The Dogon tribe and the Sirius Connection

The Dogon tribe and the Sirius connection

The Dogon’s have an uncanny understanding of the cosmos. Particularly their knowledge of the Sirius star system. It stands as one of the most fascinating enigmas in the study of ancient civilizations. Despite their isolation and lack of modern astronomical instruments, the Dogon tribe of West Africa held detailed knowledge about Sirius. It is a fact that has puzzled scholars and astronomers alike.

Understanding Sirius in Dogon Cosmology

The Dogon were aware that Sirius is a binary star system. The system consists of Sirius A and Sirius B (and Sirius C). They referred to Sirius B as “Po Tolo” and described it with remarkable accuracy. The Dogon knew that Sirius B orbits Sirius A in an elliptical pattern over a period of approximately 50 years. This knowledge is particularly astonishing considering that Sirius B, a white dwarf, is invisible to the naked eye. It was only discovered by Western astronomers using advanced telescopes in the 19th century. The term “Po Tolo” in the Dogon language not only means star. Also it refers to a cereal known for its density, a poignant description given the high density of white dwarfs like Sirius B.

Beyond Sirius: Broader Astronomical Knowledge

The Dogon’s astronomical knowledge extended beyond the Sirius system. They accurately depicted Saturn as surrounded by a ring and knew about Jupiter’s four main moons. This knowledge suggests a comprehensive understanding of the solar system. A knowledge that was unprecedented at the time. They also had an understanding of the Earth’s spheroidal shape. Also its rotation on its axis, and its orbit around the Sun. Moreover, they described our galaxy as a vast spiral, a concept that only entered Western astronomy in the early 20th century.

Cosmological Significance of Sirius B

In Dogon cosmology, Sirius B holds a central position. It was seen as the first star created by God and considered the fulcrum of the Universe. According to their beliefs, all matter, including souls, developed from Sirius B, following a complex spiral motion. This notion of creation and development from a single cosmic source reflects the deep spiritual and philosophical aspects of the Dogon’s understanding of the universe.

The enigma of the Dogon’s knowledge about Sirius and other celestial bodies remains a subject of intrigue and speculation. Their understanding of astronomical phenomena, which logically should have been beyond their reach without advanced instruments, challenges our perceptions of ancient knowledge and its acquisition. The Dogon tribe’s insights into the cosmos continue to fascinate scholars and laypersons alike. It offers a glimpse into a profound understanding of the universe that might have origins beyond our current comprehension.

The Nommo in Dogon Cosmology

Creation by the Sky God Amma

The Nommo, considered the first living creatures, were created by the sky God Amma. They are described as ancestral spirits and are depicted as amphibious, hermaphroditic, and fish-like creatures. The Nommo hold the titles of masters of water, monitors, and teachers within Dogon mythology. They were created in the distant past, with the first Nommo transforming into four pairs of twins. One of these twins rebelled against Amma. Which ultimately led to a sacrificial act by Amma to restore order and peace. It was done by dismembering the body of a Nommo and scattering it throughout the universe.

Inhabitants of a World Circling Sirius

The Dogon describe the Nommo as beings from a planet orbiting the star Sirius. According to legend, the Nommo arrived on Earth in a vessel with great noise and light. This arrival and the wisdom they shared are believed to be the source of the Dogon’s advanced astronomical knowledge. Specifically about the Sirius A and B stars. The Dogon celebrate this connection with a festival. They then wear wooden masks to depict these celestial beings.

Significance and Legacy

The Nommo are central to the Dogon’s understanding of the universe and play a significant role in their cultural and spiritual practices. The festival honoring the Nommo reflects their profound impact on the Dogon.  Commemorating their visitation and legacy. The myth states that the Nommo divided his body among humans, symbolizing the sharing of knowledge and life principles. This act is seen as the origin of the first Hogon, the spiritual leader of the Dogon village.

