Lamplighters,” and the return call from participants, “Thank you, Lamplighters.”

Every Lamplighter volunteer receives a pendant to memorialize his or her experience lighting Black Rock City and making everyone’s experience both safer and more enjoyable. Lamplighters also have responsibility for guarding and delivering the sacred flame to the Man on Saturday night to ignite the burn itself.

If you have never experienced being part of the Lamplighter ceremony, be sure to seek out directions to the Lamplighter Temple near Center Camp and join the ceremony every evening of Burning Man at about 4 p.m. You will never forget it.

Alan Markow is celebrating his second, third and fourth life after a 30 year corporate career.  He and his wife now work winters in the ski industry at Lake Tahoe and are dedicated Burners.  He also writes twice weekly for the Independent Voter Network (IVN) websites.

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  • Gyesika Safety

    The first volunteering/participation I ever did out in the desert was lamplighting, did two shifts while I was there and those folks made me feel welcomed and appreciated in an amazing way. They also have a kick ass bar.

    I’m also going to go on record that carrying that much weight for that long is *intense* (I did both carrying and lifting).

    Yet, the most remarkable aspect, for me, was how they’ve managed to create a structure that manifests almost instant and ephemeral (in the sense that I never saw the people I worked with again) camraderie. It’s impressive and something to look at more closely for how to bring total strangers together.

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