Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Places & Traditions: Madagascan 'Turning of the Bones'

Image source: Massimo Branco
Famadihana, or 'turning of the bones' is tradition of the Malagasy people in Madagascar. People remove their relatives from the family crypts, approximately every seven years, and replace their burial shrouds with fresh cloth. Then, in the embodiment of the Madagascan saying "alive, we live together in the homes; dead, we live together in the tombs", they then proceed to carry the bodies and dance around with them to live music playing near the tomb.

Image source: Joao Silva for The New York Times
They perform the ceremony to both honour and celebrate their ancestors, while also reuniting their whole family at the same time. It is also part of a belief that the dead only join the world of the ancestors after many years, when the body's decomposition is complete, and various rituals have been performed.



  1. Many less western cultures practice ancestor worship. Would you think this falls under that category?

    1. I'm not sure if this counts as ancestor worship or not. It seems to be more of a funerary tradition, concerned with trying to assist the ascension of the dead into the land of the ancestors through ritual and the family coming together to grieve and celebrate. I could be wrong though.

      The tradition apparently only dates back to the 17th century in Madagascar and the expense of Famadihana parties and funeral shrouds is starting to make the tradition less popular these days.

      (Long reply, sorry lol)


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...