RATOVOANA – This demi-god was the son of a deity and a Vazimba, Madagascar’s version of elves or Menehune. Ratovoana was born through the procedure known in the west as a Caesarean Section instead of the usual birth through the vaginal pathway. Such births were regarded with a certain supersitious awe in the ancient world and the children thus born were considered to be destined for great things.
In the myths of the Merina and other people of Madagascar such births were viewed as meaning that the figure thus born was “self-created” or “self-delivered”. These “self-created” beings are genuine rebels who often defy the supreme deity and therefore occupy a special place in the pantheons of Madagascar and I’ll deal with other such figures in the future. This entry will be limited to Ratovoana.
Ratovoana not only emerged from his Vazimba mother via C-Section but fully grown (that’s GOTTA hurt). Eventually Ratovoana decides he wants to marry one of the daughters of the supreme deity Zanahary. To that end he goes to the pond where Zanahary’s three star goddess daughters often swim and bathe when they fly down to the Earth. He transforms himself into a delicious- looking orange and plans to marry whichever daughter picks him up to eat.
None of the three goddesses happen to do so. Ratovoana tries again, this time transforming himself into a waterlily, planning to marry whichever daughter finds him beautiful enough to pick up. Again, none of the goddesses bother with him. Ratovoana tries for a third time, this time transforming himself into a pretty bird. One of the daughters reaches out to touch him, at which point he reverts to his true form and claims her as his bride.
This star goddess, Andriantomwa, tells Ratovoana that she considers it beneath her to marry anyone created by her own father. Ratovoana brags about his status as “self-created” or “self-delivered” and so Andriantomwa falls in love with him and agrees to marry him. The two brace themselves to travel to the heavens to seek the permission of her father Zanahary.
The star goddess gives Ratovoana a wooden ody (amulet in our terms) to help him on the journey to see her father. Ratovoana must chew off part of the ody to survive the passage through the three gates of thunder, hail and whirlwind. Chewing off one part for each gate he and his intended pass through Ratovoana survives.
In the home of the supreme deity our hero is offered a choice of three seats – one green, one gold and one silver. The goddess Andriantomwa had briefed Ratovoana on how to handle this choice. If he selected the gold one her father would reject him as a greedy suitor after his daughter’s wealth. If he selected the silver chair the god Zanahary would reject him on the grounds that he really desired the girl’s mother instead of her. Selecting the green chair was the correct choice and Ratovoana made it. (In some versions a diviner, not the intended bride, briefs Ratovoana about this choice and about surviving the three gates.)
Zanahary approves of the marriage and the wedding is held in the heavens. Afterward Ratovoana and his new wife are sent back down to the Earth with a pair of geese as wedding presents. Those first geese breed hourly and are the progenitors of all the other geese on Earth. Eventually, when one of the geese dies, Ratovoana and his wife find rice in its gullet. They sow the rice and thus bring this crop, formerly known only to the gods, to the people of Earth. (In some versions Ratovoana steals the rice from the gods intentionally so he can give it to human beings.)
In any event the supreme deity is furious to see that humanity now has rice, “the food of the gods”, as it were. Zanahary creates all manner of bad weather to destroy the rice crop for humanity but the goddess Andriantomwa, Ratovoana’s wife, protects the crops from her fathers’ wrath. Ever since she is prayed to as the guardian deity of the harvest.
Regular readers of Balladeer’s Blog will recognize similarities in this tale to myths from Vietnam, Samoa, the Philippines and elsewhere.
I’LL BE EXAMINING ADDITIONAL MERINO DEITIES IN A FEW DAYS.
FOR THE MAIN LIST OF MERINA DEITIES CLICK HERE: https://glitternight.com/2015/02/24/top-figures-in-merina-mythology/
FOR SIMILAR ARTICLES AND MORE OF THE TOP LISTS FROM BALLADEER’S BLOG CLICK HERE: https://glitternight.com/top-lists/
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