Land Diving

Land Diving

April and May
On Pentecost Island in Vanuatu, a nation consisting of 80 islands in the southwest Pacific that has been independent since 1980, land diving, or Nagol, is a centuries-old fertility ritual that is the precursor of what is known in the United States as "bungee jumping." Tree branches, trunks, and vines from the forest are used to create a tower—about 85 feet tall—while the yams are being harvested in April and May.
Facing a test of resolve and courage, island men and boys ascend the tower with liana vines they have personally selected for strength and accurate length. One end of each vine is tied to the ankle and the other to the tower. Before jumping, the diver gives voice to his innermost thoughts, so that the entire crowd may hear what could be his last words, should he not survive the fall. After the diver leaps off the tower, the vines stretch nearly to the ground and the diver ducks his head out of the way and lets his shoulders touch the land—just barely—to symbolically fertilize the earth for the next year's yam crop. During the ritual, the entire village assembles under the tower to dance, sing, and encourage the divers.
Although land diving originated as an agricultural ritual, today it is also a tourist attraction and source of income for villagers in the southern part of the island, who charge a high entry fee for visitors wishing to take photographs or shoot videos.
CONTACTS:
PROMOCOM Ltd.
P.O. Box 1163
Port Vila, Vanuatu
678-267-18; fax: 678-267-18
www.vanuatutourism.com
SOURCES:
WildPlanet-1995, p. 443
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Pentecost is the home of spectacular land diving, an event celebrating the local yam harvest.
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