Dogon People
The Dogon People reside in one of the more difficult-toreach
locations in the African nation of Mali in and around the
Bandigara Cliff. They have resisted the efforts of both Christian
and Muslim missionaries and continue to practice their
magical traditional religions. The religion is built around a belief
in the supreme creator Amma. Amma created the Sun and
Moon and humankind. This creation is recalled in the layout
of the villages in an oval shape representing the unity of male
and female in Amma.
The Dogon are organized around four groupings, each
thought to descend from one of the four original male ancestors.
Each group or clan is headed by a priest and each of the
four priests is assigned a distinct function. One serves as a contact
with Amma, one is a prophet, one is the judge, and one is
responsible for funerals. The dead are buried in the highest
caves in the cliff. The caves are repositories of great magic and
none are allowed to go there except when burying their loved
ones. Reverence for the ancestors is a primary focus of Dogon
culture and funerals are important events in communal life.
Divination is a common part of life. One method used is to
place food on a patch of sand in the evenings and the next
morning to read the marks left by the foxes (which are sacred
to the Dogon).
The Dogon were just another obscure African group until
1972 when Robert K. G. Temple published a book that related
one major practice, the dance ceremony known as the sigi. Operating
among the Dogon is a mask society. After he is recognized
as an adult, each male carves himself a mask that is worn
during the funeral services, and for an elaborate dance, the
dama, during which the men are on 12-foot stilts. The sigi happens
only once every 60 years and marks the renewal of the
generations. It also marks the rebirth of the white dwarf star
near the star Sirius.
This dance goes back many centuries. However, Western astronomers
had only discovered the star in 1928 and photographed
it in 1970. The Dogon taught that the sacred star orbited
Sirius every 60 years. The astronomers discovered that
they were correct. The announcement of the Dogon belief by
Temple in The Sirius Mystery had the initial effect of giving
a small boost to the ancient astronaut theories of prehistoric
visitation of Earth by visitors from space, specifically from Sirius.
In the long run, however, the idea was taken up by the new
generation of contactees who began channeling from entities
believed to come from Sirius. In the post New Age, Sirius has
joined the Pleiades as the primary source for channeled entities.
Arts & Life in Africa Online.
~africaarttocpeopleDogon.html. May 24, 2000.
Roberts, David. ‘‘Mali’s Dogon People.’’ National Geographic
174, no. 4 (October 1990) 100–127.
Temple, Robert K. G. The Sirius Mystery. Folkstone, Kent,
UK Bailey Brothers and Swiften, 1972.