Tanguin, a seed with supernatural power

"A small toxic seed, insinuates itself dynamically into the meteoric evolution of the Merina civilization under the reign of Andrianampoinimerina. Raymond Gerold, author of the Note published in the Bulletin de Madagascar of January 1969, continues that in twenty years (1787-1810), this prince of the tiny territory of Ambohimanga knows how to conquer the whole Imerina and to make under his absolute authority, a unified and organized kingdom. The stability of his state even allows him to submit the vast domain of Betsileo.

Cerbera venenifera

The role of the tanguin in the merina life of the time, as it is read in the Tantara ny Andriana eto Madagascar is presented as that of "an authentic civilizing plant". The tree that produces it is the "Cerbera venenifera" Steud, of the Apocynaceae family and its vernacular name in Imerina is the "tangena". The poisonous seed, "kebona", is still used in the 1960s, albeit in a discreet manner and at a very low dose, in folk medicine. Its toxicity is well established.

According to Dr. Edouard Heckel in "Les plantes utiles de Madagascar" (1910), "the legal dose of tanguin was two almonds grated in water, at least four grams. This poison is called Kisopo.

The tangena grows in the forests of the East
The plant does not grow in Imerina. In the spirit of the ancient inhabitants of this province, its site and the toxicity of its seeds are determined by a divine intervention. Raymond Gerold reports what an old man says: "It is in the forest of the East and in the North where we found the tanguin, that God took it. The trunk is big branched wood and it is the seed that we take. The interior of the tanguin fruit looks like inside a peach. It is hard and it must be broken with a spear to extract the small seed that it contains.

"This is the instrument of justice that people drink. The practice of tanguin, as a test poison, seems to go back to the early days of Imerina. During their migration to the Highlands, the Merina ancestors crossed the eastern floristic domain where the "Cerbera venenifera" is believed to grow. "It is therefore very likely that the notion of tanguin was transmitted to them by the forest-meeting ethnic groups, with whom they came into contact. "

Tangena and chickens
The author of the Note continues to quote the old man who informs him. "It is there, east of Angavo (the cliff bordering on the east Imerina) that was practiced for the first time the administration of tanguin chickens ...".

Originally, indeed, it seems that ordalic poison was only administered to animals. This is how the author's informant recounts: "The first tanguin test practiced by the ancestors was that by which it was administered to chickens; it was not made to people, but to chickens. "

Andrianjaka and the tangena
During the reign of Andrianjaka, in the 17th century, Andrianentoarivo, sent to the Vonizongo, a region north of Imerina, had the tanguin taken directly from the men. "He struck a blow and he had a lot of deaths, so that Andrianjaka did not let him go through the ordeal. ".

A little further on, the same narrator adds: "At that time, the number of people who were made tanguin was minimal. "

Divine Poison
Andrianampoinimerina has, meanwhile, a particular conception of the tanguin. As a plant, it will allow it to transform a simple instrument of justice into a kind of supernatural power. And here is what he says: "However, the only seeds we take are those that have fallen, we leave the green ones; do not take fruits that have not fallen. Bring those who consent. "

From there came the expression "do not take a fruit before it has fallen". One way also to say that the tanguin has not yet come to you, we will take it for you. "Let him proceed according to his pleasure and according to his lot. "

From then on, poison is no longer the fact of man, but the sacred gift of a plant with a will of its own. This notion of the plant is strongly rooted in popular beliefs. "Do not we see in a very ancient legend, that of Andriambavirano, a goddess turn into a leaf before taking on the appearance of a woman? "

For further :

You are here :   Welcome » News