The Sacred Temple of Black Rock City… Burning Man 2017: Part 11

Temple at Burning Man 2017

The 2017 Temple at Burning Man with its Black Rock Desert playa and mountain setting.


Peggy and I watched with dismay as several of the stately Ponderosa Pine trees on our property in Southern Oregon teetered on the edge of death, victims of pine beetles and the drought brought on by global warming. It is a story told over and over in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California and Nevada where the US Forest Service reports that over a hundred million trees have suffered a similar fate.

This year’s Temple at Burning Man was a reflection on the devastation caused by global warming. The Temple was made from trees that had died. The write up on the Burning Man site described the structure of the temple:

Interlocking timber pieces in formation become a Temple that is both cloud and spire; inverted pyramidal columns suggest the negative-space of a forest canopy, simultaneously supporting a vast pagoda-like ‘cloud’ framework which in turn supports a central spire. In this way disorder gives way to harmony, and a group of dying trees is re-ordered into a cathedral of timbers stretching toward the sky.

Temple view at Burning Man 2017

The forest holding up a canopy of clouds and the spire

Side view of Temple at Burning Man 2017

Another perspective.

Temple view, Burning Man 2017

Looking up at the Temple’s central spire.

The Temple is not a religious edifice, like a church,  but it is a spiritual refuge. Burners come to mourn those who have passed on and seek peace. Thousands of messages are left for loved ones. I always make a point of working my way through the temple while enjoying the sense of peace, reading the messages, and quietly supporting those who mourn.

People inside Temple at Burning Man 2017

Burners gather for a period of quiet meditation.

Messages in Burning Man Temple, 2017

Thousands of messages are left for loved ones. The majority of these messages are written but photos and items of importance to those who have died are often included.

Mermaid Cello in Temple at Burning Man 2017

I would have liked to have known the story behind this cello, angel, mermaid.

It is never too late, Burning Man Temple 2017

More generic messages are included as well.

Change sign at Burning Man Temple 2017

Trans Lives Matter, Burning Man Temple 2017People also leave messages for their four legged friends that have died. The memorials almost always include photos and often include favorite toys, like a well-loved tennis ball. I am always moved by these memorials but I was particularly touched by the written memorial to Kozmo this year, as I am sure you will be.

Kozo memorial at Burning Man Temple, 2017

Meet Kozmo and then read his story below.

Memorial to Kozmo the cat at Temple, Burning Man 2017

Rama with tennis ball memorial at Burning Man Temple 2017

Rama and his well-loved tennis ball.

Toe Licker the Cat memorial at Burning Man Temple, 2017

Toe-Licker. I can almost feel that raspy tongue.

Memorial to cat at Burning Man Temple, 2017

And how can you not love this decorated cat. I remember putting reindeer antlers on our cat at Christmas and receiving a similar look of, “Really, do we have to do this?”

The Temple is always burned on Sunday in a solemn ritual that sends the messages skyward and provides an element of peace for those left behind. For once, the always boisterous, always noisy Burning Man is silent. The music has stopped, the dancing has stopped, the drinking has stopped; there is only silence and respect broken occasionally by the sound of someone crying or calling out the name of a loved one who has passed on.

People watch silently as Temple burns at Burning Man 2017

Flames shoot high at 2017 Temple burn at Burning Man

Final stages of Temple burn, Burning Man 2017

Sparks fly skyward from Temple at Burning Man 2017

I always feel like the sparks represent messages sent on their way.


NEXT POST: More sculptures from Burning Man 2017 with a special focus on trees in honor of the world’s remaining forests.