A reader asked me if there is a Malagasy (Madagascar) solar deity. Since others may wonder the same thing I’m posting my reply here in an FAQ spirit.
Answer: None of my books on gods from Madagascar have a specialized solar deity, oddly enough. Here are four variations: 1) The Bara people of Madagascar have myths about how “The Sun Father” or just “Mister Sun” marries “The Earth Mother.” The Sun Father decides their children (human beings) should live with their mother on Earth because “their heads would catch fire” if they lived with him on the Sun. Continue reading
Previously Balladeer’s Blog examined the gods and goddesses of the Merina people of Madagascar. This time around I’ll move on to the Betsimisaraka people, the second most populous group in that island nation.
Instead of my usual list of entries on each individual deity in a pantheon this time around I will experiment with taking the myths in order, from creation onward. Let me know if you prefer that I go back to the usual method of individual entries.
I. CREATION – Zanahary, the sky god and supreme deity of the Betsimisaraka, wanted companionship in his heavenly realm, so he created his son Razanajanahary. The two got along famously but after a time the son lost his sense of contentment and wanted to explore lower realms.
The father encouraged Razanajanahary to indulge his wanderlust. When the son tried, he found that there was no place for him to stand in the realm far below. He told Zanahary about this situation, and the father resolved to take action. Continue reading
FOR MY MAIN LIST OF GODS FROM MADAGASCAR CLICK HERE
MAHAKA & KOTOFETSY – Trickster deities to the Merina people of Madagascar. Mahaka and Kotofetsy are depicted like Coyote is depicted in Native American myths. In some tales their deceptive nature is applauded and in others condemned.
On occasion Merina people who prided themselves on their own wit and trickery would try to outdo Mahaka and Kotofetsy. In one myth the pair transform themselves into old men to put their adversary at ease, only to trick him out of everything he owns, right down to his clothing. The defeated man runs home naked, pursued by a jeering mob.
Other myths involving the pair:
Mahaka and Kotofetsy frame a would-be antagonist for sorcery, causing him to be beaten with sticks by his neighbors, who think he has desecrated their loved one’s tomb. Continue reading
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. Continue reading
RAPETO – This gigantic deity falls into the global mythological category of “Divine Geographers” for his role in crafting and creating many landmarks throughout Madagascar. This makes him similar to Khong Lo in Vietnamese myths, Inugpasug in Inuit myths, Halmang in Korean myths and Moshiri in Ainu myths. A number of stories about the enormous Rapeto explain the origin of various geographical features throughout the land. His name was used to classify the Rapetosaurus, a dinosaur that used to inhabit Madagascar. Continue reading
RAFARA – The Merina goddess of motherly love and devotion. She had been forced into a marriage to an ogre and had borne him a daughter named Indesoka. One day Indesoka’s playmates, who were pure-blooded ogres instead of a hybrid like she was, tricked her into breaking her evil father’s silver jug.
Indesoka used her powers as a demi-goddess to cause a cave to appear in the side of a stone mountain and hid within that cave, sealing the entrance behind her so that the stone seemed smooth and undisturbed. Rafara’s powers are greater and she is able to find Indesoka. Continue reading
ANDRIANAMPOINIMERINA – Here is a non-crow related myth about this demigod from Madagascar.
Long ago the farmers in Andrianampoinimerina’s kingdom came to their ruler for help with their problem. They had a huge surplus of crops because there simply weren’t enough citizens nearby to buy them. Andrianampoinimerina had a solution. Continue reading
ANDRIANAMPOINIMERINA – A past King of the Merina people and the Demi-God who ruled over the birds called crows. From the time Andrianampoinimerina was a small child crows were his special protectors and always kept a watchful eye on him.
Once when a wild boar attacked the youngster the crows guarding him rapidly beat their wings in the eyes of the boar and pecked at it, ultimately driving it off. Continue reading
The French who first came into contact with the people of Madagascar mistook Tompondrano for Leviathan from Christian mythology.
TOMPONDRANO – “Lord of the waters.” The supreme snake deity in Merina mythology. Not only were all other serpents subordinate to Tompondrano but he often acted as an ambassador between snakes and human beings, negotiating the end to conflicts between the two groups.
A major myth about this deity includes its role in advising the Vazimba how to use sacrifices to appease gods and demons. The Vazimba were little people who were previously the dominant race of Madagascar. They are similar to the Menehune in Hawaiian myths and to “little people” who figure into mythology and folklore from around the world. Continue reading
Can anyone tell us why no college sports teams are called the Lemurs?
BABAKOTO – The Merina lemur god. Babakoto was at first an ordinary man. Through a series of misfortunes he wound up being accused and condemned to death for a crime he did not commit. Nobody would believe his innocence, however, and so he began plotting to escape before his execution could be carried out.