Your Guide To ‘Naggol’ in Vanuatu

In another of our focus pieces on some of the World’s weirdest and wonderful festivals we are going to take a look at one of the most incredible and scariest festivals on the planet, the Naggol Land Diving Festival in Vanuatu. In what was most definitely the precursor to bungee jumping, this adrenaline-fueled festival is certainly one of the wackiest festivals that there is and if you want to know more about it then read on.

 

What The Festival is All About

During the festival, men ritualistically dive from wooden platforms with vines tied to their feet in order to receive a blessing from God. The wooden structures which the men jump form can be up to 30 meters high and the divers can reach speeds of up to 72km per hour as they fall to the ground below. The ritual takes place just before the yam season begins as the land is dry and provides strong wood for the structures and the linea vines are at their most supple.

History

The legend of land diving comes from a woman who was unhappy with her husband’s sexual desires, she ran away to the forest and the man ran after her. In order to escape her husband, the woman climbed high up into a tree, when the man followed her, the woman tied vines to her feet and jumped from the tree, she survived the fall thanks to the vines. The man tried the same feat although didn’t tie vines to himself and died from the fall. The men dive from the wooden structures to prevent being tricked again.

The Ritual

On the morning of the jump, those taking part go for a ritual wash before dawn, they decorate their bodies and anoint themselves with coconut oil. The men will wear boar tusks around their necks and the as the divers begin, the village will sing and dance to provide encouragement. around 20 men from each village will jump and the least experienced will jump from low platforms, the most experienced divers will go up to the top of the wooden structure and jump from there.

Land diving is a rite of passage for the boys in the village and once they have been circumcised  at the age of 8, they will be able to perform their first dive. During the child’s dive, their mother will hold a favorite possession of the boy and once the dive is complete this will be thrown away in honor of the fact that he has now become a man.

Tourism

Many people head to the Naggol festal to witness the incredible feats of these men and whilst the villagers aren’t known to have a problem with this it is important that if you do go, that you remain respectful and keep your distance. This is not a game or a sport for the locals and you shouldn’t treat it as such, watch by all means and interact with the locals, but understand what the festival means for them.

Your Guide To ‘The Vegetarian Festival’ in Phuket, Thailand

One of the most eclectic, awe-inspiring and interesting festivals in Thailand is the vegetarian festival that takes place in Phuket each year. If you are interested in crazy festival and haven’t yet heard about or been to the vegetarian festival in Phuket, then read on and find out about this zany festival that is about far more than eating vegetarian food.

When The Festival Takes Place

Usually the festival takes place around October time, the dates change as the festival falls in line with the Chinese lunar calendar and hits on the 9th month within that calendar.

What is the Festival All About

The idea of the festival is that the Chinese believe that a 10-day diet of vegetarian food and scared rituals will cleanse the should and earn merits for the afterlife. The festival forms one of the parts of the Nine Emperor Gods Festival that takes place across Thailand.

Rituals and Traditions

During the festival, those practicing must where white during the 10 day period and undergo a strict vegetarian diet. The idea is to a complete cleanse of the body which also means no sex or alcohol. Some are exempt from the festival which includes those who are in mourning and women who are going through the process of menstruation or pregnancy.

Mediums will go into a trance-like state as the channel the deities and serve to rid those practicing of bad luck and bad fortune.

During the festival, people will aim to cleans their bodies by going to extraordinary lengths such as putting spikes through their faces, swelling swords and walking on fire.

Where the Festival is Held

Many of the traditions like fire-walking take place on the streets of Phukets but the majority of the rituals will take place a handful of the 40 Temples throughout the city. The Kathu Shrine is the holiest temple in Phuket and and this is where the origins of the vegetarian festival are. Thousands of practitioners will gather at the Kathu Shrine as they seek to rid themselves of bad luck and evil throughout the festivities.

The Closing of the Festival

At the end of the festival there is a huge fireworks display, this is also when the most ‘grotesque’ acts take place by those observing the festival and the final day of the festival is dedicated to prayer and worship as well as the ‘merit-making’ events. The end of the festival culminates in a party-like atmosphere with singing and dancing.

If you were to look online at this festival you will probably just see images of the gory merit-making that takes place but the festival is about far more than that. If you decide to head down to Phuket for the festival you will need to ensure that you remain respectful to the locals, this is an important festival for them and one which could dictate their future. By all means enjoy the festival, but look to keep your distance.

Your Guide To The ‘Up Helly Aa Fire Festival’ in Lerwick, Scotland

As part of our guides, looking at some of the finest, craziest, weirdest and most outlandish festivals in the World, today we are going to take a look at the Up Helly Aa festival which takes place in northern Scotland and the Shetland Islands each year. This spectacular festival of fire  occurs on the last Tuesday of January and sees visitors from all over the World head to the chilly northern Scottish lands for a festival like no other. Let’s take a look at the history of the festival and a guide to what you should expect to see if you visit Up Helly Aa.

The History

The festival takes place in around 12 locations but the oldest is the Lernwick celebration, the festival was borne out of the annual Yuletide tradition of tar-barreling. This was a festivity that saw 12 barrels filled with tar being lit on fire and then dragged through the town by sledges and carried by men as they caused mischief throughout the town as people cheered, following the show, everyone would retire the public houses to continue the festivities.

Tar-barreling was outlawed in 1880 and the festival of Up Helly Aa was the festival that replaced it. At first it was just a small torch procession but in 1882, the town of Lernwick significantly increased its procession size for the visit of the Duke of Edinburgh, from that year up to the present day, the festival has been a huge event of fire and festivities.

What You Will See

If you want to visit the festival the here is what you can expect to see.

– Morning

In the morning you will see the first Jarls, these are men dressed in Viking style dress who will arrive in floats in the shape of ships. The Jarl squads will go for breakfast in the Islesburgh Community Centre before heading on to the Galley Shed and then The British Legion.

The squad will march with their galley floats from the British Legion with pipe and brass bands in tow before arriving in the market cross where the Proclamation of Up Helly Aa is situated. The squads then head up to the ferry terminal where you will get a chance to take some photos of the impressive costumes and their galleys.

Toast are drunk around 1030 as the bands continue playing and then the squads break off into various rooms and halls.

Day Time

Throughout the day you can enjoy the exhibitions that have been displayed, short movies playing, and the chance to meet some of the Jarls. Grab some food and get ready for the evening festivities.

Evening

At 7pm the Jarl quads are given their torches and begin the march, led by the Guizer Jarl squad, the Guizer Jarl is the chief around here. At 730pm, a rocket is fired across the sky of the town to begin the march. The squads then march through the town singing and chanting in an impressive fiery sight.

The group then culminates in the North King George V playing field, they circle the field before congregating in the centre where there is a huge galley ship. You will hear a bugle call and then witness over 1000 torches being thrown into the galley to set it on fire and then  a firework display will begin.

As the evening progresses you will see shows and skits taking place all over the town, drinking games, street food and dancing are all on offer for visitors in a night of raucous fun that will go well into the early hours.

As expected, the following day is a public holiday so that everyone can recover from this incredible festival.