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National Geo Short Film: La Voladora

National Geo Short Film:   La Voladora


Detail of Vestgard Petroglyphs

This short documentary is about the first woman to become a voladora in Mexico.  It is the best video that I have seen on the “flying men” of the Totonacs in Mexico.   The film states that the tradition is 600 years old.  I suspect that it really at least 3000 years old.  The Vestgard Petroglyphs in southern Norway (right)  which portray volodores, date from the Middle Bronze Age.

The recent discovery of Bronze Age petroglyphs identical to those in SW Ireland and the Georgia Gold Belt near Tepotzotlan, Mexico greatly complicates the interpretation of the Westad Petroglyhs.  These petroglyphs mark the entrance to the Copper Mountains . . . Mexico’s largest deposit of copper ore.  Did Bronze Age voyageurs from southern Norway visit Mexico or is the “Flying Men” tradition originally a ritual on both  sides of the Atlantic.  I don’t know.    Enjoy the film.






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Richard Thornton is a professional architect, city planner, author and museum exhibit designer-builder. He is today considered one of the nation’s leading experts on the Southeastern Indians. However, that was not always the case. While at Georgia Tech Richard was the first winner of the Barrett Fellowship, which enabled him to study Mesoamerican architecture and culture in Mexico under the auspices of the Institutio Nacional de Antropoligia e Historia. Dr. Roman Piňa-Chan, the famous archaeologist and director of the Museo Nacional de Antropologia, was his fellowship coordinator. For decades afterward, he lectured at universities and professional societies around the Southeast on Mesoamerican architecture, while knowing very little about his own Creek heritage. Then he was hired to carry out projects for the Muscogee-Creek Nation in Oklahoma. The rest is history. Richard is the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the KVWETV (Coweta) Creek Tribe and a member of the Perdido Bay Creek Tribe. In 2009 he was the architect for Oklahoma’s Trail of Tears Memorial at Council Oak Park in Tulsa. He is the president of the Apalache Foundation, which is sponsoring research into the advanced indigenous societies of the Lower Southeast.



    Hi, Richard,
    What a fine and beautifully made documentary!
    Especially interested in your association of these incredibly old Totonac traditions of eastern Mexico to the same “voladora” practices of ancient seafaring Nordics; and to petroglyph connections of them to likewise sea going Bronze Age Irish.
    It is also worth considering that some Totonacs claim to be descendants of an Olmeca branch who along with related Toltecs (Tulatecas), as then both slaves of the Quinametzin “giant overlords,” were the actual builders of the pyramids of Cholula and Teotihuacan…before their great Toltec revolt from slavery. Such is very old oral tradition, but more and more we are learning that in their traditions are nuggets of true history.
    As another aside, a German researcher has further pointed out that Tula (capital of the Toltecs) is identical in sound to “Thula (or, Thule),” the name given to the far north of Europe in antiquity. From Wiki… “Thule was the place located farthest north, which was mentioned in ancient Greek and Roman literature and cartography. In classical and medieval literature, ultima Thule acquired a metaphorical meaning of any distant place located beyond the “borders of the known world”.” It was not unusual for a founder of a colony to name his new home in honor of his old one.
    We should far more often pay close attention to tribal storytellers, those much honored history-keepers of our indigenous peoples. Their faithful and vivid recollections offer a strong glimpse of the past, a sure historical framework to which we should then attach current efforts in cultural anthropology and archaeology…and not the other way around.
    Again, thanks for taking the bold risk of making trans-Atlantic Bronze Age and Iron Age cultural connections, of showing us that global migration across oceans was not a rare or frightful thing to distant ancestors. Clearly, seasoned seamen of old easily crossed the same oceans many modern-day academicians see as once impassible barriers…how backward from the reality of it. For those with know-how, traversing expanses of water has always been done much easier and much faster than moving across an equal distance of land. Simply put, mass travel by boat is easier and quicker than travel afoot.
    In that regard, I want to pass on another article that should be of certain interest. It’s a little longer than the last. This one is best read on a slow, rainy day with no other cares in mind, and nothing else to distract you from a big, hot cup of coffee, and your favorite easy chair. It is heavy in its implications, but brilliantly researched and composed by an excellent author-team:
    Ancient earthworks of North America suggest pre-Columbian European contact — by Jason Jarrell and Sarah Farmer
    Please keep the article coming – so much enjoy reading them,
    Ed Guidry

