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Nummo

Nummo

Divine twins called the Nummo figure prominently in the creation stories of the Dogon people of Mali in West Africa. The Nummo were the offspring of the union of Amma, the supreme god who represents the male spirit, and the earth, a female spirit.

Lonely, Amma wanted to have a child with the earth. However, their first attempt did not produce a child but a jackal. Amma went to the earth a second time. This time their union had the perfect result: twins called the Nummo, one male and one female. The top half of each twin was human, and the bottom half resembled a serpent. They each had green skin and hair, red eyes, forked tongues, and wavy arms without joints.

The Nummo represented light and water, the life force of creation. When the twins looked down from heaven, they saw that the earth was naked. They went down to earth bearing plants and wove the fibers of the plants around the bare earth. The first wind arose as a result of the twins' activity, and language began.

The jackal, however, became jealous that the earth had language. By stealing the earth's clothing, which contained language, the jackal received the power of speech. Amma was so upset by this attack on the earth that he decided to create living things without her help. The Nummo realized Amma's decision meant that no more twins would be born. To make sure that the birth of twins would continue, they drew on the ground a picture of a male and a female. According to tradition, all humans have both a male and a female soul at birth.

See also African Mythology; Amma.

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