Page:Madagascar - Phelps - 1883.djvu/46

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whole ceremony terminates by feasting, and rude signs of rejoicing, accompanied with dancing and singing.

Another popular institution of the Malagasy is that of forming Brotherhoods, which is a species of masonry, though it does not appear to be based upon secrecy. Its object is to form a strict bond of friendship between two or more individuals, and is called fatidra, i.e., “dead blood,” either because the binding oath is taken over the blood of a fowl killed on the occasion, or because a small portion of blood is drawn from each individual when thus pledging friendship, and drunk by those to whom friendship is pledged, with execrations of vengeance on each other, in case of violating the sacred oath. To obtain this blood, a slight incision is made in the skin covering the center of the bosom, significantly called ambarafo, “the mouth of the heart.”

There are many ceremonies connected with the formation of this bond of brotherhood, all of which are designed to impress upon the minds of those entering upon it the sanctions of the oaths which are taken. These brotherhoods are not sufficiently numerous in their membership to prove dangerous to society or to the government, and are beneficial to the individuals who belong to them. They are specially beneficial to the slaves, between whom the obligations can be formed as well as between their masters.

This engagement of brotherhood, accompanied with solemn oaths and the drinking of each other’s blood, has also been observed to prevail in the Island of Borneo; and this fact furnishes another evidence besides a common language, that the people of Madagascar have some affinity, not understood, with those who inhabit the wide-spread islands of Polynesia.

It is needless to enter into details with respect to the character of slavery in Madagascar, since it resembles in so many particulars the institution as recently witnessed among ourselves. Its mingled guilt, degradation and misery are the same there as they have been among us, and from which, long years, and perhaps still farther suffering and bloodshed, will be necessary to enable us to recover, and to place ourselves once more upon that elevated and Christian ground upon which we began our national career.

Some of the nobles possess several hundred slaves each, and these are employed in all the varied ways, and under similar conditions that they were formerly in the United States.

Like all other barbarous people, the Malagasy are generous