A SKETCH OF
cannot be ascertained; but spirituous liquors are made from sugar-cane, honey, berries, and other native productions. French wines are also known; and as a caution to etymologists it may be-stated that the native word for wine is "divray," which one might be slow to expect to come from the French du vin. This native vford hardly resembles its original so nearly as Vazimba would the word Mitzraim, the name for the ancient Egyptians, between which, however, there may be no connection.
The greatest scourges that afflict the island in the form of disease are fever and the small-pox. This latter disease is so much dreaded by the natives that they have been known to drive away and kill with stones one who may first become attacked by it. Thousands have been swept off by it at a time. With respect to the fever, which seldom prevails in the highlands, the best time for Europeans to land upon the island is in the months of July, August and September.
The ceremonials attending the burial of the dead are numerous and interesting; but we confine ourselves to a passing notice. The Malagasy, like the Jews and some other nations, attach ideas of uncleanness or pollution to touching a corpse. No corpse is permitted to be carried to the grave along the principal thoroughfare of the capital, which is thought to be in some measure sacred. Nevertheless the same street is sometimes stained with the blood of human victims destroyed in obedience to false and cruel divinations. No one who has attended a funeral is permitted to enter into the court-yard of the palace till eight days have elapsed, and then he must bathe before he can be admitted. In all cases, a total or partial ablution of the garments of the mourners must take place on return from the grave.
The tombs of the Malagasy are placed sometimes in front of their houses, or occupy a place by the road-side. At others, they are built in the midst of a village, or where two roads meet. Often a person begins to erect his tomb in early life, and makes its completion through a series of years one of the most important objects of his existence, deeming a costly repository for his mouldering remains the most effectual remedy of being held in honorable remembrance by posterity. In constructing a tomb, a large excavation is made in the earth, and the roofs and sides of the vault are made of immense slabs of stone. Incredible labor is often employed in bringing these slabs from a distance to the spot where the