Tandroy - Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefs. Each clan has its own hazomanga ("blue" or "sacred wood") and its own type of funerary cults. There are relatively few Christians outside the towns and the southeastern coastal strip. The Tandroy believe in a sacred efficacy ( hasy ) and in moral blame ( hakeo ), which are conceived as largely determining prosperity and power. "Indigenous" spirits ( kokolampoñe ) and "foreigner" spirits ( doany ), both maleficent and benign, are, together with dwarfs, all important.

Religious Practitioners. The priest ( mpisoro ), who is the spiritual and moral head of the group and who officiates at its sacrifices, is the senior male of the senior generation; various adjuncts assist him in his offices. Funerary ritual among certain groups is directed by a priest drawn from uterine nephews or a vassal group. Diviners, exorcists, and spirit doctors, employing incantations, charms, and possession, are also found throughout the Androy.

Ceremonies. Marriage, pregnancy, birth, circumcision, naming, harvests, death, and the inauguration of the priest are all occasions for ritual. In addition, the Tandroy hold incest and curing rites. Most ceremonies involve extensive gift exchange among kin and allies, as well as ritual performances.

Arts. The most notable work of art among the Tandroy is the tomb, which, in its size and construction (often between 12 and 15 meters long and built of stone), contrasts sharply with the Tandroy house. Quadrilateral and oriented to the cardinal points, the traditional tomb ( valavato ) has walls of flat stones (which can be decorated with cut stones and can also incorporate standing stones) and a stone-filled interior, sometimes surmounted by wooden carvings ( aloalo ) and a central edifice. Since World War II, tombs with cement-finished sides and painted designs have become prevalent, but the expense involved in their construction has prompted a traditional revival.

Tandroy musical instruments include the conch shell, fiddle, calabash-resonated cordophone, rattle, and drums of various styles, together with the accordion and marovane, a type of zither, both more recent arrivals. Singing, dancing, wrestling, and cattle stampeding are common pastimes; the Androy is known for its semiprofessional traveling entertainers. The arts of skin tattooing and plaiting of men's hair have declined.

Medicine. Illness is attributed to various combinations of the following: intervention of the ancestors, spirit possession, infringement of a prohibition, witchcraft, or an imbalance of elements in the body. The services of diviners and healers are sought, and remedies include herbal medicines, sacrifice, exorcism, possession, and curing rites.

Death and Afterlife. The funeral is the most important of all Tandroy ceremonies. Before burial, the corpse remains in the house for a period of several weeks to several months. The tomb, which can take the community over a year to complete, is built upon the grave; stages in its construction are marked by cattle sacrifice and ceremonial exchange, culminating in the placing of cattle horns upon the completed tomb. The more prestigious and senior the deceased, the more elaborate the tomb and the mortuary rites, and the more extensive the slaughter and the ceremonial exchange. Among certain groups today, but probably at one time throughout the Androy, the services of a funerary priest are employed. Relatively little is said of the afterlife, other than that cattle accompany the deceased's soul.

User Contributions:

Comment about this article, ask questions, or add new information about this topic: