Page:Madagascar - Phelps - 1883.djvu/45

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MADAGASCAR.

43

and deposit their property beyond the reach of danger and spoliation. After walking round the house three times as before, the party enters, bending forward as they approach the door.

A young bullock of red color, selected for the occasion, being now brought into the court-yard of the house, the person who is to perform the rite advances, cuts a slit in the animal's ear, and dips his knife in the blood which flows therefrom. At the dropping of the blood from the ear of the animal, the children are supposed to be placed under a guarantee from future harm. A small drum is then placed near the threshold of the door, and the boy on whom the ceremony is now to be performed, being seated upon it, is firmly held by several men, and his ears stopped by those around him. The father stands close to the door outside, with his spear in his right hand and his shield in the left, performing with them the actions of a warrior; and while at this moment the act is performed, the father exclaims: “Thou art become a man, mayst thou be loved—loved by the sovereign and by the people!—may the sovereign continue to reign long!—may there be mutual confidence between thee and the people!—be of good report among the people!—be facile of instruction, and of a docile disposition!” The father exhorts the child to take courage, declaiming, that now he has become a man, he should have a gun, a spear, and a shield, and should follow the King; that now he belonged to the King, he should henceforth serve him, and do homage to him, but that if he cried, he should not be the child of the King, but would be stigmatized as effeminate, and respected by no one.

The rano mahery, “strong water,” is immediately employed in washing the children. While the rite is performing, the mothers are crawling about on the floor, touching the earth with their hands, and throwing dust and ashes on their hair, as tokens of humiliation on account of their children. Each mother rises from the ground at the moment her child has received the rite, and endeavors to assuage its grief, nursing it beside the fire.

The rite being thus performed, there is usually a distribution made by the chiefs of the district, and by the heads of families, of a number of oxen, to be killed and divided among the strangers and visitors. The parties then return to their several homes, when a fowl is killed, and some bananas are given to the children. In the course of two or three weeks the