1. Is the Caporal's flute and drum one, connected instrument (he holds them in one hand)?
This was the subject of a lot of debate in the Placita today, with people offering various opinions. When he puts the instruments away to climb or change position, I noted he reached down twice, which made me certain they were separate. This afternoon I blew up some photos to look, and this is what I found:
in this photo (blown up WAY to far to be clear) you can make out a band around the hand holding the flute. The band apparently is connected to the drum, allowing the Caporal to hold the flute and drum at the same time with one hand, while the other hand strikes the drum.
2. What is the origin of this ritual?
I lifted the answer to this directly from the Los Voladores de Papantla's website:
A Totonaca myth tells of a time when there was a great drought, and food and water grew scarce throughout the land. Five young men decided that they must send a message to Xipe Totec, God of fertility so that the rains would return and nurture the soil, and their crops would again flourish. So they went into the forest and searched for the tallest, straightest tree they could find.
When they came upon the perfect tree, they stayed with it overnight, fasting and praying for the tree's spirit to help them in their quest. The next day they blessed the tree, then felled it and carried it back to their village, never allowing it to touch the ground. Only when they decided upon the perfect location for their ritual, did they set the tree down.
The men stripped the tree of its leaves and branches, dug a hole to stand it upright, then blessed the site with ritual offerings. The men adorned their bodies with feathers so that they would appear like birds to Xipe Totec, in hope of attracting the god's attention to their important request. With vines wrapped around their waists, they secured themselves to the pole and made their plea through their flight and the haunting sound of the flute and drum.
I did manage to take a few more photos today than I did yesterday, however, even after charging both batteries, I was unable to get more than a few shots and a brief video, with a horrendous sound and loss of focus when I changed my zoom:
Most of the rest of the photos were comparable to the ones I took yesterday.