Why are Malagasy names so complicated ?
Because beyond mere sonship, they tell a story.
For example, the prince "Andriantsimitoviaminandriandehibe", means " the noble who has no equivalent among the nobles ". Last name is not a word but a sentence, a marker for the person who bears it : memory of the day of birth, combination of names of parents or ancestors (an individual is recognized in society only by the name and group of his ascendants) or a wish, a destiny, a word that contradicts a bad destiny,). A nightmare for ticket operators !
The former president Hery Rajaonarimampianina
In Madagascar, the dead are turning over in their graves
Practiced on the central highlands, the ceremony of the famadihana consists in returning the dead after having exhumed them, a few years after the death. This ritual, lived as a feast, will allow the parent to join the kingdom of the ancestors. It recalls the funeral rites of the torajas in Borneo. This isn't really a coincidence, since the first inhabitants of the island came among others from present-day Indonesia.
The date of the Famadihana is fixed by an astrologer. According to custom, the ancestor, who is cold, needs a new shroud which is wrapped after having coated him with honey, and having offered him tobacco, rice or alcohol. He was then made to go around the family tomb seven times, while continuing to sing and dance.
The Famadihana is also a way for Malagasy people not to forget their dead. To honour and respect them.
A practice that can shock because very far from the conception of death in the West, but no less rich in teaching.
The Empire of the Sacred on the « Isle of the Ancestors »
This custom, hard to imagine in our culture, is to be seen in the context of the cult that the Malagasy devotes to their «razanas», ancestors. On this island, sometimes called the "Isle of the Ancestors", death is not an end, it's a rebirth. A spiritual state. The deceased is still there, invisible, and will be able to look after his family, provided that no fady (taboo, ban) is violated. Sacrifices of zebus, of chickens, are offered to him, in order to ask for his blessing and protection.
For example, zebus were sacrificed for the first flight of an Air Madagascar Boeing 747 in 1979, so that no accident would occur !
But ancestors are not their only belief. Malagasy people have a very poetic term for designing their God, One and Creator: «Andriamanitra», aka «The Perfumed Lord», or Andriananahary, the «Supreme Creator». For Christians it means the Lord God of the Torah, and for Muslims, Allah. But it's common to all Malagasy.
Why Perfumed ? Just before God appeared before a prophet, the prophet said he smelled a «sweet and sweet smell". In the land of Ylang Ylang, this fragrance has become the sign of divine manifestations.
The legend of the sacred lakes
Several lakes, such as Antanavo (near Diego), are sacred and a source of legend. The Malagasy people are convinced that the crocodiles of the lake were formerly the inhabitants of the village, reincarnated by a thirsty traveller, to whom the villagers had refused water.
Malagasy magic potions
With an exploding biodiversity and an endemic rate reaching 80% (nearly 12,000 plant species not found anywhere else in the world), Madagascar is the kingdom of medicinal plants … or cosmetics, whose women know all the secrets. Their medicine cabinet is in nature or at the local herbalist. Cheaper than the pharmacist...
The guides of the national parks will make you discover some of them, which are sometimes included in the composition of our medicines and aromatherapy oils. Here are some examples of this plant treasure :
The Ravintsara, « the tree with good leaves »
The most famous in Europe. I use this essential oil plant myself, to avoid colds and other winter parasites. It does indeed have immunostimulating, anti-infective, antiviral properties. And it was not even a Malagasy who advised me, but my mother! And it costs nothing.
Ravintsara is not inherently endemic. Originally, it is an Asian camphor introduced in Madagascar, having developed a specific biochemical composition. It doesn't contain camphor. Beware, it's not recommended during the first three months of pregnancy.
Aloe vera (or Vahona)
Very used on the red island. We already know the moisturizing properties of Aloe vera, but it is also healing; Malagasy use their gel in application or drink with a little honey (to avoid the taste too bitter) to heal wounds. It also helps to cure ulcers, disorders of the digestive system, and is a perfect natural anti-inflammatory. Amen.
Back home, Aloe vera-based drinks are sold commercially, which is fine, unless too much sugar is added to them…
Spirulina, the “ Green Gold ”
This algae, well known to athletes, is the protein champion. As proof, this is the plant that one of the participants of Koh Lanta had chosen to hide in his luggage before boarding (unfortunately for him, he was caught, but that’s another story...).
If the quality of Reunion Island spirulina is recognized, Madagascar isn't left behind and produces 400 kg each year. Because with its level of vegetable proteins, iron, trace elements and unsaturated fatty acids, it helps the malnourished (1 child under 5 years of age in 2 is in Mada) to fight against deficiencies.
The problem is the taste of fish food. The only solution is to dilute it in your orange juice in the morning or add it to a salad…
The Mandravasarotra or Saro, the « one who destroys evil »
Armed with active ingredients (phenols, thymols, carvacols), this endemic medicinal plant of the country is an antidote to poisons, but also cures the flu, cough, fever, bronchitis, liver infections and simple fatigue. Great record.
Centella asiatica, tiger and elephant grass
(Anamanitra or Hydrocotyle)
Recently highlighted by cosmetic brands, this plant is starting to be widely known. It regenerates the skin by promoting the production of collagen and fibroblasts. But on condition to use it correctly. Malagasy people plunder its leaves to obtain a liquid that they dry on the skin.
For internal use, it can help depressed people and people suffering from venous insufficiency.
But again, it is not recommended for pregnant and breastfeeding women.
The periwinkle of Madagascar, anticancer
This is heavy, since this Malagasy endemic plant is included in chemotherapy treatments.
Malagasy people use it to treat hypertension, liver problems, limit diabetes or calm menstrual pain.
Masonjoany, the Malagasy mask of beauty
To be pronounced «massounzouani», this sandalwood powdered and mixed with water becomes a paste used by women in beauty mask. Anti-wrinkle and anti-stain, it also protects against heat, which is why some women walk around in broad daylight, but most often by drawing flowers on their faces.
Sakalavas (ethnicity of the West) are fond of this mask, and it suits them rather well !
A much less aesthetic custom in Mayotte or the Comoros, where women apply the «M'zindzano», which forms a yellowish dry paste, all over their faces.
Malagasy people also use the Lawsonia inermis, a shrub that is actually the real henna.
Be careful not to improvise yourself alchemist after picking in Madagascar! There are dosages to follow and drug interactions are frequent.
The Tanguin ordeal
The Tanguin is a shrub in the seed of the fruit is a violent poison. It stops the movements of the heart. The Malagasy Merina of the Highlands used it to determine, by divine justice, whether an accused was guilty or innocent. Most often, the accused had to swallow pieces of chicken skin and then drink a mixture based on this fruit, after a hint to the spirit of the tanguin, Manamango, had been formulated. The poor man then had to eat a big cast of rice, which the poison made him vomit. If the three pieces of chicken were found, the defendant was found innocent. If only one was missing, the killing was immediate or the unfortunate was left to die.
Hear, listen, O Manamango, you have now reached his belly !
Do you see him because you are now mixed with him and his bones : if he has bewitched, put him to death !
May his life end ! May he die !
For the accused of prestige (royal) the mixture was administered to chickens representing them.
A malleable "justice" in the hands of the accusers since the dosage, carried out by ampitanghena, could differ and the fruits could be more or less ripe, depending on the result that one wanted. For example, the vigilante would quietly suffocate the chicken so that death would be assured and the verdict accordingly.
A supernatural trial used until the middle of the 19th century, caused many deaths.