Divination among the Malagasy.
Mr. Dahle remarks here: "It is easy to see that this was a very convenient way of saving much time and trouble. Suppose I expect a friend from Fianàrantsòa on Monday, but he may have postponed his departure from that place, or he may have been delayed on the road; well, I go to the mpisikìdy, and he tells me that he will not arrive before Saturday. Fancy now that I had not been prudent enough to do so; what would have been the consequence? To say nothing of other inconveniences, my wife would certainly have kept the dinner ready for him from noon to night every day from Monday to Saturday; and if she had not been an angel—which, of course, she is—she would certainly have looked very cross when he at last appeared. What a blessing these mpisikìdy must have been, especially in the good days of old, where there were no doctors and no telegraphs!"
It has frequently come before our notice in the preceding sections, that all depended on what figures were placed in each column by the erecting of the sikìdy. And as the first four columns were filled in a manner which seems to have depended entirely on haphazard, and the filling of the others depended on these four, we should conclude that nothing so far was arbitrary, and that the mpisikìdy had no control over the form of the sikìdy, nor could he decide beforehand what figures would occur in each column. "But", says Mr. Dahle, "I understand that sometimes (e.g., in producing love-charms, trade-charms, etc.) he took the liberty of filling the first four columns with figures which he knew beforehand (from theory and experience) would, in the further procedure, produce exactly the figures he wanted, and in the columns he would want them, for the sikìdy in question. How else could he have got a sikìdy in which Adikasàjy ((symbol characters)) occurred eleven times? or in which Vontsìra ((symbol characters)) occurred eight times? or in which Vontsìra came into Harèna, and Kìzo ((symbol characters)) into Nìa, and nowhere else? I believe he would often have had to erect his sikìdy some thousand