Spell Binding - The Sacred Lake Of Mangatsa

A vast stretch of still water, the lake would seem to be an ideal spot for swimming or fishing in the appropriate season. However, the sacred character of a large number of lakes in Madagascar makes it impossible to practice such activities. This is the case of the lake of Mangatsa. You can still enjoy strolling along its shores and admire the exceptional unspoilt natural scenery.
Situated in the north-west of the island, a few kilometres from the town of Mahajanga, the lake lies on the estate of the first Malagasy  President Philibert Tsiranana. According to legend, a Sakalava sovereign had asked a healer to treat his son. Since the treatment failed, the king banished the healer. To take revenge, the healer cast a spell on the king's village, turning it into a lake and thevillagers into fish.
The sacred lake of Mangatsa plays an important role in the local culture. Even today, a large number of families belonging to the Sakalava ethnic group visit the lake to place offerings of honey, make a wish and toss a coin into the waters of the lake. If their wish is granted, families will tie a white or red piece of cloth around the trunk of the trees surrounding the lake. It is also common to sacrifice a chicken, a lamb, a goat or a zebu, depending on your means and the importance of the wish to be granted. If you decide to bring an offering and make a wish, choose the appropriate day to visit the lake, since Tuesdays and Thursdays are considered to be ‘fady’ (taboo).
Through the clear transparent waters of lake Mangatsa, you will not only see your own reflection, but you will also be able to spot the different species of fish living in the lake. Carp and moray eels will swim up to you, in the hope of being thrown a piece of bread. You should know that it is considered to be a good omen if a moray eel swims towards you.
This article was featured in Prime Magazine May 2019

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