A GLANCE AT THE DOGON TRIBE
The ex-French Sudan, after it's independence on the 22nd September, 1960, returned to its old name of 'Mali', but this old empire of Mali, was won by Sundiata Keita, from Suman Guru, Kante in 1303. In Mali is also located the mysterious city of Timbuctu, and the fascinating Dogon tribe. According to history, the Dogon tribe, now living in the region of Mopti, was once a part of the Mandingo tribe who refused to be Islamised in the late 17th century and found that the best way to achieve this was to hide themselves in the "Falaise of Bandiagara". In this place sparse and rocky plateu in the South East of Mali of caves and hills, only populated by farmers they have been topographically and culturally isolated isolated from the outside world for centuries.
At first sight, the Dogon may well appear to be exceedingly unlikely receptacles of highly advanced astronomical knowledge, which only goes to show just how easily we can be deceived by outwards appearances. The Dogon are renowned for their attachment to African Culture and traditions, and in Mali, I have witnessed many difficult mental illnesses being cured by Dogon healers, called the Hogon, which is the name for the Dogon priest. The Hogon relays healing power by using astronomical knowledge, believing that every man and woman has a Star brother or sister who follows them at all times, and that if you know the positions of your star, for a given time, all your sicknesses can be cured. Trees are very important to help them discover your star (brother/sister), who will then protect you against future harm and sickness.
Some Dogon villages SAN GA, BANDIAGARA, SONGO, DEGUEMBERE, have been renowned
for centuries for their message which is transmitted through the pattern and
design of the traditional mudcloth 'BOGOLAN', symbolising Peace, Love, fertility
and long life.
The Dogon believe that they received their knowledge from visitors to the Earth, from another star system.
The Sirius B is the star described by the Dogon. It has been found that a white dwarf star long known to the Dogon, now called Sirius B, exists, and that it is small, dense, heavy and too faint to be seen with the naked eye. The traditional name of Sirius B in Dogon language is Po Tolo. Tolo means star, and Po means small. The Dogon sometimes refer to Sirius B in the shortened form of "Po". "Po", traces an elliptical path around Sirius, taking 50 years to achieve this, according to Dogon astronomical knowledge, held by their priests, the Hogon. To commemorate this event, the Dogon have a special ceremony every 50 years that corresponds to the movement of "Po" around Sirius. At this ceremony, they dance the Sigi-dance, a spinning dance. According to my personal knowledge, there are rock paintings depicting archaeological evidence of Sirius B, which have not been dated. It would be interesting to see what a carbon dating would reveal, for I have heard that many now believe that a missionary brought in this 'star knowledge' in the 19th century.
The respected Hogon also believed that Po is composed of a mysterious , super dense metal, called SAGALA, which is heavier than all the metal on Earth. Po is a tiny star, how come it is known to the Dogon people without a telescope? To sum up the Dogon knowledge of Po, the three properties attached to it are, 1)white, 2)heavy and 3)small. But the Dogon astronomical knowledge does not stop here. It also describe a third star in the Sirius system and names it EMME YA (SORGHUM FEMALE). In addition to their knowledge of Sirius B, and Emme Ya, the Dogon Mythology includes knowing of Saturn's rings and Venus. It has also long been known to the Dogon that planets orbit suns.
The Dogon believe that their astronomical knowledge has been given to them by the Nommos, amphibian beings sent to Earth from Sirius for the benefit of mankind. The word 'Nommo' comes from a Dogon word meaning "To make one drink". The Nommos are also called 'Masters of Water', The Monitors, and the Teachers. They are said to have been more fish-like than human, and lived (partly) in water. They were accepted as saviours and spiritual guardians by the Dogon.
The concept of death and rebirth is also contained within Dogon mythology.
According to legend, the Nommo divided his body amongst men to feed them. It
is also said that the universe "drunk of his body".
The Nommo also made men drink from higher principles of life. The Nommo was resurrected, and according to Dogon mythology, will visit the Earth again in the future, this time in human form, but later he will again assume his amphibious form and rule from the waters.
Dogon mythology is protected by the Hogon priests, and is a complex system of knowledge. Such carefully guarded secrets are not easily divulged, especially to friendly strangers. If the star Emme Ya is eventually discovered, this will give considerable weight to the Dogon's story. The depiction of Sirius and it's miniscule companion Po occur on numerous Dogon artefacts.
In 1994 I visited the Dogon and spent a month living with them and trying to understand them. In this matter I would like to thank Mr. Pologo, Hogon of Sanga for his time, and for showing me these old rock drawings. He also showed me a very old sigi-dancer statue. I am a specialist buyer of wooden artefacts, and estimated it to be at least 400 years old. On it were carvings depicting the Sirius star system. In conclusion I'd like to thank you all for listening to what I have to say, and I would like to encourage people to visit Mali and the fascinating world of the Dogon, and to try and understand more about Dogon mythology.
Addendum::Above by a friend of Schwann, Siko Sherif Mohamed (below): A citizen
of Mali who works with Dogon Arts and Crafts in Cape Town, South Africa. Curiouser
still, the chair mentioned above is still in his store room. I will post pictures
of the carvings when Siko returns from Mozambique, meantime here are Siko and
myself at his opening in '97.
Page put up October 30th 2001