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Traditions and legends

Libertalia, the pirates’ republic

Nosy Mangabe

In the late 17th century Madagascar became the epitome of piracy. The infamous republic of pirates, Libertalia, is said to have existed in the northeast of the island. Everything is said to have started with the pirate James Misson. He is said to have been a Frenchman from Provence. During a stay in Rome, Misson, disgusted by the decadence of …

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Why the roots of the baobabs reach for the sky

Baobab Mutter des Waldes

A Malagasy legend tells that there were times when the trees could still walk. At that time there was also a large lake whose water was so clear and calm that it lay there like a mirror. Whenever they passed the lake, the baobabs stopped. They became sad when they saw their own appearance reflected in the water. The other …

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Ranoro, the Daughter of the Water

Many centuries ago, in the times of the Vazimba, there existed the Zazavavindrano, the daughters of water. One of them was Ranoro. This is her story. One day, a young man from the Betsileo ran to the Mamba River in the central highlands of Madagascar. The man’s name was Andriambodilova. In the middle of the river, he spotted a beautiful …

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The art of speech: Kabary

Famadihana

In Madagascar time often plays no role, but talking to each other extensively does. One form of speech is particularly popular on the Red Island: the Kabary. Kabary is the word for a speech for which many people are together in the same place. At the same time, it is a very traditional form of oral history that can be …

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The graves of the Vazimba

An ancient legend says that the first people in Madagascar were the Vazimba. They came from far away in boats across the great sea to colonize the new land they called Madagascar. According to legend, they found their home in the Tsingys, the needle-sharp rocks of Bemaraha, in western Madagascar. To reach the Tsingys, one still has to cross the …

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Taboos and traditions: The Fady in Madagascar

Famadihana

As a traveller in Madagascar, you will hear about fadys sooner or later. Fady is the Malagasy word for taboo and probably derives from the Indonesian “pady”. But taboo is not the only meaning of this word, it is also used to call something sacred. Fadys are rules that concern situations as well as people, animals, locations or a certain …

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Where the name Vazaha for white people comes from

Once upon a time, long ago, a young king and his wife lived on the west coast of Madagascar, in Menabe. This king loved to speak before his people and to give Kabarys. One day, during one of his Kabarys, a baby started crying. When it wouldn’t stop and the mother couldn’t calm the baby, the king got angry. How …

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Famadihana – Turning the deads

Famadihana

That Madagascar is always good for a surprise was already clear to me on my first trip in 1995. But this trip should be a little different. With our guests, we were on our way to the south of Madagascar, and at our stopover in Antsirabe, 170 kilometers from the capital, we settled down in a cozy hotel. Actually we …

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The animal that brings death

Aye-Aye

No other animal in Madagascar has as many myths and fairy tales as the Aye-Aye (Daubentonia madagascariensis). Throughout the northern half of Madagascar it is fady, which means taboo. Unfortunately, this fady does not mean that the animals are not touched by Madagascans, as with chameleons, for example. Instead, many inhabitants of Madagascar believe that the encounter with an aye-aye …

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Why the largest lemur in the world is called Babakoto

Once upon a time in a small village in Madagascar, a Bezanozano man (a tribe living in the east of the country) prepared a small basket. He asked his little son Koto to come with him and together they wandered deep into the jungle to find honey. After a few hours they found a bee hive on a high rosewood …

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