top of page
THE DOGON OF FRENCH SUDAN (Mali)
For the Dogon, social life reflects the working of the universe and, conversely, the world order depends on the proper ordering of society. The social order is projected in the individual, the indivisible cell which, on the one hand, is a microcosm of the whole, and, on the other, has a circumscribed function, like a cog in a machine; not only is a person the product of his institutions, he is also their motive power. Lacking any special power in himself, but because he is the representative of the whole, the individual affects the cosmic order which he also displays.
To better understand the Dogon view of their own social organization, it is necessary to know their myths of creation. Their conception of the universe is based, on one hand, on a principle of vibrations of matter, and on the other, on a general movement of the universe as a whole. The original germ of life is symbolized by the smallest cultivated seed, the “ Digitaria Exilis” comonly known as “fonio” and also called by the dogon “kize uzi” meaning the little thing. This seed, quickened by an internal vibration, bursts the enveloping sheath, and emerges to reach the uttermost confines of the universe. At the same time this unfolding matter moves along a path which forms a spiral.
There are two fundamental notions to know:
On the one hand the perpetual helical movement signifies the conservation of matter; further, this movement, which is presented diagrammatically as a zigzag line or “ozu tomnolo” on the facades of shrines, is held to represent the perpetual alternation of opposites, right and left, high and low, odd and even, male and female, reflecting a principle of twin-ness, which ideally should direct the proliferation of life. These pairs of opposites support each other in an equilibrium which the individual being conserves within itself.
On the other hand, the infinite extension of the universe is expressed by the continual progression of matter along this spiral path. These primordial movement are conceived in terms of an avoid form called “aduno tal” meaning the “egg of the world”, within which lie, already differentiated, the germs of things; in consequence of the spiral movement of extension, the germs develop first in seven segments of increasing length, representing the seven fundamental seeds of cultivation, which are to be found again in the human body, and which, with the “Digitiria”, indicate the predominance of the “Ogdoad” or “Divine Octet” in this system of thoughts: the organization of the cosmos, of man, and of society. At the seventh vibration, the segment breaks its envelope. This segment is the symbol of the seed which plays a primary role in the life and thought of the Dogon, the “Emme ya”, female sorghum, which represents life, the ideal food, immune from impurity. Having broken its wrapping, the creative process emerges to follow the predestined and predetermined movement of being.
For inside the first seed, and forming its central core was an oblong plate divided into four sectors in which lay the signs corresponding to the twenty-two categories into which the universe is classified, each placed under the direction of one of the four elements: air, fire, earth and water. In the rotatory movement of creation, this plate, turning on itself, flings off the signs into space, where they com rest, each one on the things which it symbolizes and which till then existed only potentially.
At their touch, every being comes into existence and is automatically placed in the predetermined category. The Dogon always seem to relate to an effort of discovery, an attempt to apprehend the infinitely small at its point of departure towards the immeasurably vast. In fact, the order of the heavens, as it is observed and conceived by the Dogon, is no more than a projection, infinitely expanded, of events and phenomena which occur in the infinitely small.
According to the Dogon, the starting-point of life is the star which revolves around Sirius and is named the “ Digitaria star “; it is regarded by the Dogon as the smallest and the heaviest of all stars; it contains the germs of all things. Its movement on its own axis and around Sirius upholds all creation in space. Its orbits determines the calendar. Just as on the vegetal plane seven seeds came out of the first, so in the same way on the astral plane, from the first star came seven others bearing the names of the seven corresponding seeds. But from the moment when beings became conscious of themselves and capable of purposive action, the course of creation developed, in Dogon thought, in a less simple fashion. Personalities appeared who, after the chief person, the Creator “Amma”, God, moved in a world of feeling, resembling man’s ideas of himself and his own activities. The preceding events, as mention, takes place inside an enormous egg called “ Aduno tal”, a world situated in infinite space and containing the appointed model of the creation, “Nommo”, the son of God.
