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.
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. Continue reading
Covering the myths and deities of the various peoples of Madagascar is a pretty sizeable job to undertake. I decided to use the same approach I’m using with the Americas and take things on a tribe-by-tribe basis.
First off I’ll be tackling the Merina people. Let me emphasize that for my fellow mythology geeks – this list will be JUST about Merina gods and myths. There are a variety of cultural groups from Madagascar, each with their own pantheon of deities, but plenty of mythological reference books do them the disservice of lumping everything into one big category labeled “Madagascar” or “Malagassy Mythology”.
This causes confusion because it would be like lumping gods from Celtic, Norse, Greco-Roman, Slavic, Etruscan and Hittite mythology in one big puddle called “European Gods” with no attempt to break them into their separate pantheons. So if the following gods either are not in whatever reference books you personally use or if your books list a different figure as “Madagascar’s” patron deity of a certain concept there is no need to jump in with objections. I will eventually hit all the cultural groups.
ITRIMOBE – The primordial sea-beast who lived on the Earth when it was nothing but endless ocean. For untold years Itrimobe enjoyed its solitary subaquatic existence. Eventually it grew bored and set out to examine the parameters of the world it lived in. It swam down all the way to the bottom of the sea, then swam upward as far as it could go and at last poked its head out into the air and sunlight.
Itrimobe swam east, north, west and south but found no land and no way out of the endless ocean. Curious, the entity dug three holes in the center of the Earth and one hole at each end, allowing much of the water to drain. This drainage caused the formation of the continents, which the now-amphibious Itrimobe explored. Unfortunately the blazing sun overhead eventually dried Itrimobe out to a dangerous degree and blinded it. The remaining ocean water was nowhere near deep enough for the gigantic creature to submerge itself ever again, causing its body to die. Continue reading