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Vanuatu: A weird — some would say suicidal — tradition in a South Pacific nation

On the island of Pentecost in the South Pacific chain of Vanuatu, there is a legend that birthed a strange -- some may say insane -- tradition. The story goes that in a village several hundred years ago, a woman was fighting with her husband. She ran from him and climbed a tall tree. He ran after her and also climbed, and when she jumped off the top, he followed suit. He plummeted to his death, but she had tied a vine around her ankle and was saved, her fall broken just in time before she crashed into the earth. For three months of every year since then the village builds a tower of branches 60 to 150 feet tall and performs the Nagol Ceremony. The "land divers" (men only, from the Longwaran tribe of the island) climb up and fling themselves to the ground, liana vines tied around both ankles. Apparently this is to remind the women that the men will never again be outsmarted. The men auger into the mud beneath, often hurting and sometimes killing themselves, but in doing so exhibit extreme bravery.

-- Amanda Jones

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