I went to Mangalhenatra yesterday and learned that Marcelan, our contact there, had not returned from AKZ where he worshiped on Sunday. The second village planned for our trip was Analobahiny Ambony so I traveled their to stay the night. The only connection I have with this village is through a Catholic catechist who lives in another village nearby.
Analobahiny Ambony is a new village that was started by two families. They built the first house on top of this hill over a year ago; Now the village has over ten houses and another two framed for completion.
Typically a Tanala village has a king. This village does not have a king, but the two elder brothers serve as their leaders. This man is the older of the two brothers.
This was the vista from the tent. And if you’re going to buy a tent, buy a Kelty.
There are no toys so the kids make their own. He is making a wheel that he will push around the village with a long stick. It sounds simple but it is hard work plowing those little wheels through dirt and cow dung…
This is the inside of their lapa [lah-pah], or great-house. This house is used to receive guests, place the dead body there before burial, hold meetings and perform any ancestral ceremonies.
This elevated house is where they store food to keep out rats. The rats are unable to climb over the aluminum sheeting on the poles or the round, wooden discs on the legs. This guy is selecting reeds from his stash to make a hat like the one he is wearing.
This village is the most “traditional” of all the villages I have visited because every part of their life is centered on appeasing the ancestors. They do not hide their ancestral practices from me, discussing even the element that has been clouded in mystery until now, the hazomanga (“blue wood” or “good wood”). The blue wood is a small block of wood that has power. The wood was obtained from a priestly shaman in a village about five kilometers from Analobahiny Ambony. The wood was cut from the forest by the shaman, SPRINKLED IN COW’S BLOOD and soaked in Toka-gasy (local sugar cane liquor) while praying to his ancestors to impart the wood with power.
A man, unknown to me, who lives in this village has the blue wood in his pocket with him at all times. I asked to see the hazomanga but the owner of the blue wood did not want to reveal it to an outsider. The charm is used in all the ancestral ceremonies which also involves the shedding and sprinkling of cow’s blood. Friday of next week they will circumcise all their young boys. They will slaughter a bull, sprinkle its blood on the hazomanga while praying to their ancestors for blessing and long life. The elders of this village will EAT THE FORESKIN of the young boys to ensure strength in old age and long life.
- That the gospel seed planted among the people of this village takes root in good soil and is met with repentance and faith.
- That we are wise while observing their ancestral practices, not participating or showing judgement.
- That we are able to meet with Marcelan in the future here in our home or in his so we can hear about his search for the Truth.