    • Thank you for your many interesting comments. Tula is the Totonac, Itzate-Maya and Itzate-Creek word for town. The Maskoke-Creek language evolved much later and converted Tula into tvlwa. The real name of Etowah Mounds was Etula, which is Itzate for Principal Town.

      The Swedish word for town is stad, but their ancient word for “living place” is bo. Bo means the same and is pronounce the same in the Panoan languages of eastern Peru. Ossabaw Island’s Native name was Asebo, which in Panoan means “Yaupon holly – place of.”


    We have seen Voladores “fly” in several cities in Mexico. It is an awe-inspiring performance linked to worship, originally to the sun god, and now to Christian Saints in Mexico. I nam amazed but not surprised to find that petroglyphs from Norway show similar activities. Thank you for the video access, and the information. Thanks also to Ed Guidry. Together we learn.


    Mind blown. Fascinating and I can’t help but think of the first time someone decided to do this and thought it was a great idea. And that it existed as an idea in other parts of the world is even more compelling. I’d have liked to have heard that very first conversation, and I’d like to know what hanging upside down really represents.


    Hi, Ricahrd,
    Hope you will allow another quick comment.
    Traditionally, the voladoras were four in number, with a fifth staying on top of the pole and playing music as the others descended.
    As voladoras spin downward, they, as opposing pairs, form a perfect cross, and as seen from above, a cross within their circular flight. The circled-cross is one of most ancient and widespread symbols for the sun, or sun god, to whom this practice was originally dedicated. Referring to wiki…A sun cross, solar cross, or wheel cross is a solar symbol consisting of an equilateral cross inside a circle. The design is frequently found in the symbolism of prehistoric cultures, particularly during the Neolithic to Bronze Age periods of European prehistory. The symbol’s ubiquity and apparent importance in prehistoric religion have given rise to its interpretation as a solar symbol, whence the Modern English term “sun cross”.
    Some of the finest Bronze Age Irish artifacts are gold discs inscribed with the sun cross, and it is occasionally and identically seen as a large ear ornament on Native American human figural stone and clay artifacts as well, particularly those from the southeastern US.
    Ed Guidry

    • Yes, the Sun Cross is the most sacred symbol of both the Uchee and the Creeks. It is also called the Sacred Fire and is used as the symbol of the Master of Life (God) except Creeks and Uchee originally believed that God was a female, because only a mother could love humans, despite their failings.


    Hi, Richard and thanks for your articles.
    I would like You to help me find more information about the Vestgard Petroglyphs in southern Norway that you mention in the post NATIONAL GEO SHORT FILM: THE FLYER, which I think too is an excellent film.
    thanks and regards
    Miguel Lozano

    • I am real busy, rehabing my recently moved to old house, so don’t have time to go back and find the website. Having worked in Sweden, I use Scandinavian search words to look for Scandinavian archaeological and petroglyphs. However, you can use Google Translate to do the same thing. Generally, images are more productive than web articles in finding interesting mound and petroglyph sites in Europe.


    Richard, Read your Cherokee DNA article yesterday…..very interesting. The DNA travel path seems to indicate from Asia minor…Egypt…North Africa…to Spain/ Canaries island…perhaps the Azores (same type of pyramids) to the Americas. The Cherokee name “Ani-yun-wiya” is very close to the Luwians “Lu-wiya” term that was found on a written Hittite script for the Western areas South of the city of ancient Wilusa (Troy). The DNA and word connections seems to indicate a migration from that bronze age area in 1200 BC and perhaps to that area in more ancient years?


    Hi, Richard,
    Is there a way to send you pictures, and “not for posting” email?
    Ed Guidry


    I would never do that. It seems really scary.


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