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July 8th, 2011
Rituals, Yams & Pentecost Island

During our recent holiday we were lucky enough to stop off at Pentecost Island. It’s a mountainous island, which is covered with lush green trees.

Each year between April and June, the men in the southern part of the island jump 20 to 30 meters from tall, very rickety looking towers with vines tied to their feet. The ritual is believed to ensure a good yam harvest and is also used to show acceptance into manhood.

On the day we visited Pentecost, it was very hot and humid. The adult men chanted while several young boys climbed the tower and prepared to jump. Medical staff from the cruise ship were on hand in case of injuries. Below the tower is an area of tilled soil and the vines must be carefully tied, the length judged so that when the man/boy land dives, his hair will just touch the soil. The ritual cannot be performed too early in the year because the vines aren’t elastic enough to bear weight.

I watched two land dives and couldn’t watch any more. It was the creaks and groans of the vines that I didn’t like. The sounds raised the hairs at the back of my neck. There was the creak and then a thump when the diver hit the ground. The first young boy was obviously winded because he took a while to get to his feet. An older man whisked him up and the crowd cheered. I heard later that some of the young boys jumped twice. In my opinion they must have rattled their brains the first time. I can think of better ways to ensure a good yam harvest. Manure, anyone?

Pentecost Island

Here’s a photo of the tower. As I mentioned, it doesn’t look very strong. There are actually people standing on the tower, getting ready to jump, but it’s difficult to see them. I refused to walk any closer to get a good photo. The land diving wasn’t my cup of tea!

It’s said that AJ Hackett got the idea of bungee jumping after hearing about the land divers.

What do you think of this ritual for ensuring a good crop?

7 comments to “Rituals, Yams & Pentecost Island”

  1. It looks scary to me. *shudders*

  2. As I mentioned it was bad enough listening to the creak of the vines. There was no way I’d want to climb up the structure or jump!

  3. I would be so scared to even go up there…Wow

  4. I know. It’s a heck of a way to prove your manhood.

  5. I couldn’t do it. Thanks for sharing this fascinating ritual!

  6. Me neither, Darla!

  7. Talk about your crazy rituals! Definitely NOT something I would want to do.