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.
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.
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.
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.