Los Voladores

Flyers on top

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The following is from "The Tree Of Life," a documentary film by Bruce "Pacho" Lane:

"Los Voladores" (the Flyers) is a 1500 year-old rite sacred to Quetzalcoatl, the Morning Star. From its origins on the Gulf coast of Mexico, the ritual spread throughout Mesoamerica: a special square was reserved for it in Tenochtitlan, the Aztec capital, and a variant is still known among the Quiche' Maya in Guatemala.

Today numerous "Voladores" groups can be found throughout the Huasteca region, especially among the Totonac, who have lived in the area for millenia, and who probably originated the ritual.

Combining ritual, dance, music, poetry, and art, "THE TREE OF LIFE" is a meditation on the mystery at the heart of human life. It calls us to keep the world in balance with our lives."

*You can learn more about "Los Voladores," "The Tree of Life" and Pacho Lane by exploring his Web site, http://www.docfilm.com.

    Javier Alarcon, an Aztec performer and Voladores from the Papantla region of Mexico, who perform the Sundance based on an ancient ritual, were once again in Trade in 1998.

Their appearance at the festival in 1997, was the first time they had ever appeared in the Southeastern United States, according to them. It was truly a feat for the officials at Trade to bring in an international event of this magnitude to be held in this small mountain community.

flyer ascends

Voladores from the Papantla region are the only flyers who perform comercially. They have performed throughout Mexico and traveled around the world demonstrating this sacred dance to audiences from Europe to Japan.

   They arrived here a week before the 1997 festival to find and prepare the ritual pole. After fasting they entered the forest asking permission to find the right tree to be cut down, stripped of bark and erected on the grounds at the old Trade school. It towers from the earth a full 80 feet.

   The Sundance begins with the four flyers entering the circle led by the Priest. The Priest, who is dressed in red and white to represent the sun, wears a multi-colored headdress to reflect the rainbow. All five dance around the base of the pole, stopping in the four primary directions to ask permission for the Sundance which honors the Creator. The four flyers, in turn, ascend the pole, which towers from the earth a full eighty feet, topped by an eight-inch diameter drum and a rotating platform. The pole represents the connection of the earth to the heavens; our earthly connection to the divine, the Creator. The rope which is wrapped around the pole from the bottom to the top, and which they use to climb, represents the umbilical cord.

   The Priest is the last to ascend. Once on top he makes an offering in song using a flute, dancing on top of the eight-inch drum, stopping in the four directions to offer a prayer in song. The drum, upon which he stands, carries his footfalls down through the pole to the earth as his flute song is carried to the heavens. The drum upon which he dances, represents the heartbeat of Mother Earth and the flute represents lightning.

Flyers in mid air  
   The Priest then takes a seat on the drum and the 4 flyers drop backwards into the air and descend, making 13 revolutions before they reach the earth. This number, 4 X 13 = 52, represents Venus, the morning star and her influence on the earth. The symbolism is tied with the connected with the ancient Myan and Aztec calendars and their intimate knowledge of Astronomy and the Universe.
Flyer close-up

Priest descends
  After the four flyers reach the earth they wait as the Priest descends; the sun setting in the west and touching the earth, which ends the dance and their offering of thanks to the Great Creator.

   I had an interesting conversation with a woman and her husband one afternoon at Trade. They had stopped by where my wife and I had pitched our lodge for the weekend on the festival grounds. Having never been to Trade Days before they weren't quite sure what to see. I suggested several things of interest, including the Flyers and the Sundance. After a brief description from my limited knowledge on the Sundance and how it is a dance to honor the Great Creator, God; she asked if it was the same God. My only answer was yes, of course!


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