The Religion of the Malagasy

Populated from Indonesia-Malaysia and continental Africa, Madagascar has a spirituality that is common to all the Island. And as we shall see, it obeys to the foundations of African Religion.


The Malagasy know that there is one God, whose name is Zanahary or Andriamanitra. Zanahary is the Creator of all things, the founding and primary ancestor of the Malagasy. Similarly, Imana (Amon) was the primordial ancestor of the Egyptians and Nubians, Nyame is the primordial ancestor of the Akan of Ghana and Ivory Coast etc … Zanahary is the source of life, it is the principle of life, he is on the top and bottom of the universe, he is found in the four cardinal points. Zanahary is everywhere.

This means that his energy is in all living things. In Africa, God is the energy behind the creation of the world. This Energy has a conscience, is Unique and Multiple, because it is distributed in all the elements of the Creation. Everything that lives is animated by the life force / energy of Zanahary. Therefore absolutely everywhere in Africa, the primordial ancestor is seen through the plants, animals, stars, men.

Zanahary for the Malagasy is inaccessible, as Mawu is inaccessible in Vodun and Naba Kidivende is too far away in the religious philosophy of the Mossi of Burkina Faso. The Energy being abstract, It has no form or known appearance. God is hidden in Africa, inaccessible, inaudible, unfathomable, unknowable, mysterious. That is why the ancient Egyptians said that God is hidden and has “multiple forms”. Revelation does not exist in Africa. It is from knowledge that God was discovered.

Parties féminine et masculine de Dieu, Egypte antique Sculpture conservée au musée du Louvre
Parties féminine et masculine de Dieu, Egypte antique

Sculpture conservée au musée du Louvre

According to the Malagasy philosopher Eugene Regis Mangazala “all the riches of the man (lehilahy) and all the values of the woman (vehyvahy) are both fused to the state of perfection and wholeness in Zanahary. The deity plays the role of both parent and progenitors, he is father and mother “. God for the Malagasy is androgynous, as Amma (God) is male and female for the Dogon of Mali. The feminine form of God in Egypt was called Mout/Aminata. The sexual activity among the Malagasy is considered sacred and regarded without complex because it is the union of the male and female principles of the primordial ancestor.

That is why everywhere in traditional Africa, sexuality has always been seen as a natural phenomenon. We have representations of Usiré (Osiris) in erection, Papa Legba (the Vodun of fertility) in erection, as well as sculptures of the Yoruba of Nigeria that explicitly show the beginnings of the sexual act. Following Zanahary, appeared the cosmic pair sky-earth. In Egyptian spirituality, the couple sky-earth (Geb-Nut) is the second pair that emanated from the creator, after air and water.

Zanahary being too far away, it is the Razana, that is to say the dead ancestors, who act as intermediaries between men and Zanahary. The reason is that the living man being animated with energy, when he dies, there is separation between the matter (flesh / bone) and the energy. The dead’s energy survives and the defunct becomes therefore divine. Death is thus seen in Madagascar as the transition to the divine state, the crossing to the land of the unseen, called Budtenga among the Mossi.

This is why the Muzimu (ancestors) also serve as intermediaries between Mwari (God) and men among the Shona of Zimbabwe. The dead ones also arrive in the country of the invisible in order to continue to live as they did in the visible world. That is why in Madagascar they are buried with items such as clothing, shoes, radio, just like the pharaohs were placed in tombs with thrones, tanks etc …

Cérémonie aux morts
Ceremony in honor of a dead

After a while, to honor him, the dead one is removed from the earth in expensive funerals as do the Bamileke of Cameroon. The body is balanced in all directions as done also by the Baoule people of Ivory Coast and their descendants, the Boni people of Guyana. The same practice existed a few decades ago in Senegal and existed in ancient Egypt. The reason behind is that the dead one chooses if he moves ahead and in which way he wants to go. The deceased are also active members of the family like in Togo where, when you want to pour water in a court, they are asked to move back while saying “Ago’o”.

Malagasy people make offerings to the ancestors by pouring alcohol on the ground so that it can get to where they are buried. It’s called libation. The libation is done everywhere in Africa and is dated from ancient Egyptian times. One also comes into communication with the ancestors through the Mphimasis, which are high priests. The Mphimasi invokes the energies and one of them takes possession of his body. The ancestral energy through the body of the Mphimasi may well end up speaking a language which is unknown to the high priest and also ask to drink large amounts of alcohol that will leave him (the Mphimasi) in a sober state when the spirit has left.

The Mphimasi is also a doctor who invokes the energies to determine which medicinal plant should be used and how, just like the Sangoma of the Zulu in South Africa or like the N’anga among the Shonas do. This knowledge of the initial energy and its repartition enables the initiated to understand several sciences simultaneously, because everything flows from A ONE, everything is connected. That is why the high initiated priests in Africa are multidisciplinary scientists. That is why the Egyptian Prime Minister Imhotep, priest, astronomer, physicist, doctor, architect, mathematician, was the greatest African scientist of all time.

Finally Maat, the set of laws that allowed the creation to occur and which are to be applied to a population is called Fokonolo in Madagascar. The Fokonolo is the clan, the group, the whole community on which that order reposes itself. The same definition is used by the Bassa of Cameroon , there we talk about the Mbog.


In summary, whether it’s the conceptualization of the primordial ancestor, the perception of death and ancestor veneration, in short, everything that characterizes black spirituality, Madagascar belongs clearly to Africa.


By: Lisapo ya Kama © (All rights reserved. Any copying or translation of the text of this article is strictly forbbiden without the written approval of Lisapo ya Kama)

Notes :

  • Dieu dans la tradition malgache (God in the Malagasy tradition), Pietro Lupo
  • Philadelphia Project
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