The inhabitants were revered for their knowledge of astrology until the fall of the Antemoro kingdom in the late 19th century. This art by the Antemoro people of Madagascar was largely attributed to their knowledge of a writing skill known as “sorabe”. The “sorabe” are Arabic texts that provide teaching instructions for astrology as well as historical accounts of their customs and traditions.
According to 101lasttribes.com, Antemoro astrologers, who were traditionally referred to as “ombiasy,” were in high demand in many localities in Madagascar due to their ability to read stars and predict future events.
Eventually, almost every king had an ombiasy in his court who served as an adviser. It also became a pattern in Madagascar, with an ombiasy stationed in each village to provide insights and understanding before major decisions were made.
It developed into a culture in which Antemoro astrologers would travel outside of their homeland for six months to a year to consult on behalf of people who needed good fortune for their harvest or marriage, or who wanted to resolve a misfortune that had befallen them.
The ombiasy’s periodic exodus created a network of spiritual advisers throughout Madagascar. Today, Antemoro paper, which is decorated with fresh flowers and traditionally used to record secret knowledge using sorabe, has become a source of income for many locals, who sell it to tourists or export it to international markets.
The Antemoro people’s origins are unknown, but some historians trace them back to settlers who arrived from Somalia in the 15th or 16th century.
During the 16th century, the Antemoro kingdom arose to replace the Zafiraminia people, who were traditional seafarers.
The Antemoro have a population of 500,000 and are located on Madagascar’s southeastern coast between Manakara and Farafangana. They converted to Islam after settling in Madagascar. They quickly adopted the traditional religion, but many adhered to Islamic teachings by abstaining from eating pork.
Their main source of income is farming, specifically rice and coffee. They also extract salt. Those who understand the sorabe make charms and practice divinity. Following the arrival of Europeans in Madagascar and their subsequent colonial exploitation, the kingdom experienced a decline.
The Antemoro people are mostly endogamous, and marriage outside their clan is frowned upon. Those who violated this code were previously mourned as if they were dead and later excommunicated from the community.
The rich and the poor are both given the same burial rites. Everyone in the community is expected to mourn the deceased for a week, during which time they are not allowed to wash or change their clothes.
On the eighth day, they end their mourning, wash their clothes, and put on new ones. However, a widow continues to mourn until the deceased’s parents declare it over. A widower confines himself to his home for one or two weeks. During this time, the deceased’s parents will send a female family member to care for and entertain the widower.