Gods and Sacred Mountains | Guru Rinpoche | The Dance in Honor of the Guru | The Sacred Dances | Dance of the Black Hat Magicians

Dance of the Black Hat Magicians

Before the dances begin, the equilibrium between man and the universe has to again be restablished. This is the first and absolutely necessary task of the Black Hat Dancers, that repesent tantric men with supernatural powers. With their dance steps, they drive away the evil spirits and cleanse the site where the sacred events will take place from all harmful influences.

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The dance of the Black Hat Magicians also tells the story of the Tibetan king Langdarma who, in the ninth century, had conspired against Buddhism and wanted to help the pre-Buddhistic religion Bön* to a resurgence. Langdarma had Buddhists followed and killed. One day, the monk Pelkyi Dorje mixed himself under a group of the dancers that were dancing in front of Langdarma. In the wide sleeves of his costume he had hidden bow and arrow with which, in the course of the dance, he killed the king. Through this deed Buddhism could once again blossom. For man, the way to enlightenment was again free. Good had been victorious over evil.

The Destruction of Evil

In the framework of the Black Hat dances, all the bad is magically destroyed. For the farmers this should prevent bad weather or illnesses from befalling their livestock. Monks, in their meditation shall not be plagued by any kind of disturbing influences. The land itself shall also be spared from natural catastrophes or plagues.

A Lama forms a small figure out of dough that is supposed to serve as a scapegoat and is sacrificied. This personified evil should be destroyed by magic.



Four guards of the cemetery enter the dance floor. Everyone holds an end of a symbolic human skin upon which, in a three-cornered box, the scapegoat is carried. He is lowered and set down in the center of the place. In a wide circle, the group of the Black Hat dancers dance around it. The four cemetery guards form the inner circle. Suddenly, the leader of the Black Hat dancers leaps towards the figure and destroys it with a ritual dagger. If this action succeeds, a good year lies ahead – until the next tshechu*.

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After the meditative preparations in the temple, the Black Hat Dancers enter the place. They are awaited with anticipation by the excited audience.
Photograph by Christian Schicklgruber

During the dancing, the Black Hat Magicians beat their drums and thereby announce their victory over the evil spirits.
Photograph by Christian Schicklgruber

In the center of the dance floor lies a dough figure that represents all that is evil. It is going to be destroyed by a dancer.
Photograph by Christian Schicklgruber

The clown examines if the destruction of evil has been successful. Often clowns imitate, in a caricature-like manner, serious and meaningful ritual acts.
Photograph by Christian Schicklgruber