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In an article published in 1963, Dr. Tsimahafotsy Randriamaro of the University of Montpellier examines the Malagasy medical spirit through his proverbs. Ohabolana that relate to health, diseases, remedies, life, death.
He then speaks of the wise Mpanandro (devin) who uses original psycho-technical tests to test or choose the young prince to rule. Similarly, observations made on the character and temperament of the child in relation to his astrology (vintana) are usually contained in the name he bears.
And even if it is difficult to translate these picturesque proverbs, full of wisdom and humor, Dr. Randriamaro tries to get there.
“Strength can not resist the Spirit,” that is to say, intelligence. “Mother runner, child shriveled,” or medically speaking athrepsic, hereditary-syphilitic, rachitic.
“Grief is a disease, it is benign for some, acute for others” (without comment). “Grief is like a cloud, when it is too heavy, it falls” a shower of tears! “If the spleen is affected, the gallbladder feels the backlash” by organic synergy. “Cut your right hand or your left hand, the pain is the same” (without comment).
“He slipped with all his heart and fell with all his soul”: he ended up being influenced by the ideas that were presented to him. “The anguish of hoping in vain is painful, but a sacrifice that one imposes oneself, one can always bear it.” “There are no real fools, but the maniacs are numerous” (psychosis). “If we do not exploit idiots and imbeciles, it is because we fear the God-Creator” (mental debility). “Difficult to diagnose as the disease of Rainizanabelo”: the latter was a maniac who told his ills with such an imagination that the healers were perplexed about the diagnosis.
The Malagasy also have an innate belief in the immortality of the soul. Despite some humorous forms of a few sayings, they have the worship of ancestors, just as they have great respect for the sick: “The sick are noble sovereigns.” “Do not be quiet when you are sick, like a sickly (purulent ophthalmia) who has a good pillow” (quiet sleep). “Pushing as an asthmatic snoring without being asleep. “Do not act like a leper who swims, but drowns himself when he reaches the goal”: having no more fingers because of the mutilation due to leprosy, he can no longer cling to the shore and let himself sink . “A great patient without a cover, if the disease does not kill him, the cold will finish him.” “
“We are not a man if we have not been tested by fever (tazo).” Or more exactly if one has not been vaccinated with fever (efan’ny tazo). According to Dr. Randriamaro, before the discovery of the Jennerian vaccine, the vaccination technique was already practiced by Malagasy healers. They used the greyish crust of the pustules during the period of desiccation. Slight scars on one part of the body caused a few benign eruptions that immunized against smallpox. Because “there is no disease worse than smallpox: it is this that made me lose those whom I loved”. Same method to immunize against scorpion stings: scarification at the tip of the finger and tongue with some liquid from the maceration of the tail of the scorpion.
“Fever of Avaradrano, the remedies deemed sacred do not make a miracle. The region of Avaradrano is located in the north-east of Imerina. Formerly, periodical epidemics of pernicious fevers were rife there. Faced with the number of deaths, the ineffectiveness of remedies has become proverbial. And when we speak of epidemic, here is another ohabolana: “Epidemic diseases of Imamo (south-western region of Imerina), those who are not mowed by death, keep a big belly” (splenomegaly). “The soldiers of the army of Rainingory come back covered with ulcers. It must be said that the health service of this general left something to be desired, whence this saying.
Another: “Do not prepare remedies like Rabetsiafindra, he knows how to prepare for others and not for himself. “It is not bad to heal without medication” (medicating nature). “A single remedy is not enough,” but “too many remedies are harmful,” while “the remedy of the weak is their honesty.”
To conclude this non-exhaustive list of Ohabolana, let us say that “having a vigorous arm is not an assurance for life, and youth is not a talisman against death,” for we shall all die; Or “life is like an old man’s song, it ends in a sob”; Or finally: “Life is a shadow and a smoke, it passes and is no more. “