Page:Madagascar - Phelps - 1883.djvu/43

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MADAGASCAR.

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den. Every female obtaining a portion is supposed to obtain fruitfulness with it. No sheep, however, possesses this potent efficacy, that is not of a certain kind and color, decided by the Sikidy.

The boys on whom the rite is to be performed are next led across the blood of the animal just killed, to which some idea of sacredness is attached. They are then placed on the west side of the house, and as they stand erect, a man, holding a light cane in his hand, measures the first child to the crown of the head, and at one stroke cuts off a piece of the cane measured to that height, having first dipped the knife in the blood of the slaughtered sheep. This knife is again dipped in the blood, and the child measured to the waist, when the cane is cut at that height. He is afterwards measured to the knee with similiar observances. The same ceremony is performed on all the children successively. The meaning of this, if indeed it has any meaning at all, seems to be the symbolical removal of all evils to which the child might be exposed—first, from the head to the waist, then from the waist to the knees, and finally from the knees to the sole of the foot.

A hole is now dug in the northeast corner of the house, in which a stem of the banana-tree is planted, and on it an earthen lamp is fixed to burn during the night. Great attention is paid to the fixing of the stem, that the height may be proper, and the lamp made fast. The stem of the banana is consecrated by water sweetened with honey, being poured into the hole and upon the stem. Large silver chains are placed in a rice-pan, and a portion of the sacred water and honey is poured upon them, by which they are supposed to be consecrated for the ceremony. Rice powder is also introduced. A small quantity of the honey and water is then given to each of the children, and the person presenting it pronounces benedictions on them, the silver chains in the meantime being rattled in the rice-pan. The benedictions are of this kind: “May the children prosper in the world!—may they have spacious houses well filled with silver and slaves!—may their cattle be too numerous for their folds, and may their property be great!—if stones are thrown at them may they not be hurt, and when stoning others may they hit!—if attempted to be seized, may they escape!—and if seizing others, may they catch!—if pursued by others may they not be caught, and if pursuing others may they overtake!—and may they be beloved by the King and people!”