This egg is divided into two twin placenta, each of which should contain a pair of twin “Nommo”, direct emanations and sons of God, according to the Dogon, and prefigurations of man. Like all other creatures these twin beings, living images of the fundamental principle of twin-ness in creation, are each equipped with two spiritual principles of opposite sex; each of them, therefore, is in himself a pair. In one placenta, however, the male person, for reasons which are obscure, did not await the usual period of gestation appointed by “Amma” but emerged prematurely from the egg. Moreover, he tares a fragment from his placenta and with it comes down through space outside the egg; this fragment becomes earth. This being, “Yurugu”, bring the “fonio" with him with the intention to make a world of his own, modeled on the first but surpassing it.
This irregular procedure at the outset disorganize “Amma’s” order of creation; the earth thus constitute is provided with a male soul only, since the being who makes it is thus imperfect. From this imperfection arises the notion of impurity: earth and “Yurugu”, are from the beginning, solitary and impure. “Yurugu”, realizing that this situation will effectually prevent him from carrying his task on earth, returns to heaven to try and find the rest of his placenta with his twin soul. But at his revolt, “Amma” hands over his twin soul to the remaining pair in the other part of the egg, and puts her in their charge. “Yurugu” can not retrieve her; and from this time he engages in a perpetual fruitless search for her. He returns to the dry earth where now here begin in the darkness to come into existence single, incomplete beings, offspring of incest; in fact he procreates in his own placenta, in the earth, that is, with his mother.
Seeing this, “Amma” decides to send to earth the “Nommo” of the other half of the egg, creators of the sky and the stars. They come down to earth on a gigantic arch, at the centre of which stands the two “Nommo” of the sky, who assumes the guise of blacksmiths. At the four cardinal points are four other pairs of “Nommo” avatars of the first and the ancestors of Man.
The four male ancestors are named”Amma Seru”, “Lebe Seru”, “Binu Seru” and “Dyongu Seru”. The arch constitute a new, undefiled earth; its descent coincide with the appearance of light in the universe, which until then is in darkness. Water, in the form of rain, purifies and fertilizes the soil in which is planted the eight seed which the ancestors brings with them, each of them bears a seed; human beings, animals, and plants forthwith come into existence. The 8 ancestors first give birth to 12 offspring consisting of 4 pairs of twins, 3 of mixed sexes and 1 male pair, as well as 2 males and 2 females. Thus the first 3 generations comprise 22 persons, 10 of whom are female and 12 males. With the aid of the skills “Nommo” teaches, social life is organized. In this way everything which is created in the egg is then made manifest.
The advent of the arch of “Nommo” denotes not only the delimitation of space but also the measurement of times and seasons: the year is linked to the apparent movement of the Sun, avatar of the other portion of the placenta of “Yurugu”; days alternate with nights and the seasons follow each other. This period of the ordering of creation extends over 22 years, during which all social institutions are established. The first 4 years correspond to the first 4 seed-times, which today are symbolized by the action of the totem priests who, at the rituals of sowing, cast the millet seeds to the four cardinal points. These 4 sowings, which denote the planting of the whole world, are necessary to ensure the perennial resurgence of plant life, that is, symbolically, the procreation of human beings. From the fifth sowing onwards a rite is celebrated of which the name, “Bulu”, indicates its purpose, for its meaning is “ make alive again”.
Death makes its appearance in consequence of events connected with the position of “Yurugu” in the new organization. In the myth, the dry, uncultivated, uninhabited earth belongs to “Yurugu”, a being of night, whereas “Nommo”, a being of the day, associated with the sky, water, and fertility, rules the cultivated, habitable land. The Dogon belief of Man: Man is the seed of the universe, that is to say, he is prefigured in the seed “Digitaria”, the vibrations and extensions of which produced the world. This notion is expressed in the interpretation of the first seven segmentary vibrations which occurs in the first envelope. The first and the sixth produces the legs, the second and the fifth the arms, the third and fourth the head, the seventh the sex organs of man. The first movements of creation are thus the first prefiguration of the being around whom everything is to be organized. But the link between man and the first creative act does not end here.
