There were not as many messages written on the structure around the man as were on the temple but the ones that were related much more a message of hope and happiness that was meant to go out to everyone instead of just one single person. Everyone I asked about the symbolism had a different answer. The only thing they agreed on was to come up with your own symbolism. I see it as temporary art that must be enjoyed by those participating while it is present. (Trust me, pictures are not the same.)
The actual ceremony of burning the man was right on schedule. It was kind of funny to see the statue raise its arms since it was so large. I have heard they have had to delay for hours due to dust storms. There was a large procession of people, then fire jugglers came out. Some on stilts and others had what looked like whole candelabras being twirled. After about 30 minutes of fire swishing around they sat down and a firework show started around the man that was capped off by huge fireballs. People kept cheering as it burned and they had to tackle one lady that came running forward before the firemen had given the all clear. I couldn’t help but think of the saying “At Burning Man there are no spectators” and add my own ending of “except when the firemen haven’t given the all clear.”
Once the last of the structure fell the firemen gave the clear signal and people rushed forward and started moving counter-clockwise around the fire. The heat was intense but it was interesting how fast the curve dropped off. So the difference between completely unbearable to needing to rotate the exposed side about every minute was about 5 feet. There were people dressed up as boy scouts with long poles that were roasting marshmallows and feeding them to the crowd. Others were just sitting with their backs to the fire with the firemen in full protection asking then every few minutes if they were still okay.
There were a lot of people dancing to the scattered music from the different art cars and people were wishing each other a “Happy New Year” as that was the event their lives revolved around. Everyone was happy and laughing. It was defiantly the peak of the week long party.
Coming back from the man I had a hard time finding my camp because a lot of people had already broken down their camps so the surroundings looked different, plus all the street signs were missing as people took them as souvenirs so I had to count streets to find my way back to my tent.
The next morning after checking out the temple at sunrise I walked over to the pile of ash to see what it was like. There were still people there, a few in sleeping bags that had obviously spent the night there. People were still going through the ashes looking for souvenirs. Some people were pointing out to other people what was left of the different joints as the man had fallen like it was some kind of crime scene. Still other people were having what seemed like a religious (or drug induced) experience with lots of time just looking off into the distance.