A Guide To Burning Man’s Temple
The Spiritual heart of Burning Man Festival, the Temple is an architectural marvel built to burn. It is also a place for people to mourn, find solace, meditate, and hold ceremonies. Before it burns on the final Sunday night, marking the end of the Burn, the walls of the temple will be covered in messages and memorials.
I love the Temple and have had a few profound moments there, so much so that one year I volunteered as a Temple Guardian to hold space. In the few shifts I did there, I witnessed and was a part of weddings, memorials, ceremonies, performances, and moments of profound healing. Here’s how to experience the most from the Temple:
Experience a Performance or Ceremony at The Temple
2023’s temple is stunning and looks to be a beautiful venue to hear music. There are three large performances held at the Temple this year: Black Rock’s biggest orchestra, Black Rock Philharmonic performs at the Temple on Friday morning at 9:00am., the PlayaPops Symphony Orchestra performs there on Thursday at 10:30am, and the Playa Choir performs their major concert at the temple at sunrise on the final Sunday.
If you practice a religion, there’s probably a camp at Burning Man that does too, and chances they’ll hold a ceremony or service at the temple during the week. You can look in your guide (given at the gate) to find them. Camp Religious As Fuck hosts “non-judgy” Christian services at 11:30am on Wednesday and Fridays here.
There will also be unlisted sound baths, gongs, drumming & sacred chanting throughout the week which you may be blessed enough to stumble upon.
Leave a Memorial or Message at The Temple
I’ve suggested that markers make great Burning Man gifts because people use them at the Temple to write heartfelt messages on the walls.
Read these messages or write your own. You may find it therapeutic or cathartic.
People also leave memorials in the forms of signs, art, and photographs of loved ones who’ve passed. However, please respect the Paiute tribe whose aboriginal territory Burning Man is held on and don’t bring cremated human remains to the Temple. The Paiute believe human remains negatively affect the living spirits present within Black Rock Desert.
Volunteer as a Temple Guardian
Are you good at holding space? Do you love to meditate & be in meditative spaces? Consider volunteering as a Temple Guardian. Temple Guardians volunteers spend much of their shifts holding space, keeping people from climbing the temple walls, and calming disturbances. If you need support, you can recognize Guardians by thin blue embroidery thread bracelets & their lanyard.
If you would like to volunteer, you can fill out this questionnaire (you’ll need to log in with your Burner Profile), or you can inquire at the V-Spots (Portals of Center Camp and the 3:00 and 9:00 Civic plazas) at the Burn. Introductory Temple Guardian sessions are held at the Temple Oasis Camp at the beginning of the week.
Watch The Temple Burn
In contrast to the Man Burn, which is a huge party with fireworks, fire dancers, and every art car out and blasting music, The Temple Burn is held in a sacred silence. Everyone sits on the playa so everyone else can see. Nobody makes a sound until the Temple has collapsed in Flames.
In previous years, after the temple burn, many burners would dance around the dying fire, even using the heat of the embers to cook a roast or make smores. But, since 2017, when a man ran into the fire to end his life, Burning Man Project has put more security around the fire and you’ll have to keep your distance until the fire has died.
Forage The Ashes
On the final Monday, when the fire is out and the earth has cooled slightly, you can bring along a pair of work gloves to rake through the ashes for what survived the fire. I did this one year, hoping to find stuff to turn into art. I was rewarded with a scorched Sacred Heart Milagro, wedding ring boxes, and a ring, which I offered up to a friend who had planned on proposing to his girlfriend at the next burn. Another friend collected Temple bolts and cast them into a resin sculpture.
Support the 2023 Temple
The Temple is a 100% volunteer-run art project supported by Burners. You can help support this years Temple by donating here.
Learn About the 2023 Temple
The official 2023 Burning Man Temple is called the Temple of the Heart. Co-designed by Ela Madej and Reed Finlay, this Temple was intended to be a “vessel for reconnecting with our hearts and a space for communal healing.” With motifs of flowers, Eastern European lacing, the 2023 Temple has a decidedly feminine energy.
The central gathering space is known as the Heart Chamber while the altar at its center is called the Rose Altar, made of hundreds of flowers made by Burner artisans. The outer ring of the structure is designed to be walked in a walking meditation.