Royal Lineage and Rituals

vola the zafinifotsy queen

Royal Lineage and Rituals

Updated on 20/02/2022 | Posted on 16/01/2022

"The inhabitants of Nosy Komba are very respectful of traditions and ancestral rituals."

Kings and Queens

Nosy Komba is very attached to its traditions and ancestral rituals. Although a delegate to the mayor represents the island, each village has its own chief “fokontany”, and there are royal families. Nowadays, Nosy Komba has a queen and two kings. King Paul reigns on the tomb of Mahabo Mitsinjoarivo.

In Antamotamo, a village of dugout builders located east of Nosy Komba, King Yaya honors his ancestors from the Zafiny Mena lineage.

In Ampangorina, Queen Vola, a descendant of the Zafiny Fotsy lineage, and René, the manantany “prime minister”, work to honor the ancestors. The royal house is located in the west of the village, where there is a chest that protects the relics of time. It is only during the ceremonies that they take out the striped lambas.

Zafiny Mena and Zafiny Fotsy

The Zafiny Mena and the Zafiny Fotsy are families of kings and queens. Zafiny Fotsy means “descendants of the silver lineage”, and Zafiny Mena “descendants of the golden lineage”.

In the royal hierarchy, the Zafiny Mena have a privileged title compared to the Zafiny Fotsy.
When a Zafiny Mena person dies, he or she is wrapped in a red shroud, a color called “mena” in Malagasy, symbolizing gold.

When a king or queen dies, the burial always takes place at night, between ten o’clock in the evening and four o’clock in the morning, to the rhythm of the djembes. The Zafiny Fotsy are buried in a white shroud, “fotsy” in Malagasy, symbolizing money. The burial takes place during the day, usually between three and six in the afternoon.

Rituals and fady

Among the many rituals, there is the zebu sacrifice. Before the killing, the ancestors are invoked: this is the cold invocation. Then comes the hot invocation when the cooked meat is offered. Zebu meat symbolises the body of the deceased during funeral ceremonies.

In most villages of the island, the inhabitants follow established rules called “fady”. These are sacred, cultural and traditional prohibitions that must be respected. The “fady” are not the same in all the villages. Those of Mahabo Mitsinjoarivo have the reputation of being particularly severe: one cannot wear hats and shoes.

Traditional ceremonies

Traditional ceremonies are very important for the inhabitants of Nosy Komba.
Among them, there is the Mamositry, linked to the circumcision of boys. During the operation, a special cloth is used; the blood must not flow on the ground. A feast is held a week after the circumcision, where zebu, killed for the occasion, is eaten and musicians are invited.

Another ceremony, reserved for the Ampanjaka (kings and queens), takes place every three months. The courtyard in front of the royal house is cleaned in order to receive the sovereigns who gather to feast. Two women and two men are invited to join them. The ceremony begins in the evening and ends the following afternoon. It may be held only from Friday to Saturday, or from Sunday to Monday. Women who are menstruating cannot attend.
Sometimes the Ampanjàka also have a celebration when their children’s hair is cut.

The Jôro

Some events are the occasion to apply the traditional jôro ceremony. The jôro is an invitation to prayers and invocations, in a spirit of sharing and celebration. This is the case for a birth, a circumcision, when a child’s hair is cut, but also for the inauguration of a house…

Each villager is free to organize a jôro, and usually everyone is invited.
When a jôro takes place, it is spread over two days, from Friday to Saturday.
The party starts on Friday afternoon, with the villagers coming together to share joyful discussions, dances, and songs, while clapping their hands to the rhythm of traditional music, over a drink. The women often have their hair down and each person wears a lambahoany.

The festival continues until the next day when everyone bathes in the sea and washes up, before coming together to sacrifice an “aomby”, a zebu.
One person is designated to hold the tail of the zebu while others tie up the animal to prevent it from moving. The zebu is then laid on the ground and washed, starting with the head and ending with the tail. Everyone takes out a silver note and rubs it against the animal’s body for good luck. An initiated man cuts off the head of the aomby, which will be placed in a sacred tree.

During the sacrifice, the villagers dance and sing while clapping their hands to accompany the animal to its death. The zebu is then butchered by the men. Everyone participates in the preparation of the meal; the young people prepare the maiky, the dry wood used to make the fire for the kitchen, while the women prepare the meal. The zebu is cooked in different ways, in sauce, on skewers, in romazava. Everyone feasts on the meat, accompanied by rice, achards, but also beer, rum and sweet drinks. The party ends in the early evening. Many villagers who do not have the means to organize a Jôro, organize smaller celebrations, with fewer guests, replacing the zebu by another meat such as chicken or goat. The traditional ceremonies always take place when the moon is full, and can be organized every month of the year, except in May, June and July.


Although different religious cults are practiced on the island, and this in a harmonious way, the Malagasy remain attached to their ancestral rites. They live their incarnation in close connection with the kingdom of the spirits. Hence their deep respect for the ancestors.
The body is never dissociated from the soul. Intuition and feelings are omnipresent in their individual functioning.

Also, it frequently happens that the spirit of an ancestor invites itself into the body of a possessed person, who enters a trance: this is the Tromba.

A vigil is then organised by the family and close friends in privacy, around the Tromba, in order to gather the spirit’s words and communicate with it. Musicians accompany the trance, which can last several days. It is however very important and strongly recommended to respect the privacy of the inhabitants in their habits and customs, not to interfere in the ceremonies and rituals without their consent.


At the time of a death, a wake is always held, sometimes lasting two or three nights. Women and men gather dressed in traditional clothes (salovana, kisaly, lambahoany). Each one invests himself in the cooking, the preparation of the fires, the wake of the deceased, but also in the construction of the coffin and the grave.
If he was young, he is sung to in church. If he was old, he is honoured with traditional songs. Funerals are held on Tuesdays for both royal and non-royal families. Traditional songs accompany the dead until they are buried. Then, once the burial is over, each person “washes” to purify themselves.

On the same subject…

Môrengy and dust bal

Môrengy and dust bal

On feast days and some weekends, you can attend a môrengy in the afternoon, and then when night falls, go dancing and have fun at the “dust bal” a dance party until daybreak.