The Dogon

The Dogon people live in West Africa. Over the past 100 years, their mythology, sculpture, and traditions have made them one of Mali’s major tourist attractions.

The Dogon lived in an area of sandy cliffs. For centuries, their ancestors were plagued by Islamic slave raiders. The Dogon retreated to these defendable positions, and dug in. They had food, water, and peace.

Dogon mythology is fascinating. Their creation myth is based on the Nommos, ancient astronauts who visited earth many millennia ago. According to legend, they came from Sirius, the Dog Star. One individual, known as Nommo, led the Dogons into civilization.

The Dogons worship the Nommos, amphibious creatures from another world. The Nommos came from Sirius, the Dog Star, in a vehicle that belched fire and thunder. These visitors subsequently moved into water, their natural environment.

The Nommo sacrificed his body, sharing it with to feed mankind. He was crucified on a tree, then resurrected, upon which he returned to his home planet. The Dogons believe that he will return in human form. The similarities between this myth and the stories of Jesus in the Christian tradition are too strong to deny.

The Dogon are devoted to harmony. Many of their rituals reflect this longing for harmonious relations. In one important ritual, everyone expresses their gratitude for the others – women, men, young, and old thank each other for their contributions. Greetings are often elaborate, with both host and visitor inquiring deeply into every aspect of each other’s lives.

Dogon funerals are lavish and expensive. Many “damas” include statuettes, masks, and ritual. Indeed, it has become a valuable source of revenue to the Dogon peoples. Tourists are willing to pay for the cultural experience and entertainment, and the extra money helps the Dogon perform their rights.

Villages contain many different buildings, depending on the use. Granaries are used as storage areas for grains and other items; men and women use different granaries. The “toguna” is a building that men use to discuss important issues and make decisions. These low buildings aren’t tall enough for a man to stand upright, which helps to avoid violence during heated discussions.

Dogon language is complex, with at least five different dialects. These dialects can vary widely, and there are many variations of each dialect. Therefore, Dogons from different areas may have difficulty in communicating.

The culture and mythology of the Dogon people draws visitors from around the world. While many religions include mysterious figures that come from the sky, the Dogons are unique. After all, few religions recognize ancient astronauts as a major contributing factor to their culture! These fascinating and peaceful people have lived for centuries in their amazing cliff top homes, their culture relatively unchanged by outside society.

The Dogon village of Banani, courtesy Wikipedia
A Dogon toguna, courtesy Wikipedia.