The original seed first produces the image of man; conversely, man in his own person presents the image of the seed; the seven segment vibrations also represent seven seeds, to which should be added the original “Digitaria” itself. These eight seeds are to be found in man’s clavicles and symbolize his substance as well as his sustenance. This notion of a vegetal series, in its various modifications, plays a dominant part in human society. Man is the image not only of creation’s first beginning but also of the existing universe. The egg of the world is represented by a diagram in which it is shown filled with germinating cells, on of which extrudes downwards, while the second lies horizontally across the first at its place and forces it to curve on itself, forming an open egg-shape symmetrical in position with the first. The Dogon thus produce a diagram which they call “the life of the world” and which is interpreted not only as the microcosmic man but also as the heavenly placenta, the upper egg form, and the earthly placenta, the lower egg form, which are separated by the space represented by the cross.
In the Dogon ‘life of the world’ diagram we can see references to the principle of twin-ness: the two egg-shapes and the two segments form two pairs of twins recalling the four primordial beings each possessing two souls. From that diagram, it follows that the supreme expression of the individual’s identity with creation, the perfect creation, is a pair of twins. Like these primordial beings, man possess 2 souls of opposite sexes, on of which inhabits his body while the other dwells in the sky or in water and links it to him. The vital force “ Nyama”, which flows in his veins with his blood, is associated with the eight seeds which are distributed equally between his two clavicles. These seeds, united in pairs, are the basis of various notions concerning human personality and the changes it undergoes and they also recall the original groups of four pairs of twins.
The series so constitute, the terms of which may vary from one social group to another, does not occur in the same order for every individual in the same group. Thus, within the same family the order applicable to a man will inverted in the case of a woman; some seeds are excluded for certain social ranks or functions; they are held to be the chief factors of social differentiation. Since the condition of a person mirrors the condition of the universe, everything that affect the one has repercussion on the other; that is to say, in some way all a man’s actions and all his circumstances must be conceived as closely connected with the functioning of things in general.
The seeds symbolizes the food of mankind; they are the pivot on which turns the life of the cultivator, which depends as much on the seasonal renewal of vegetation as on daily intake of food. They recall also the renewal of human life itself, which vanishes momentarily from its possessor only to be reborn in his descendants. Finally the regular and appointed series attributed to the seeds is the sign of the universal order established on earth since the descent of “Nommo”. Disorder among the seeds, which for an individual results especially from the breaking of the rules of life, prefigures the universal disorder which spreads by stages from the individual to his close kinsmen, his family, his clan, his people. But the disorder maybe arrested and removed at any stage by appropriate rituals. Exact and complicated, they make it possible both for the individual to be restore and the general order to be preserved. Thus the individual, through his family and the society in which he lives is linked in his structure and in his evolution with the universe; and this connexion operates in both directions.
A human being in his development manifests the development of “Nommo”, symbol of the ordered world. Thus the new-born infant at birth is the head of “Nommo”; when later he becomes a herd-boy, he is the chest, at betrothal the feet, at marriage the arms, and when fully adult he is the complete “Nommo”; as an elder and still more as a supreme chief he is both “Nommo” and the totality of the world and mankind. The dogon belief in the Tribe: The Dogon are all derived from one stock. The Dogon explain this by the tradition that the original four pairs of twins give birth to four tribes, “Arou”, “Dyon”, “Ono”, and “Domno”, who in theroy share the universe among themselves, and in particular the stellar system.
