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Kinoly of Madagascar

Ghosts, light humour and serious beliefs, item 28

The Malagasy believe most ancestor spirits are protective, if you treat them well, but an ignored or untended family member can become one of the ghoulish and violent Kinoly. These creepy, red-eyed, dagger-clawed spectres haunt their own gravesites, visiting disease, misfortune and the occasional disembowelling upon the living. As the legend tells it, the Kinoly have been forsaken by God, leaving their eyes red. Their claws are used to tear out the liver of a person who has angered them. Visitors to the grave who engage in loud conversation or laughter are particularly prone to angering the Kinoly.

There have been many reports regarding the ghosts of Madagascar, including a story in which an English missionary witnessed an attack on a sailor staying in a neighbouring residence. During the night, the sailor’s shouts were such he woke the neighbouring households, including the missionary’s. All the neighbours ran to the man’s house where they found him sitting up in bed. The sailor shook as he told the gather crowd that in the moments before he fell asleep he had been attacked by a ghost. The spectre grabbed the sailor by the throat to prevent him shouting for help. The attack had lasted for some time, during which the sailor insisted he remained awake. In response to the sailor’s adamant entreaties that his house was haunted by a Kinoly, the missionary took the sailor into his own home.

To prevent an unwanted ancestor’s rising from the grave as a Kinoly, the Malagasy rewrap the deceased in fresh, handmade cloth every five to ten years (which is referred to as famadihana). Many also avoid visiting graves at night or building homes close to graveyards to not anger any Kinoly which may be present.

If traveling with a companion through the forest at night and the two of you become separated, do not call out each other’s names as you may attract the attention of the Kinoly. Other night time activities which should be avoided for your own protection are whistling, carrying mutton, sleeping in a room without a light, and answering to your name if called by a ghost…unless you want to be drawn to your death.

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