The Dogon and the Sirius connection - Nommo visiting the Dogon

The Nommo’s Descent from Sirius

The Dogon have a fascinating story about the Nommo being inhabitants of a world circling the star Sirius. They are said to have descended from the sky in a vessel accompanied by fire and thunder. After arriving, the Nommo created a water reservoir and dived into it. Because they required a watery environment to survive. The Dogon believe that the Nommo divided his body among men to feed them. This symbolizes that the universe had drunk of his body. And thus, the Nommo also made men drink. This act is seen as the Nommo giving all his life principles to human beings. The Dogon tribe celebrates a festival in honor of the Nommo. The wooden masks that depict beings both humanoid and distinctly otherworldly are reflecting the amphibious nature of the Nommo.

Nommo and the Creation of the Earth

In the beginning, Amma, the supreme god, created the Earth and immediately joined with it. The stars are seen as various bodily parts of Amma, with the constellation of Orion being particularly significant, referred to as “Amma’s navel”. Amma then split in two, creating Ogo, who represents disorder. Ogo descended to Earth in an ark along the Milky Way, creating havoc. To restore order, Amma created Nommo and eight assistants (four couples of twins). They are considered the ancestors of human beings. These beings too descended to Earth in an ark, suspended from Heaven by a copper chain. It symbolizes the connection between the celestial and terrestrial realms.

The Dogon and the Nommo today

The Dogon people, with their deep-rooted traditions and profound cosmological beliefs, continue to integrate the lore of the Nommo into their rituals and celebrations, maintaining a vibrant connection to their ancient past. In the cradle of their civilization, amidst the rugged cliffs of Bandiagara in Mali, the Dogon today are custodians of a heritage that spans back over five millennia. A legacy intertwined with the celestial mysteries of the Nommo.

The Nommo, conceived as ancestral spirits and bearers of cosmic wisdom. They are more than mythological figures in Dogon culture. They are symbolic representations of life, order, and the harmonious balance between the earthly and the celestial. The Dogon’s intricate rituals and ceremonies are not mere cultural performances. No, they are profound expressions of respect and remembrance for these enigmatic beings from the stars. The essence of the Nommo permeates the Dogon’s worldview. It influences their art, social structure, and spiritual practices.

The Sigui ceremony

One of the most significant ways the Dogon honor the Nommo is through the Sigui ceremony. Which is a festival held every sixty years. This elaborate ritual, spanning generations, marks the end of one cycle and the beginning of another in the Dogon calendar. Participants don intricate masks and costumes, embodying the spirits of the Nommo. These masks, often depicting the amphibious features of the Nommo, serve as a bridge between the terrestrial and the celestial. A bridge between the Dogon and their starry ancestors. The Sigui ceremony is a time for the transmission of ancient knowledge, from the elders to the younger generation. It ensures the continuity of their cosmic wisdom.

The Dama ceremony

The Dama ceremony, another pivotal ritual in Dogon culture, showcases the Nommo’s influence. This ceremony, a celebration of life and an ode to the departed. Also, it is a rite of passage for the surviving family members. Through masked dances and rhythmic music, the Dogon believe they facilitate the journey of the deceased’s soul to the ancestral realm. A realm closely associated with the Nommo. The Dama ceremony encapsulates the Dogon’s belief in the cyclical nature of life and death. A cycle believed to be overseen by the Nommo.

Daily life

In their daily lives, the Dogon continue to construct and maintain shrines and artifacts dedicated to the Nommo. These sacred spaces and objects are not only a testament to their artistic skills but also serve as focal points for communal worship and individual meditation. The Dogon’s reverence for the Nommo is evident in their stewardship of the land and the waters. They believe land an waters are touched by the Nommo.

As the world evolves and modernity encroaches upon traditional ways of life, the Dogon stand as resilient guardians of an ancient wisdom. Their rituals and celebrations, centered around the Nommo, are vibrant reminders of a belief system that bridges the gap between the human and the divine, the earthly and the cosmic. In the heart of Mali, under the vast African sky, the Dogon continue to weave the tale of the Nommo, a story as enduring as the stars themselves.

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