RARAKY – The Merina demigod of tobacco. Raraky (sometimes called Paraky) was the only son of the blessed Merina man Andriamitandrina and his wife. Raraky grew ill and neither medicine nor prayers to the gods could save him. After he died his family debated what to do with the corpse. Some counciled eating him like food in order to feel that he was still with them. Others advocated hanging the body in their home in order to feel that he was still with them.
Andriamitandrina was at last persuaded by his sister to bury Raraky’s body and to revere the first plant that grew on his grave. A brand new plant – tobacco – grew on Raraky’s grave. It did not taste good enough to serve as food and it had no medicinal effect when rubbed into the skin. Raraky appeared to his family in dreams and advised them to dry, grind and chew the leaves of the plant, spitting them out when all the flavor had been extracted. Thus tobacco use originated among the Merina.
People would pray to Raraky for healthy tobacco crops and to cure anyone intoxicated or sickened by tobacco use.
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