Let It Burn: Postcards From WickerMan

by Tim Sherwood

The WickerMan Burn is a brief taste of the burn festival culture, and serves as an introduction to Burning Man’s 10 core principles. High up in the mountains, Four Quarters InterFaith Sanctuary is a farm located along the Pennsylvania-Maryland state border in Artemas, and home to the mini fest. WickerMan provides music, arts, nature, and a freeing experience for its patrons. Liberating and family-friendly, it’s an outing in the woods that should be on your calendar next summer.

Burns are a type of nature-based culture festival which originated in the United States. They promote 10 core principles which are intended to serve as the governing code of conduct for burns and as a guide for life after the festival:

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  • Radical inclusion: This means that anyone and everyone can be a part of the burn, there are no barriers to entry for burn festivals. 

  • Gifting: This principle states that burns are committed to the act of gift giving. This is not to be mistaken for trading; within the burn community gifts are not expected to be returned with compensation, and granting compensation for a gift can in some situations even be perceived as rude.

  • Decommodification: This principle provides aid to the principle of gifting by removing commercial sponsorship, advertisements and fiscal transactions from the burn environment. In essence this turns burns into a cashless society for the duration of the burn.

  • Radical self-reliance: this encourages individuals to rely on their inner resources. The essence of this message is that while burns are a community of family that takes care of one another, you should only plan on attending a burn if you are capable of taking care of your own survival needs independently for the festival’s duration.

  • Radical self-expression: perhaps the most crucial, this principle somewhat piggybacks off of “radical inclusion” by promoting all personalities and individual behaviors as gifts to the community to be embraced.

  • Communal effort: Burns are a product of selfless individual contributions and efforts. This means that when you attend a burn you are not only a patron, your are also a part of the community effort to host the burn.

  • Civic responsibility: This principle is directly related to communal effort. It means that as a part of the burn you have a responsibility to look out for the welfare of the burn and it’s participants.

  • Leave no trace: Burns are very environmentally conscious events. All burns are committed to leaving no trace upon departure. This includes everything from properly disposing of all trash to completely burning down all effigies and structures to ensure that the land a burn is hosted on is left exactly as it was found before the burn.

  • Participation: The burner community believes that “being is achieved through doing.” Transformative change that burns aim to create within their patrons can only be accomplished through individual participation. The burn cannot help you evolve you if you aren't.

  • Immediacy: This principle is meant to overcome barriers within the community by promoting others to take action initially rather than tentatively. The message of this principle is carpe diem.

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WickerMan is a relaxed, low maintenance burn. Four Quarters InterFaith Sanctuary hosts a number of festivals throughout the spring, summer, and early fall. WickerMan happens to be a smaller event, but it is a family favorite. The venue holds a highly diverse landscape, featuring grassy fields, tree canopies, and streams. Patrons can choose from a variety of comfortable camping terrains, an advantage over the harsh and unforgiving landscape of Black Rock City.

While WickerMan is a very popular burn regionally, it has not yet been accepted as an official regional burn by the burning man society. It honors the principles, so hopefully this lush landscape can be legitimized soon. In the meantime, WickerMan is a solid starter kit to the burner community, with less elemental strain on your experience.

This year the WickerMan community brought forth electronic musical concerts, fire dancers, and a goblin trading post where you could take any trinket they held in their inventory for the price of your middle name, or a humble bottlecap. It was a eclectically stimulating collection of oddballs and new age hippies who came together to selflessly celebrate their community.

make a plan to get lost in the forest next year,

you might just find yourself.