Page:Madagascar - Phelps - 1883.djvu/52

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50

A SKETCH OF


ling operations of the human mind when not aided by power from an outer source beyond itself.

The Sikidy, or process of divination, we have already mentioned. It is regarded with the greatest popular favor, and is used on all occasions. It shows how prone the Malagasy mind is to rely upon some power beyond its own reason, and is an indication of the great facility with which they meght be led, if properly managed, to accept the tenets of the Christian religion. Such rank superstition may be regarded as a rich, tropical soil, in which an enlightened faith might be trained to grow in the greatest perfection.

The directions of the oracle called the Sikidy respect two different kinds of offerings; the sorona being intended to obtain favors, and the faditra to avert evils. Both, perhaps, partake more of the nature of charms than strictly of sacrifices, and the sorona especially. The faditra is a thing rejected; and in throwing it away, the offerer believes he averts some dreaded evil. There is, in this ceremony, something analagous to the institution among the ancient Jews, of sending away into the wilderness the scape-goat, bearing on its head the weight and curse of the confessed iniquities of the congregation of Israel. The material of the ceremony differs, and so does the mode, but the spirit and design have a resemblance; and hence the idea which first occurs to a Malagasy, in connection with such texts of Scripture as represent Christ bearing the sins of the world, is that of a powerful faditra — the taking away of evil — the averting of suffering or death.



CHAPTER IV.

We have thus given but an imperfect outline of the character of the population of the island as exhibited in their pagan condition. Numerous illustrations of their condition and modes of life, of a highly entertaining nature, might de added, but we have presented enough to enable the reader to form some idea of the state of the island at the time when, at the close of the French revolution, the English authorities at the Mauritius began a systematic course of action to introduce the benefits of Christian civilization. To this end, the Governor of Mauritius and its dependencies. Sir Robert Farquhar, directed his first efforts towards the suppression of the foreign