Each tribe originally have its habitation at one of the four cardinal points and is associated with one element. Naturally, also, they divide between them the various social economic function. This table breaks down the four tribes, their positions, the element they are assimilated to and their function in society. This “Ganda Yegru”, meaning Organisation of the earth, is not only applicable to the whole people; each tribe and smaller group must display the same divisions, and it is also believed that the system is reproduced in every individual. The Dogon express this idea by saying that in every group warfare controlled by “Nommo”, whose shrine is placed in the centre; cultivation is under the protection of the female “Nommo”, whose shrines are built of stones, “Sogo”, of the fields; the shrines dedicated to divination are scattered over the flat, sandy land surroundding the village. The right conduct of affairs needs, first of all, the use of divination, the domain of “Yurugu”; then a visit to the shrines of cultivation and of war, the domain of the “Nommo”. Any other procedure and particularly the omission of any of these stages brings disorder. On the other hand, the correct mechanism is so effective that even if it is set in motion by a stranger, the results are always beneficial.
If you wish to organize the country, the first thing is to practice divination, then you must sacrifice a chicken to “Binu”, a chicken to “Pegu” and another one to “Lebe”. If you do this even if you are a strange, because of you there is peace, rain, and ripe millet. Three chief functions are distributed among the four tribes; the numerical expression of twin-ness is applied in two different spheres, that of mankind and that of function; mankind as a whole, meaning the four tribes, participates in the femininity from which it issues, and the number of which is 4; functions, which are activities, are male, and their number is 3. The number 7, sum of 3 and 4, symbolizes human personality, which means, in this particular instance, that man organized in society must be active.
The hierarchy of the 3 functions denotes also a theoretical hierarchy of tribes which, however, is the subject of continual dissension on the part of those concerned, because at the same time each group in itself possesses the same powers. This hierachical principle is projected into the realm of material objects; thus pots according to their size, are associated with one tribe or another: the largest are assign to “Arou”, the smallest to “Dyon”; but in the interest of precedence and tact, in practice the order is reversed. The same principle is seen among other examples, in the mounds built up in the fields at the base of the millet stalks, the largest being made in fact by “Dyon”, the smallest by the “Arou”. This hierarchy is still observed today in the institution of chieftainship; the religious and political chiefs of “Dyon”, “Ono”, and “Domno” recognize the supremacy of the single “Hogon” of “Arou”.
The Dogon and Kinship: The corporate body of kin among the Dogon is an agnatic exogamous, patrilocal and patrilineal group, and totems are inherited in the paternal line. In marriage, a widespread exchange is practiced and marriage with the daughter of a maternal uncle is preferred. Family relationships are variously conceived according as one is concerned with the reciprocal relationships of uterine and paternal kin, the relations between one married couple, those of the uncle and maternal nephew, or those of the different generations, etc... The original couple formed by the male and female “Nommo”, the twins in the heavenly placenta, is represented by a brother and sister. Thus it used to be formerly believed that the ideal marriage was the one between a brother and a sister. The fact that the father is not actually the mother’s brother leads to a complex series of ideas and patterns of behavior in relation to the family. In order to understand the Dogon conception of their kinship system it will be useful to consider the mythical situation of the members of two consanguineous and uterine families and several different planes.
On the simplest level and the one which accounts for the twofold kinship which every individual possesses, all relatives on the father’s side are “Amma”, meaning God, and all the relatives on the mother’s side are “Nommo”, the universe; thus indicating the first expression of the principle of twin-ness which equates God with his creation. On the other hand, for any given individual, all his uterine kin represent femininity and all paternal kin masculinity. A man calls all women who are uterin kin, no matter their age, “Na”, meaning mother; he also calls all adult men of his patrilineal kin father “Ba”, meaning father.
