In a study on the “Comput ancien of the Malagasy years”, J.C. Hébert evokes both the system of the seven years of the antemoro calendar and that of the twelve years among the Tanala of Ikongo. He explains at first glance that the names of the months, in the latter case, are of the calendar of Sanskrit origin and the names of the years, those of the Zodiac. According to the author who refers to “ombiasy” (priests, doctors or sorcerers), each year has certain peculiarities that identify him.
Thus, the Alahamady, which, as a month, corresponds to Aries, is the year of the girls and is thus characterized by the fact that women give birth only to girls at that time. At the Asaoro (Taurus), the bulls roar and the rice is abundant. At the Alizaody (Gemini), only boys are born who will later have all the women they want. At the Asorotany (Cancer), the thunder is violent. At the Alahasady (Lion), vigorous men are born, great hunters of the angles, skilled in the use of the spear. In the Asombola (Virgin), the girls who are born, will be able to sing and the boys to lie well. In the Alimizana (Libra), the boys will become kings or chieftains of tribes. In Alakarabo (Scorpio), newborns will have a disorderly life and boys will be laborious. In Alakaosy (Sagittarius), the children who are born, will be sorcerers and will have a large progeny. At the Alizady (Capricorn), the rains will be abundant, the caimans dangerous. At the Adalo (Aquarius), all the sick people make “sakamanga”. At Alohotsy (Pisces), all sick old people will die.
To illustrate this twelve-year calendar, J. Hébert cites some examples. Thus, on January 1, 1904, the second day of the tenth week – “the week is two to three days” – is the 23rd of the month of “Vatravatra” (sixth month) of the year Adalo (the eleventh year of the cycle) . It began on July 23, 1903 and ends on June 22, 1904. “The year 1904 was thus only 336 days, which denotes a strict astrological comput from 12 months to 28 days. “
For the author, however, the cycle of twelve years is not of Arab origin although the names given to the signs of the Zodiac are. “Perhaps it is a distant reminiscence of the cycle of twelve years bearing names of animals, originating in southern China and used in Vietnam, Cambodia and Siam. “
JC Hébert thus makes a parallel with the cycle which includes the successive years of the Rat, the Beef, the Tiger, the Hare, the Dragon, the Serpent, the Horse, the Goat, the Donkey, the Rooster, the Dog and Of the Pig. This leads him to wonder about the origin of this very computational
Of the Tanala. “Why did they not adopt the seven-year cycle used by their neighbors antemoro, based on the enumeration of the days of the week and which seems to have experienced the majority of the coastal ethnic groups of Madagascar? “
In another chapter of his study, J.C. Hébert also makes a comparison between the calendars Swahili, Comorian and antalaotra (north-west Madagascar). It distinguishes three calendars, the “primitive” in which the year counts 365 days 1/4 () and is based on the vegetative cycle. It therefore comprises four seasons of 100-100-100-65 days respectively and divides into decades.
The solar calendar of 365 days passed through two modifications. The first consists of seven-day weeks starting on Sunday (Arab influence). The second modification is effected by three successive or simultaneous steps. There is first the cycle
Septennal which grants a prominent place to Friday, undoubtedly linked to circumcision (Arab influence). Then, the week beginning on Saturday seems to be a local cultural trait. Finally, there is the year that begins at the Nairuzu (Persian influence).
The lunar calendar has 354 days with three distinct cultural layers: numerical monthly names (except for the last three months), monthly zodiacal names (Arabic influence) and Arabic monthly names (Hegira calendar).
“The most surprising thing is that these elements, whose presence is sometimes contradictory, have coexisted together in a syncretism that is not even totally completed. Thus the festivals and rites of Arab origin and the months generally used are based on a lunar calendar of 354 days. And the New Year celebrations and agrarian ceremonies remain attached to the 365 day solar calendar that would be of Persian origin.