Today with Culturalmente Imparando we move to a nation in the southern part of the Pacific Ocean: Vanuatu. More specifically, today we are talking about a tradition that is celebrated every year on the island of Pentecost, the Naghol.
To describe Naghol in a few words, it could be considered as the forerunner of Bungee Jumping. In fact, every year, during the harvest period of the "sweet potato", (or yam, the basis of the food of the inhabitants of the island), the vain men perform in this propitiatory rite as well as demonstration of courage and virility.
In the period from April to June, teenagers of the Sa tribe build tall and rickety towers of freshly cut wood, fixing them without the use of nails or adhesives. These towers have some trampolines at different heights, from the lowest to ten meters up to the highest, which can easily exceed thirty. Every Saturday of this period, the courageous teenagers go to one of the different trampolines and, stripping off their everyday clothes (only the private parts are covered with a penic case) and tying a liana to the ankles, after some songs and prayers addressed to heaven, they rush headlong down the tower.
Naghol represents a rite of passage from adolescence to adulthood for young people. The mothers, who watch the show, bring an object related to their child's childhood, which they will throw away as soon as the rite has ended. But in addition to being a real rite of passage, Naghol represents a propitiatory tradition to guarantee an excellent harvest the following year. The purpose of the jump, in fact, is to get to touch the ground with your hair. The higher the jump, the more prosperous the harvest of the following year will be.
Today the Naghol has also become a test of courage for those who love risk and for those who want to show off in the eyes of their loved one. It has recently been opened to the public and tourists, also guaranteeing some income, but despite this, participation is prohibited to foreigners.
The celebration has been going on for decades and there have been only two fatal accidents, one of which occurred in 1974, when Queen Elizabeth was visiting.
In addition to foreigners, participation in Naghol is also prohibited for women. This fact is curious, since legend has it that it was a woman who gave life to this tradition: once upon a time, a young woman, fleeing from her husband, climbed to the top of a hill. When the man joined her, she tied two lianas to her ankles and threw herself. Her husband followed her, but without any kind of rope. This is why it is said that, since then, men have learned their lesson and women, from the height of their awareness, accompany them with songs and prayers.