In another context, in which is envisaged the individual’s situation in relation to the members of his father’s and his mother’s family, the Dogon adjust their classification to the mythical personages and to the era of the creation: the two grandfathers are “Amma” and the individual is the offspring of two pairs of “Nommo”, like those which, in mythical time, occupied the original placenta. One of these is symbolized by the father and the father’s sister, the other by the mother’s brother and the mother. This expressed in the terms by which members of the two pairs are addressed as well as by the behavior of the individual in relation to them. On a third plane, paternal and uterine kin groups may be considered in isolation. The paternal kin group is mythically connected with the twin “Nommo” who inhabits one of the two divisions of the world egg, and come down to earth after the adventure of “Yurugu”. In this line of descent the grandfather is “Nommo”; all the sons and daughters are the octet, which includes, four pairs of twins of mixed sex; this justifies one of the principles of the extended family in which all the brothers and sisters are regarded as pairs of twins. Some of the names given to the first 4 sons are linked with the ordinal numbers which recall the series of male “Nommo” of the arch. Grandchildren represent the twelve descendants of “Nommo” within the direct line, and so on. Associated with these representations is patrilineal descent, by which each individual is linked with 4 direct ancestors, the 5 generations involved symbolizes the five seed-times which follows the advent of the arch. No ancestor earlier than the great-great-grandfather affects directly the individual personal existence. The head of the patrilineal joint family lives in the house of the family, “Ginna”, which is that of the territorial founder of the lineage. In this house are the shrines of the ancestors to which new-born infants are presented. The patrilineal kin group is thus held to be reflection of the first mythical family which emerges from that part of the world egg in which all event unfold in order, the generations following on another in normal fashion. A person’s uterine kin group, on the other hand, reflects the situation in that part of the original egg in which event unflod in disordely fashion and where the generations are irregular.
Here the maternal grandfather represents “Amma”; the next generation, that is to say, the mother and her brother, the uncles are twin “Nommo”. The third generation that is, “Ego”, is in relation to the 2 earlier ones, “Yurugu”. Just as “Yurugu” breaking too soon from the womb and bearing with him a fragment of his placenta, is still, technically, a part of his mother; indeed, every individual even if his birth is perfectly normal, is an integral part of the woman who give him birth. Every individual is identified with his mother as being a part of her generation instead of being a part of his own, as though the child after leaving the womb, continues to possess its pre-natal character as part of its mother’s body, and thus belongs to the older generation. If the child is a male, he is regarded as the brother of his mother. He is therefore, a substitute of his maternal uncle, the ideal husband of his mother. Since however, the child is born into the generation following that of his mother, a pattern of behavior develops towards his elders and his collaterals which is regulated by various beliefs.
The fate of “Yurugu”, emerging from the womb before he had attained his proper form, is to belong to the generation, from which results the incestuous union of the myth. In real life, the child even if born at full term, unconsciously preserves towards its mother the attitude of “Yurugu”. But since she cannot commit incest, the wife of the maternal uncle replaces the mother. This transference is explained by the fact that the couple who engenders the child must represent the original twin “Nommo”. The genitors should be brother and sister and the child can regard his real father as a stranger and his maternal uncle, whose substitute he feels himself to be, as his ideal genitor.
In consequence the child regards the wife of his maternal uncle as a substitute for his own mother; he addresses her as “Yana mo”, meaning my wife and she calls him “Mu Ige”, my husband; he jokes with her and takes liberties including sexual relations, thus recalling the act that “Yurugu” commits. On the other hand he is allowed to plunder and rob his uncle’s goods and household as much as he likes. These attitudes are explained by the relative situations of the souls of the people concerned, regarded as reflecting the souls of mythical personages. Remember, “Yurugu” prematurely born, is alone with the scrap of placenta he carries away. Moreover, he only has his male soul, for the female soul remains in the other half of the placenta. He tries to return to possess her, but she is already placed by “Amma” in the care of the “Nommo” in the other half of the egg.”Yurugu” is unable to recover her and ever since then he is pursuing a fruitless quest.
The maternal nephew, in his early years, like “Yurugu” is seeking his female soul, so the nephew is seeking a wife, a search which is concealed under the guise of thefts committed in his mother’s brother’s house, his uncle. This situation only comes to an end, when his maternal uncle who cannot give his own wife to his nephew, finds him a wife of his own who will be a substitute for the female soul he is seeking. The wife, indeed, should be chosen preferably among the daughters of the maternal uncle, and this is frequently done.
