By Mark Ellis, Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service
MADAGASCAR, EAST AFRICA (ANS – October 31, 2017) — The bubonic plague – once called the Black Death – killed one-third of the world’s population in the 14th century – some 200 million people. It is now on the rise in Madagascar, propelled by a macabre pagan ritual known as ‘famadihana’ or the ‘Dance with the Dead.’
This year, more than 1,200 cases have been diagnosed in Madagascar, three times the normal level. There have been 124 deaths.
Previously, the disease was transmitted by rat-borne fleas, with outbreaks mostly in rural villages. Alarmingly, the disease mutated into a form that can be transmitted by sneezing or coughing and it is now showing up in larger cities.
This form of the plague – more precisely termed the pneumonic plague — can be fatal within 12-24 hours and if untreated, it is nearly always deadly.
The pagan ritual that may be spreading the disease, famadihana, involves families exhuming the remains of dead relatives, rewrapping the bodies in new cloth and dancing with the corpses as part of the ghoulish ritual.
“It’s one of Madagascar’s most widespread rituals,” historian Mahery Andrianahag told AFP.
“It’s necessary to assure cosmic harmony… it satisfies our desire to respect and honor the ancestors so that they can be blessed and one day return.”
The ritual is accompanied by animal sacrifices, and the meat is used for graveside feasts.
Photo captions: 1) Dance with the Dead ritual, Madagascar. 2) Another Part of the ritual. 3) Mark Ellis.
About the writer: Mark Ellis is Senior Correspondent for the ASSIST News Service (www.assistnews.net), and is also the founder of www.GodReports.com, a website that shares testimonies and videos from the church around the world to build interest and involvement in world missions. Previously, Mark co-hosted a TV show called “Windows on the World” with ANS Founder, Dan Wooding, aired on the Holy Spirit Broadcasting Network (http://hsbn.tv), which is now co-hosted by Dr. Garry Ansdell, Senior Pastor of Hosanna Christian Fellowship in Bellflower, California.
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