The legend says that many years ago, there was a severe drought in Totonacapan which caused much havoc and cost the Totonac many lives. A group of elders from the Totonac village gathered together to decide what to do. Since giving sacrifices and offerings was a common practice among indigenous tribes, the elders decided that they would give a special offering to the gods to appease them and make the drought stop. The offering called for a group of five celibate young men to go on a journey to locate the tallest and strongest tree they could find. This tree would be used for a special ritual which along with music and dance would be served as an offering to the gods. In exchange for the offering they would ask the gods for rainfall and thus return fertility and balance to the land.
According to the elders, the ritual was to be performed on top of the tree pole so that the powerful prayers were to be heard by their gods and thus be more effective. The result was quite a success and was ordained by the elders to be performed periodically to make sure balance in the earth was maintained. This is the story of how The Dance of the Birdmen became a tradition which is still practiced today. Even though the ritual initially became a practice which was performed at the beginning of every spring hoping for good fertility, the ritual in present times varies according to the region in which is it practiced.
This Mexican legend is captured in the ritual of the Dance of the Birdmen or Los Voladores de Papantla as it is well known in Mexico. This ritual is performed in many places in Mexico among indigenous communities.
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