Meta Talk on the Metamorphoses Theme

It feels like Burning Man themes fall into three categories.

First, there are the “Literal” themes that have some way to map them conveniently to the physical world. Like, The Body, Floating World, Carnival of Mirrors and I, Robot. It isn’t difficult to think of imagery that you could incorporate into a theme camp design, mutant vehicle or sticker. Floating World? How about a big fish? Or a sea anemone?

Then there are the ones that are more philosophical. I imagine these were decided upon while fingers and toes were pruning in late-night, hot tub convos. Examples like Hope and Fear, Beyond Belief and Psyche are a little harder to visualize. 

The final category of themes is, Ways to Describe Burning Man.”  

Radical Ritual, Rites of Passage and Evolution are basically MadLibs responses to: The Burning Man experience is a ___________.”

To me, Metamorphoses falls into this category. (Although, once I see how many people adopt butterfly wings this year, I may change my tune to, “Easy to design on a sticker.”)

But I love the theme. I love the added focus in our minds and conversations on WHY this place and 10 Principles change us so much. 

The video below was recorded live and is a personal dive into this year’s theme.  How have I seen metamorphoses be a part of the Burn experience for over the last 21 years and how has my personal metamorphosis created a ripple effect of metamorphosis in the default world.

NOTE: I am not a part of Burning Man staff. Just a passionate participant like you.

How have you gone through a metamorphosis? How has your dust-inspired change affected the default world?

About the author: John "Halcyon" Styn


Halcyon is a 21-year Burning Man participant and co-founder of Pink Heart camp. He is author of "Love more. Fear less." and producer of the Burning Man short film, "The Pink Path." He's won Webby awards for his over-the-top personal site & his "Love On Demand" video podcast Halcyon co-founded the San Diego based "1st Saturdays" homeless outreach program based on Burning Man Principles and coaches people how to be radically self expressed in the default world. You can find his full Playa Tips & Tricks series at

12 Comments on “Meta Talk on the Metamorphoses Theme

  • The Hustler says:

    I like this theme as it seems to describe the “post-Larry” era of Burning Man. It can also describe Burning Man’s shift toward a global community, and making deliberate efforts to focus on the 10 principles.
    My first Burning Man was Rites of Passage, which seemed fitting for the time.
    Metamorphoses can also describe our nation in this current, peculiar moment in time, where we have a struggle to define who we are as a nation, and perhaps more importantly, who we are not.

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  • Kenn Kushner says:

    Thanks John! See you in BRC!

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  • Infored says:

    Love this. Waste of energy? Really? All we have is changing energy. Everything else is an illusion. The trick is to ride the wave, roll with the roller, harness the energy for moving to some other state. Otherwise you get worn down.

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  • Fabsy says:

    temporary structures help us focus on change rather than holding on to things.
    Helps focus on the impermanence of everything really.
    it’s a personal growth chance.
    thanks brother for your contribution.
    looking forward to see you again next time I come

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  • Meg Marshall says:

    Ah I so wanted to participate this year! Metamorphosis reflects so well the journey I have taken since my first Burn in 2017. Radical Ritual was really fitting as it heralded a life change. I spent the last 15 months being treated for cancer, without having had the experience of the burn the year before I doubt I would have been able to grow through the journey in the positive way I have. The Principals, especially radical acceptance, has enabled me to walk through some, to be honest, really shitty times. Im glad I went through what I did. Ive found self acceptance and strength like I could have never dreamed of previously. Nothing is unchanged, untouched. I truly went through a metamorphosis.
    Go hug a dusty virgin burner for me, xx from my patch at the bottom of the world, Aroha nui Meg

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  • Artifex says:

    There’s been a lot of talk lately about the changing culture, PnP, Instagram models, and (worst of all) sexualt assault at the event. It’s nice to hear again from someone who really appreciates the deep heart of the burn, which is really all about art, community, creativity and spirit.

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  • Rachael says:

    Thank you beautiful message. Feeling that gratitude for metamorphosising my being. Where possibilities are limitless. on my way

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  • Tom12 says:

    Thanks for this great post.

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