Page:Madagascar - Phelps - 1883.djvu/42

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A SKETCH OF

may remind the reader of that passage in the Scripture where it is stated that God met: Moses in the way and sought to kill him. When the calabash is filled with water, the bearer leaves the pool, and the procession moves towards the village, decorated with all the ornaments and finery which those who compose it have been able to procure. Stems of the banana-tree, ripe bananas, sugar-canes, bamboos, small canes, and silver chains, with various articles used during the ceremonies are also borne in the procession.

From day-light in the morning those in the village are all astire in preparing to go forth to meet the procession. Both sexes are ornamented with gold and silver chains, trinkets, silken robes, etc. Dollars, strung together by means of a strong line passed through holes near their edges, are worn like bands or fillets on the heads of the females, and over the shoulders of the men. This latter ornament is used as an indication of the wealth of the wearers or their families. In the procession, fathers take precedence, mothers follow, and friends and relatives bring up the rear. At about half a mile from the village they met those bringing the sacred water. |The latter procession advances slowly, singing and dancing, and the leader, with his spear and shield, asks,—“What water is this?” The females then advance dancing, and sing—“Bless the water, the consecrated water that wearies.”

On reaching the village, the whole procession moves three times round the house where the ceremony is to be performed, bearing the holy water and its accompaniments; after which they enter the house and wait till the amusements commence. They consist of bull-baiting, dancing, singing, beating drums, etc., and are kept up by alternate parties with considerable energy and hilarity until about sunset, when the people again enter the house. There, the females employ themselves in plaiting split rushes, for the purpase of forming small baskets. They sing and chant during the time they are thus employed; and the baskets, when finished, are suspended in a line extending northward, the basket intended for the eldest child being placed first.

While the females are employed making the baskets, the master of ceremonies kills a sheep in front of his house. This is called fahazza, “causing fruitfulness.” After cutting off the head of the animal, the body is given to the multitude, who scramble for it, and in a few minutes tear the whole to pieces. The use of a knife or any sharp instrument is forbid-