Page:Madagascar - Phelps - 1883.djvu/37

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MADAGASCAR.

35

CHAPTER III.

The manners and customs of the Malagasy are interesting as being chiefly of native growth, and as showing the strange developments of the human mind when not directed by those moral axioms whose exercise are absolutely essential to the higher order of civilization. Even before the birth of an infant there are ceremonies in anticipation of "the hour of nature's sorrow,” which are as unmeaning as they are unnecessary. After the birth, the friends and relatives of the mother visit her, and offer their congratulations. The infant also receives salutations, in form resembling the following: “Saluted be the offspring given of God!—may the child live long!—may the child be favored so as to possess wealth!” Presents are made to the attendants in the household, and sometimes a bullock is killed and distributed among the members of the family. Presents of poultry, fuel, money, etc., are at times also sent by friends to the mother. A fire is kept in the room day and night, frequently for a week after the birth of a child. After this period the child is taken out of the house by some person whose parents are both living, and then taken back to the mother. In being carried out and in the child must be carefully lifted over the fire, which for this purpose is placed near the door. Should the infant bea boy, the ax, large knife, and spear, generally used in the family, must be taken out at the same time, with any implements of building that may be in the house. Silver chains, of native manufacture, are also given as presents, or used in these ceremonies, for which no particular reason is assigned.

One of the first steps of the father, or a near relative, is to report the birth of the child to the native divines or astrologers, who are required to work the Sikidy for the purpose of ascertaining and declaring its destiny. The Sikidy consists in mixing together a number of beans and small stones, and from the figures which they form, predicting either favorable or unfavorable results. If the destiny is declared to be favorable, the child is nurtured with that tenderness and affection which nature inspires, and the warmest congratulations are tendered by the friends of the parents.

At the expiration of the second or third month from the birth of the child a ceremony called “scrambling” takes place. A mixture of beef tallow, with rice, milk, honey, a sort of grass,