The other day, a friend of mine who lives in Berkeley, California posted this on her Facebook feed:

Anyone not getting raptured want to go to Nerd Nite East Bay on Monday?

After someone asked what she was talking about, she went on to explain in a comment:

raptured = the burning man rapture, or what happens to the Bay Area when everyone goes to burning man. Nerd Nite east bay is a monthly night of entertaining science-based presentations. You know, for nerds.

Burning Man, for those unaware, is a week-long festival held in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada at the end of August. Around 70,000 people attend each year. The capstone event of the festival is the burning of a giant, wooden effigy of a man, hence the name. I was very familiar with Burning Man—I’ve never attended myself, but having lived in the Bay Area, I know many people who go each year—but before her post I’d never heard rapture used to describe the emptying out of the Bay Area each year.

Most people are at familiar with the word from the apocalyptic Christian doctrine of the rapture, but that’s a relatively recent development in theology. The word is much older.

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