Rituals are common in most cultures. They are passed down from one generation to the next. Various actions explain why some rituals are sacred and others are not. Traditional Africans used a variety of rituals to keep things running smoothly, bring people together, and aid in the growth of the community.
Fishing is only permitted in this small, sacred lake once a year, during the Antogo ceremony, which takes place in the town of Bamba in the northern Dogon region of Mali. Bamba was constructed among the rubble at the bottom of a 500-meter cliff. During the dry season, everything here except a single sacred pond filled with fish dries up. Antogo, a centuries-old fishing ceremony, is held on the lake every year, and it is a sight to behold for anyone interested in history.
Despite the fact that fishing in the lake is technically illegal every other day of the year, hundreds of men disregard this rule on Antogo Day in order to catch fish with their bare hands. The upheaval lasts about fifteen minutes in total. According to reports, the event’s size, scope, and gravity are simply too much to handle.
According to legend, fishing well will bring good luck in a variety of ways, including a bountiful harvest, a happy marriage, the recovery of sick family members, and more. Men who do not catch anything during the fishing season are considered unlucky for the next 12 months. They won’t find a spouse or have a successful harvest, among other things, that year, and the best they can do is hope for better luck the following year.
The fishing ritual is traditionally performed in May, the sixth month of the dry season, but the exact date is determined by the council of wise men. Saturdays are market days in Bamba, and on the first three market days of each month, wooden sticks are placed in the middle of the lake to signal that the ceremony is approaching.
On Antogo, a large number of Dogon people from all over Mali congregate around the lake. The three largest groups are made up of the most important and well-known families from various Dogon communities. The groups remain silent as the wise men recite spells and praise the gods. When they have finished speaking, the ritual and all of its associated magic begin.
Following the sound of a gunshot, hundreds of men and children—women are not permitted to participate—jump into the lake carrying fishing baskets, attempting to catch as many fish as possible as quickly as possible.
Despite the fact that females are not permitted to participate in the festivities, legend has it that a young woman first learned of the lake and its miracle fish. Whatever the case, observers say the Antogo event is unlike any other world fishing opener.