Facing the Styx

Death and the afterlife, the celebration of the loved ones who left, are integral parts of any culture. It certainly is a major part of the Malagasy culture as "famadihana" (the reburial of the dead) for instance, is one of the most well-known “oddities” of the Madagascar experience. This ritual has been well-documented by Tattum, Harinjaka (and many others) so I will just illustrate how the prospect of death is addressed in these 3 different poems and how telling they might be of the “personality” of the cultures they originate from:

"Après ma mort" de Philistin Panger

Et si les vents soufflent encore
dans les vallées ou sur les mers
Et si les pluies trempent la terre
offrant au corps, un désir fort

Et si les fontaines abreuvent gentiment
juste ce qu’il faut, pas plus pas moins
Et si tout le monde en prend soin
offrant à l’esprit, un nouvel élan

Et si l’homme continue d’apprendre
dans les villes et les campagnes
Et si plus jamais le meilleur gagne
offrant à l’âme, un goût tendre

Alors, soyez en sûr, mes tristes amis,
Les mers, les pluies et les fontaines
coulent comme dans les veines.
Je suis encore parmi vous, ici.
From Dylan Thomas: The Poems

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

“Raha ho avy Ralala” par Ratsimiseta.

Raha ho avy Ralala ny taona hodiako
Ao ambanin'ny tany tsindrian-drangolahy
Ka ny vato hisolo ny kidoro hatoriako
Izao no mba zavatra hataovinao ahy
Na dia maty aza anie izany tenako be
Ka hiraraka an-tany ny rà ao am-poko
Ny fitiavako anao ka betsaka anie
Tsy mba ho maty tsy mba ho lo.
So, the Saxons would be fighting off the claws of Charon till....death, the French would be content with a legacy of harmony with nature and the Malagasy are basking in eternal love :) Maybe the Malagasy are just taking a cue from this ancient Chinese tradition called "Minghun": (from the NYT)
"To ensure a son’s contentment in the afterlife, some grieving parents will search for a dead woman to be his bride and, once a corpse is obtained, bury the pair together as a married couple."
Famadihana does not seem so bizarre after all. Thanks to Sipakv for the tip.

.>>>>Introduction to famadihana


  1. Famadihana will always creep me out, because....
    Most of the time I'm not really sure if those so-called loving parents are thaaaaat well intented...yes for sure they are grieving and wanting to honor their deads but...isn't it the best way to show you've got a hell of a lot of money? For sure if you are broke and caring you cannot afford the "gisa sy menaka" and the expenses for 500 other "caring" people...so of course it's not only for the show honey ... it's big love too...


    ps:Bien entendu il y a des raisons "plus pratiques" pour les famadihana quand le caveau est surbooké et là encore bon faut motiver la familler pour partager les dépenses. Mais bon...allez avec un peu de musique c'est moins douloureux...

  2. My friend Hiro told me that in Japan every year in August, they have a "ceremony" for their ancestors. So the "famadihana" concept is NOT that "unique". We may have more in common with Asia afterall!?!?!

  3. I feel left out... we just burn the dead and float the ashes on the Ganges. One of our ex PMs actually had his ashes distributed over the four corners of India. We do have prayers at the end of the first year and then I think 7 years later.

    Lova I just noticed that you have 224 posts in just over a year of blogging. Amazing! If I didn't know of a guy who blogs at least 3 times a day since 2004 I would have given you the most prolific blogger award. Consider yourself in second place.

  4. > Hey Jo,
    you are right, I too am not too fond of the "pony show" that the famahadiana has become. However, as you said, anything that honors the memory of our ancestors is good by me.
    > Hello MaC,
    Wikipedia is positive that this tradition of ours originates from Asia. Well, we are Asians after all, and Africans and Islanders and tenants of this Earth :)
    >Mosi, Thanks for the heads-up, I did not know of this tradition. If you know a famous "after I die" poem in Hindi, I would love to read it.
    So that's 174 worthless posts:). Remember, my "my Bush don't lie" parody ? Total waste of bytes but what can I say, that's how I blog :)

  5. I've got a post ready to be published about this topic after seeking in the background of my memory about the only famadihana I attended to and it seems that you've launched another one on MM, haven't you? Why not for a prolific blogger award, it's deserved.

  6. Hey Tattum,

    I was looking for one of your post on the mneaing of famadihana last year but I could not quite locate it.
    I am not sure if I will post the one at MM because right now, there is a flurry of very good posts over there. I would not want to be the one bringing down the standard of quality :).

  7. I think it's this post. Don't hesitate to use the inside search tool,it's rather efficient.
    Come on for MM, so modest! ^^
    As for me, still have to achieve my to-do-list before 31th Jan then back to keep to improve MM.

  8. Thank you, Tattum. Just added it to the original post ;) See, I just lowered the level at MM yet again ;).