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GRIEF AROUND THE WORLD

     For many years I did feel alone in my grief, however. As I finally began to unravel my entanglement with grief after seeing many grief dances cutting into my happiness, I realized two important things.

     First, we all have grief. Every one of us. Even if we haven't had our own dances with death. We grieve sick family members. We suffer lost opportunities. We carry a plethora of social injustices.

     Secondly, I also realized that our Western, Judeo-Christian society never discusses it. We are never even taught to see such loses as grief.

     This section will highlight the ways different cultures from around the world deal with grief. The first article is about Dancing with the Dead in Madagascar. 

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Dancing with the Dead in Madagascar

     In Madagascar, some ethnic groups, such as the Merina tribe, “dance with their dead” in a sacred ritual occurring every five to seven years. The Famidihana, or “the turning of the bones,” serves as a make-shift family reunion and a way to introduce new family members, such as new children, sons and daughters-in-law,  to deceased people. The practice of secondary burial began in the 1820s after the repatriation of soldiers’ remains from far away.
     Madagascar ethnic groups that practice Famidihana practice a mixture of Christianity and traditional beliefs but do not believe in heaven or hell. According to anthropologist Dr. Miora Mamphionona, “death after the bones are decomposed will take us to a second life – a life that is similar to the living life.” According to these beliefs, the dead do not go forward to the next life until their bodies have completely decomposed. This allows their ancestors to serve as intermediates between God and the living.
     Relatives often travel for miles to attend the two-day celebration. The hosting family spends significant money on the tomb and the festivities, so guests often bring donations such as money or alcohol to offset expenses. The gifts are recorded in what is known as “atero ka alao,” which means “to give something and receive it back.” In this way, guests know that they will also be supported when they organize their own Famadihana. During the festivities, guests drink, converse, and dance with their ancestors.
     After the festivities, family and guests go to the tombs to meet with the dead. As a celebration of life, people wear their best outfits, and musicians accompany the party guests from the village to the tomb. An astrologer called an Ombiasy has often been consulted to determine the optimal day to open and close the tomb. First, several deceased relatives are removed from ancestral crypts. Family members then carefully remove burial garments and wrap them in silk shrouds. Finally, before sunset, the bodies are returned to their tombs and turned upside down alongside gifts. This is believed to close the cycle of life and death.
     Historian Andrianahaga Mahery notes that “meeting the ancestors again is a moment of happiness and joy and sadness is not allowed.”
Sources:
https://theculturetrip.com/africa/madagascar/articles/famadihana-madagascars-day-of-the-dead/
 
https://www.cnn.com/2016/10/18/travel/madagascar-turning-bones/index.html
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