A BLESSING THAT WE ASK
"It is a blessing we ask" are the words of the first song,
and the central concept behind the circumcision ritual
of the Merina of Madagascar.
There is one discussion about if circumcision is a blessing or a
mutilation. Many men have personal experiences which witness BOTH as
true. Though routine circumcision may be seen as a great ignorance
from the viewpoint of modern medicine, the idea that it was introduced
for the purpose of mutilating young boys is a ridiculous one.
When the tradition became associated with sacrifice or severe initiations rituals it could easily take on forms which
from our cultural perspective are seen as a mutilation. On the other
hand when the tradition became mixed with religious attitudes it
would get the cultural stamp of approval as a blessing. Among the
Jews and Muslims, circumcision is a work which is pleasing to God.
The following passages are taken from Maurice Bloch's book "From
Blessing to Violence" (1986). It is a book devoted to describing
and explaining the circumcision ritual among the Merina of Madagascar.
"The most common answer I received to the question of why
people practice circumcision was quite simply that circumcision is
a blessing, a tsodrano. At first sight this has nothing to do with
the practice itself, and so for a long time I ignored its significance,
thinking it little more than a pious generality . . . However, it
is clear to me now that this is indeed a very direct and profound
explanation and one that should have led me to the central characteristics
of the ritual." (p.
49). Then follows his description of the ritual, during which
he tells us "the circumcision ritual is . . . a ritual of kinship
unity and indivisibility . . ," (p.84).... "if we needed
further confirmation, we would have it from the words of the first
song : `It is a blessing that we ask.' " (p.50-51).