On the other side of the crystal


"If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water".

- Loren Eiseley, (in How to read water by Tristan Gooley).

or the Malagasy people, the ancestors and the ties to the ancestral land (tanindrazana) are an essential part of living a good life; in other words it is the moral lifeblood of society. Solidarity with each other - especially to those who share the same tanindrazana - is a crucial element of this. To understand how access to land and water is arranged we have to look at all the interrelated cultural notions (see section ‘caring for water’).


Also for the construction of the water pumps we found that the role of the ancestors - or to receive their blessing - is vital. The ancestors who dwell on the other side of the crystal need to be addressed and consulted during all community activities.



On the other side of the crystal



The elders [ray-e-mandreny] call for a ritual blessing of the land for which they need to address the ancestors. They send one of the younger boys to buy some locally brewed rum in town. After a few hours of trying, the generator still does not reveal any sign of life. A palpable silence can be felt when one of the elders leads in prayer.



The sacrifice has been accepted and the land is blessed by the members on the other side of the crystal - a joyful moment that is celebrated by sharing the rest of the rum with all the adult community members.


As mentioned before, the ‘crystal’ also refers to the transparent substance of clean water as the highest ideal of purity. In this case, the pump is ‘on the other side of the crystal’ because it is the mediating device - that with a simple filtering technique - miraculously transforms impure water into a crystalline substance.