If you ever have the chance to drive on the RN 6 (National Road #6) going North towards Antsiranana, you will pass through the town of Anivorano du Nord, which is about 69km (43 miles) before you arrive in Antsiranana. Behind the East side of the town, there is a lake, the Lake Antagnavo, round shaped, next to a volcano crater, and believed to be a sacred one.
This lake is sacred to the local community because, according to the legend, the crocodiles which live in it used to be human beings.
The legend says that, once upon a time, there was a traveler who was lost in the region, he walked around, tired, thirsty and was even at the verge of death. He finally found a village, named Antagnavo, and asked the villagers for water, but they refused to help him. Disappointed, the traveler decided to sink the village and transform its inhabitants into crocodiles. That marked the creation of the lake.
A second version of the legend says that when the traveler left the village, after the villagers refused to give him water, the water started to rise and all the villagers were transformed into crocodiles.
In another version, the story goes that everyone in the village refused to offer water to the traveler except one woman. When he left, he drowned the village and transformed into crocodiles for all the villagers but the woman. She later took care of the crocodiles.
Because the villagers believe that these reptiles are their ancestors, they worship the crocodiles by means of regular sacrifices, offerings, and rituals. They kill zebus, “omby mazava loha” (the ones with a clear head), offer part of them to the crocodiles, and ask for blessings (love, health, wealth, etc,). To see the rituals of the offerings, watch the first half of this documentary.
The documentary is in Malagasy, but for those who do not understand Malagasy, here are some hints:
It is said that some crocodiles still wear jewelry which could be from their past live as humans. It is “fady” (taboo) to swim in the lake, dip your feet or hands in the water, spit at the lake or satisfy a natural need.
You may ask the question: why would someone who could drown a whole village could not find water to drink? To that we say: