Dogon People

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Dogon People

The Dogon People reside in one of the more difficult-to-reach 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 photo-graphed 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. 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.