“The Leap of Faith,” Vanuatu

A couple of weeks ago I ran a post about how the Sa tribe on Pentecost Island, Vanuatu, had become famous throughout the world for the land diving ritual (Nagol or N’gol) that occurs every Saturday between April and June.

It’s all about the yams and the Sa tribe’s desire for a bountiful harvest. It’s also, not so subtly, a male fertility ritual, a rite of passage, and a tale of escape and redemption. Each year men of the Sa tribe build a 98-foot tall tower out of jungle wood, climb to the top, and jump off, tethered by vines tied around their ankles. If the vine is too short, he will swing back into the tower. If it’s too long, the land diver will at a minimum experience pain, possibly break some bones, or even die.

Recently, I found the legend that ties-in with this annual event…

The Leap of Faith

Legend has it that a young woman began arguing with her husband, Tamalie. When the argument turned heated, the woman ran from Tamalie, seeking safety in the lush jungle that surrounded the village.

Seeing that her husband had followed in pursuit, the young woman frantically climbed to the top of the tallest tree she could find. But even that could not stop Tamalie from following. As he began making his way to the top of the tree, leaping from branch to branch, the young woman was left with no other option. She threw herself from the top of the tree only to see Tamalie jump right behind her.

Tamalie plummeted to his death. But the young woman was not so foolish as to plummet from her perch unprepared. Before jumping, she had tied vines around her ankles, which broke her fall moments before crashing to the earth, saving her life.

The Leap of Faith (Vanuatu)

“The Leap of Faith,” illustration courtesy of Tara Bonvillain, copyright 2020.

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