If you’ve never been to Burning Man, you might not know what to expect. It’s a difficult event for many to define—some people might say it’s an art piece, a music festival, or a hippie commune. Regardless of how you define it, the ten principles of Burning Man are a concrete part of the experience. Here’s what you need to know.
The Pathogen Trackers theme camp is dedicated to providing the essentials to the people of the playa. Learn more about what we do, and sign up to join us during this year’s event!
“Anyone may be a part of Burning Man. We welcome and respect the stranger. No prerequisites exist for participation in our community.”
Burning Man has drawn ire in past years for the cost of tickets. Nowadays, they offer discounted tickets in an effort to make the playa more accessible. Arriving at the gates, you may very well be welcomed with hugs and calls of, “We’re so glad that you’re here!”
“Burning Man is devoted to acts of gift-giving. The value of a gift is unconditional. Gifting does not contemplate a return or an exchange for something of equal value.”
You may have heard that the playa operates on a barter system, but that is not accurate. It actually uses a gifting system. A gift is something that is freely given and can refer to literally anything—a photo, a trinket, a bottle of water, a smile, or a hug. Gifts could also be things that have thought put into them. It’s about the experience and the community more than the item itself.
“In order to preserve the spirit of gifting, our community seeks to create social environments that are unmediated by commercial sponsorships, transactions, or advertising.”
Burning Man is intended to be a step back from the commercialism and corporate branding of the modern world. You won’t see many brand names, not even on vehicles, and definitely not on gifting items. Being on the playa is supposed to be about the community and the experience, not corporations.
“Burning Man encourages the individual to discover, exercise, and rely on his or her inner resources.”
When you arrive for the week, you should have packed everything you need to get through the Burn. Of course, there will be times when you need a helping hand and times when you can help someone else. But, if you develop a reputation as someone who constantly needs help, you will be referred to as a “sparkle pony.” You may be able to get by on gifts, but the behavior is discouraged as it misses an important principle.
“Radical self-expression arises from the unique gifts of the individual. No one other than the individual or a collaborating group can determine its content. It is offered as a gift to others.”
Burning Man is a place for people to let go of their social images. It’s widely looked upon as a piece of art, with every participant being a part of that art. Costumes are non-negotiable here, and the more outrageous, the better. Some people even take a “playa name” to embrace their new temporary identity.
“Our community values creative cooperation and collaboration. We strive to produce, promote, and protect social networks, public spaces, works of art, and methods of communication that support such interaction.”
Burning Man consists of thousands of different camps, but they all have one thing in common: they see the playa as a place to share resources and experiences. If you join a camp, you will probably find that each person there has particular responsibilities for the good of everyone participating.
“We value civil society. Community members who organize events should assume responsibility for public welfare and … assume responsibility for conducting events in accordance with local, state, and federal laws.”
Burning Man is a place to express yourself, but there are still rules and consequences. So yes, if you break the law, there is law enforcement nearby. When you get there, you will receive a booklet detailing expectations regarding how to participate and how to ensure your own safety.
Leaving No Trace
“Our community respects the environment. We are committed to leaving no physical trace of our activities wherever we gather. We clean up after ourselves and endeavor, whenever possible, to leave such places in a better state than when we found them.”
You won’t find trash cans at Burning Man. Burners carry their trash with them and avoid anything that leaves MOOP, or “matter out of place.” This includes everything from gray water to glitter. Make plans to keep the playa clean!
“Our community is committed to a radically participatory ethic. We believe that transformative change, whether in the individual or in society, can occur only through the medium of deeply personal participation. We achieve being through doing.”
Being at Burning Man is an experience, and you have to, well, experience it. Everyone is encouraged to actively participate, not just sit on the sidelines and watch. This includes being open to unexpected things, like joining in activities as you cross the playa.
“Immediate experience is, in many ways, the most important touchstone of value in our culture. We seek to overcome barriers that stand between us and a recognition of our inner selves, the reality of those around us, participation in society, and contact with a natural world exceeding human powers. No idea can substitute for this experience.”
Going hand-in-hand with participation, immediacy is about living in the moment on the playa. It’s not about making plans—it’s about following each moment as it leads you. Of course, it also means putting your cell phone away and replacing pictures with real memories.
Join The Pathogen Trackers Theme Camp in 2019!
Pathogen Trackers is a Burning Man theme camp with a mission to serve the people of the playa. We are here to give our fellow Burners what they need, whether it’s a bottle of water or a place to get out of the sun. Join our camp this year to serve your fellow Burners at Burning Man 2019!