Where: Madagascar People: Merina and Betsileo Religion: Christianity (mainly Protestantism and Catholicism) Ritual: Famadihana (re-burial)
According to Malagasy belief, man is not made of earth but of the ancestral bodies. And according to faith, the ancestors have not left the world of the living before their bodies are completely decomposed. Until then, it is possible to communicate with the dead, who are treated with great respect and love at the Famadihana ritual. During the ritual, the families thank their ancestors and tell them how it goes in the world of the living. The ancestors are also asked for good health or a good harvest.
Furthermore, in Madagascar it is believed that the gods are very far away, and the only way to communicate with them is through the ancestors.
The ritual is held every seventh year among the Merina and Betsileo people in the highlands of Madagascar. The family graves are opened and the dead are carried out in the open where they are honoured and wrapped in new silk. After that, the families dance around the grave with their ancestors before they are buried again.
The continuation of the ritual is in danger due to various factors such as the growing poverty, escalating cost of silk, plague outbreaks and opposition from Protestant Church that reject the ritual. In contrast, the Catholic Church perceives the ritual as a cultural tradition and is more accepting of it.
The origin of the Famadihana ritual is believed to be from Southeast Asia and was probably brought to Madagascar through migration by sea. Similar rituals are practiced in Sulawesi, Borneo and the Philippines, but in these regions people do not involve dancing with the dead as in Madagascar.
Thank you to all the ancestors and the families to invite me to participate in thus amazing Famadihana. And thank you very much to my guide, fixer and translator Andry for his huge effort.