Mali is a small landlocked country situated in the West African region of the continent and home to the legendary Dogon people.
The Dogon tribe occupies a region in Mali (south of the Sahara Desert), currently having an estimated 100,000 members and are believed to be of Egyptian descent (a debated speculation). After living in the Libyan region for a time, they settled in Mali, West Africa, bringing with them astronomy legends dating from before 3200 BC.
The first Western scientists to visit and study the Dogon people were French anthropologists Drs Marcel Griaule and Germaine Dieterlen, who initially made contact with them in 1931. They documented the traditional mythology and sacred beliefs of the Dogon, which included an extraordinary body of ancient lore regarding Sirius the brilliant, far-distant Dog Star.
For food, they grow mostly onion which is exported to all Sudan regions and sorghum or millet which is consumed locally
DOGON CREATION MYTHOLOGY
The Dogon creation myth is bit complex and quite controversial, having different versions. However, it is general believed that Heaven, which is regarded as the creator, is called Amma (also called Amen). At the beginning of time, Amma (a supreme god who lived in the celestial regions and was the origin of all creation) created the Earth and immediately joined with it. The stars represent the various bodily parts of Amma, while the constellation of Orion is called “amma bolo boy tolo“, “the seat of Heaven“, or “Amma’s navel“.
Amma split in two, creating Ogo, who represents disorder. Ogo descended to Earth in an ark, along the Milky Way which connects Heaven and Earth through a form of bridge, and he created havoc on Earth.
Amma then decided to create a representative of order, called Nommo, and also created for him 8 assistants, comprising of 4 couples of twins. These 8 were called the ancestors of human beings, and they too descended to Earth in an ark, also created by Amma. The ark was suspended from Heaven by a copper chain, which allowed the ark to float down to Earth, like the Sun traverses the sky and settles in the west.
As a matter of interest, the Dogon build a representation of the ark which is left in every home for ritual purposes; it is woven from dry leaves into a boat shaped basket. Amma created the stars by throwing pellets of earth into space. He created the sun and moon by modelling two white earthenware bowls, one encircled with red copper, the other with white copper.
‘Black people were born under the sun and white people under the moon.’ L.V.Thomas, Les Religions de L’Afrique noire, Paris, 1969)
The Nommos descended from the sky in a vessel accompanied by fire and thunder. After arriving, the Nommos created a reservoir of water and subsequently dove into the water. The Dogon legends state that the Nommos required a watery environment in which to live.
The Nommo divided his body among men to feed them; that is why it is also said that as the universe “had drunk of his body, the Nommo also made men drink. He gave all his life principles to human beings.” The Nommo was crucified on a tree, but was resurrected and returned to his home world. Dogon legend has it that he will return in the future to revisit the Earth in a human form.
It must be noted that there are a number of different versions of the Dogon’s origin myths as well as differing accounts of how they got from their ancestral homelands to the Bandiagara region. The people call themselves ‘Dogon’ or ‘Dogom’, but in the older literature they are most often called ‘Habe’, a Fulbe word meaning ‘stranger’ or ‘pagan’.
[Header image]– A boy facing away from the Bandiagara Escarpment in the Dogon Country Region of Mali looks out over the desert plain. – Flickr / Bradley Watson Photoraphy