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42

A SKETCH OF

These benedictions are repeated several times; and the people all the while repeat the national sound, "oo, oo, oo," in one continued note, as long as the breath can sustain it. This is a usual expression of pleasure, the significant sound of approbation, and conveys as much to the Malagasy as the heartiest thrice-repeated cheer does to the Englishman.

It is also repeatedly asked during this part of the ceremony—"Is it not well? Is it not admirably well? Is it not good?" with many other equally important inquiries.

Having advanced thus far, some one, accustomed to speak in the public assemblies of the people, then addresses all who attend on the occasion, and charges them to behave with proper decorum during the proceedings, to avoid levity of conduct, and to enter the house with their heads uncovered, lest by any neglect or impropriety they should desecrate what is holy, and so render unavailing the ceremony. The lamp is then lighted, the drums beat, and dancing and singing commence, which are continued during the whole night.

The next morning the fathers of the children who are to be circumcised, fetch the baskets plaited on the preceding day, and in which bananas are placed as offerings to avert future evils. These offerings (called Faditra) are placed first on the children, and are then carried away by the fathers, who prostrate themselves, as they leave the house, at a spot a short distance from the village, where they are cast away. No one dares to touch these bananas; they are deemed accursed, and are devoted to bearing away evil.

The ceremony of fetching the Ranomahery "strong water" now takes place. Early in the morning the double calabash is brought out of the house, a hole is struck through the center, and silver chains are put in. It is then carried to a running stream, and carefully filled by passing the vessel up the stream in a sloping direction, that the water may flow into it. In fetching it, the bearers must run with the utmost rapidity, having first girded up their loins. The leader of this party also carries a spear and a shield. The people collect at the entrance of the village, and await the return of the water-bearers, each one holding reeds and stones in his hands, with which, in a playful manner, they pretend to assault the water bearers on their return. A song is repeated on this occasion, consisting of these few simple expressions—Zana boro mahary Manatody ambato—"the young eagle lays her eggs on the rock;" implying, that in like manner the children will attain places now deemed inaccessible,