2007.10.12: October 12, 2007: Headlines: COS - Madagascar: Blogs - Madagascar: Personal Web Site: Peace Corps Volunteer Malagasy Musings writes: Famadihana Ceremony

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Madagascar: Peace Corps Madagascar : Peace Corps Madagascar: Newest Stories: 2007.10.12: October 12, 2007: Headlines: COS - Madagascar: Blogs - Madagascar: Personal Web Site: Peace Corps Volunteer Malagasy Musings writes: Famadihana Ceremony

By Admin1 (admin) (151.196.46.155) on Saturday, March 14, 2009 - 6:14 pm: Edit Post

Peace Corps Volunteer Malagasy Musings writes: Famadihana Ceremony

Peace Corps Volunteer Malagasy Musings writes: Famadihana Ceremony

The day I returned from the deep south, all of the Peace Corps trainees and staff were invited to a famadiana, the "turning of the bones" ceremony. The preparations for the event begin when a family member is visited by a dead loved one while he/she sleeps. The dead ancestor says it's bones are cold and implores it's living relatives to wrap the bones in fresh lambas (cloth). Before the body/bodies are exhumed, a feast with no caloric comparison takes place, in which droves of people come with an envelope of money in exchange for a meal of "vary be menaka" (rice with a lot of oil) at the house of the ancestor's living relative. Vats of rice circulate long communal tables situated under a tent and are followed by heaping bowls of beef and pork. Animal fat and oil are ladled all the away up to the rim of the bowl.

Peace Corps Volunteer Malagasy Musings writes: Famadihana Ceremony

Strange travels, a Wedding

and "Turning of the bones"

12.10.2007 -17 C

Caption: famadihana ceremony by glowingz Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic

[Excerpt]

The day I returned from the deep south, all of the Peace Corps trainees and staff were invited to a famadiana, the "turning of the bones" ceremony. The preparations for the event begin when a family member is visited by a dead loved one while he/she sleeps. The dead ancestor says it's bones are cold and implores it's living relatives to wrap the bones in fresh lambas (cloth). Before the body/bodies are exhumed, a feast with no caloric comparison takes place, in which droves of people come with an envelope of money in exchange for a meal of "vary be menaka" (rice with a lot of oil) at the house of the ancestor's living relative. Vats of rice circulate long communal tables situated under a tent and are followed by heaping bowls of beef and pork. Animal fat and oil are ladled all the away up to the rim of the bowl.

With each bite of food, the oil coats your tongue and sticks to the roof of your mouth as would peanut butter. Though it glides easily down the throat, the vary be menaka sits heavily and uneasily in the stomach and leaves your mouth and hands a waxy finish that no soap can tackle.

With the eating done, the parade continues to the tomb with a lively band of drums, flutes, and 'Gasy guitars. The "mamo" or drunken men dance atop the massive above-ground tomb, while other men drive their shovels into the stone and dirt-filled mouth of the tomb.

When all is cleared away, the wrapped bodies are carried out overhead; the people underneath the burden dance all the while. In the case of famadiana I saw, nearly 50 bodies were exhumed and re-wrapped, and though the ceremony continued for hours upon hours in the drizzling rain, the electric current of human vitality throbbed on in a trance-like state and never waned.

I watched 30 of the 50 corpses being re-wrapped, my awe at the beauty of this tradition, this exuberant bridge between the living and the dead, was overwhelmed by my soaked clothes and fatigue from the journey down south. The few volunteers who stayed behind, however, had the honor of wrapping and dancing with the ancestors. I find enumerating regrets to be pointless and wasteful, but I do wish I'd stood in the rain a little longer that day.




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Headlines: October, 2007; Peace Corps Madagascar; Directory of Madagascar RPCVs; Messages and Announcements for Madagascar RPCVs; Blogs - Madagascar





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Story Source: Personal Web Site

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Madagascar; Blogs - Madagascar

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