ANTSAHADINTA, Madagascar — Marcel Rakotonary, 75, gives a sharp warning to visitors before they enter Antsahadinta, or the “valley of the leeches.” Located 20 kilometers (12 miles) southwest of the capital city of Antananarivo, the sacred hill of Antsahadinta is the site of royal tombs and ancient dwellings. Its forest has been protected from clearing and slash-and-burn agriculture, known as tavy, for generations. “It is fady to cut down trees in this forest,” says Rakotonary. “Those who disobey will have their neck broken, turning their head upside down!” Fady is a sociocultural concept made up of rules and prohibitions passed down from the Malagasy people’s ancestors. It can apply to a place, a person or to certain animals and plants. In Madagascar, this invisible network of spiritual commandments or taboos is, in general, strictly observed. “In Madagascar, where animism is still prevalent, it is believed that the boundary between the sacred and the profane is defined by the fady,” says Michaël Randriamaniraka, an anthropologist and the executive director of Aequo Madagascar, a consulting and development firm. Although fewer and fewer Malagasy practice traditional religion, most remain highly attuned to fady-related phenomena and beliefs. Given their ties to the ancestors, such beliefs are synonymous with respect for particular places, communities or species. People tell stories of those who have contravened fady and gone on to experience misfortune. The stories have an aura of intrigue, so they can serve as warnings. Fady differ from myths because they are associated with institutionalized practices…This article was originally published on Mongabay Läs mer

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