09 August 2007

Troomba Room(ba)

[7/28/07 Dear Julie and Mark, Traditional Sakalava people, who once ruled western Madagascar, believe in spirit mediums, or people who become possessed with the spirits of dead royalty. They call the person and the trance a troomba. A person generally has a life-long relationship with the ghost who rents out his or her body for the purpose of telling modern day Sakalava what they’re doing right and wrong, and offering blessings and curses. An anthropologist, Michael Lambek, of the University of Toronto, told me troomba advise many aspects of life, from sex practices to the direction of the kingdom (which lately exists primarily to support these ceremonies). On Sunday night, the night before this big ceremony when four kings’ bones are cleaned, accordion music and dim light coaxed out the spirits. Sitting on the floor in a one-room palm-thatch building, people clapped along with accordion music and swayed in rhythm. A single candle cast a faint yellow light on the scene. Then, out of nowhere, a woman sprang her feet, and, head flopping back, waved wave her arms in the air, flailing about. That’s the possession. It seems like a performance, since the rhythmical clapping kind of eggs the troomba on. It reminds me a lot, honestly, of a concert festival experience, where the energy of the crowd and the performer ebb and flow as one. – John]

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