Death, Vintana, and Witch Doctors


Death is a big deal here. A man fell through a roof and died when he climbed up to pee off the top of the house. He was drunk. The roof gave way and the man died. They spent a month building that man’s tomb. A month for a guy who dies peeing off a house. To us it doesn’t seem worth it. To them it’s everything. According to their culture, that man is now an ancestor and has to be consulted and sacrificed to on all matters.


So bracelets on the arms are not charms but the anklet is definitely something prescribed by the witch doctor (ombiasy). I won’t be wearing that again. The reason there are no doors on the East is because the doors on the East lead to death, the doors to the North lead to life―according to the vintana (essentially the will of the fates). They will also sleep with their heads facing East. Those who follow the vintana live in fear. However, those who pray (the believers) in Besatra do not follow the vintana. Though others may understand the vintana, only the ombiasy may read it, and he only in peril of his life should he misread. Vintana is astrological in nature somehow. Kintana is the word for star, so the two are intricately linked. The ombiasy will read the stars for the vintana.

There are strong feelings about the vintana. The man who explained it to us (Imora)


was supposed to have been buried alive lest his parents die when he came of age―he was also destined to become a ombiasy. Now he is a Christian!

A prophet once came to Betioky casting lots. The prophecy from this was a white man who would come who they should befriend. A Catholic priest came but there was something else about this white man. He would come proclaiming the good news of the gospel. Grant, the one translating this conversation, arrived later―telling the people when he first arrived that he came with vaovao Mahafaly, the good news.

Witch Doctor (Ombiasy)

Having just sat through a roleplayed diving session I better understand the evil behind the vintana and ombiasy. An ombiasy will actually charge 100,000 Ariary to peer into what is essentially a cosmic portal. Someone comes to the ombiasy with a problem, maybe they’re sick or maybe someone stole their cattle. The ombiasy then prays to a god (demon/Satan/something bad) that he would send specific demons (they have names, and no you don’t need to know them) to inhabit the divining elements. Apparently after the lots are cast the portal is opened to the ombiasy and, I would assume, certain things (perhaps everything) the influencing demon knows becomes available. Obviously I’m interpreting a little from my own worldview. They only know that what the ombiasy sees will come true unless the ombiasy intervenes. It is interesting to note that the lots cannot be moved to different locations or they become void. The whole time these people were roleplaying this (the real ombiasy didn’t want to speak with us) there was a sense of mockery, a relief that can only come with true freedom. Thank God for His work here that these people are no longer subjected to this wickedness.

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