Symbolically the girl is regarded as a substitute for her husband own mother. There is a clear correspondence between the maternal uncle’s daughter, his wife and his sister, who is the mother of the nephew. The marriage is thus, in some sense, a re-enactment of the mythical incest. It is also, however, regarded as a caricature and is thus a kind of defiance hurled at “Yurugu”. The existing order represents the reorganization, under the direction of “Nommo” and of an original situation characterized by the disorderliness of his enemy. Another consequence of this situation is that, in theory, brothers should always marry their sisters.
Any member of one generation therefore regards all members of the previous generation as his father, among paternal kin, and his mother among maternal kin. As mention earlier, in the original seeds, there developed seven vibrations symbolized by the emerging segments of increasing size.
The seventh segment, which breaks the enveloping sheath and set in motion external vibrations, divides itself into 2 unequal parts, the shorter of which in some sense is regarded as the eighth vibration. In another context this short segment is regarded as the tip of a male sexual organ of the being represented by the seed. It is thus the emanation of a human microcosm which is itself conceived as a pair consisting of a male and a female. In fact the ideal couple represented by the numbers 4 for female plus 3 for male, making 7, it is recalled on the one hand in the number of the seven segments, on the other hand by the order of seventh of the reproductive vibration.
According to the Dogon, the fragment issuing form the seventh vibration is eighth in order and represents the first of a second series of seven. By virtue of being a beginning, it is incomplete in itself and for this reason is likened to “Yurugu”, who is essentially an incomplete being.
The Dogon’s Territorial organization, districts, countryside and villages: The country of the Dogon is organized as far as possible in accordance with the principle that the world develops in the form of a spiral. In theory the central point of development is formed by three ritual fields, assigned to three of the mythical ancestors and to the three fundamental cults. When laid out they mark out a world in miniature on which the gradual establishment of man takes place. Starting from these three fields, the fields belonging to various kin groups, and finally individual fields, are sited along the axis of a spiral starting from this central area. The various shrines are similarly distributed according to the same plan and, in theory, sacrifices are offered in the same order as the shrines, on the line of the spiral starting from the center.
The Dogon even says that, in accordance with the original rule, when land is to be cleared the cultivators must work with their backs to the edge of the last field and the area cleared must be of such a shape that the opposite side is much longer than the side from which they start. Thus each field will be an irregular and, as it were, twisted quadrilateral, two sides of which will form a ver wide angle opening towards the fields which will subsequently be cleared. This angle symbolizes the continuous extension of the world.
Another form of organization, every family should possess eight fields grouped in pairs and facing towards the four cardinal points; each of these pieces of land is associated with one of the eight original seeds. As the theoretical arrangement of fields and the process of clearing, the ground reproduce the primitive spiral form, so the method of cultivation recalls the more delicate vibratory movement of the axis of the spiral. This screw-like movement, which is represented on shrines and in caves by a zigzag line, is reproduced in the old method of cultivation which is like the technique of weaving; it consists in starting on the north side, moving from east to west and returning from west to east. Each line of millet planted is eight feet long, and a typical patch of planted land comprises eight lines, recalling the eight ancestors and the eight seeds. moreover, the cultivator advances along the line changing his hoe from one hand to the other at every pace, like the action of weaving, whereby the thread of the wool is fitted into the warp, which itself symbolizes cultivation and the advance of man’s labor in uncultivated land.
The purposive repetition of the processes of creation is carried yet farther: the different tribes combine to work their land in accordance with the same detailed symbolism, each one, when cultivating, moving in the opposite direction from the next. In theory each tribe observes its own rule in working on its own land so that the country as a whole is cultivated in every possible direction. Just as the original vibration in the first seven segment prefigured man, who is placed at the center of the universe, so at the center of the territorial organization, embedded in the three fields which constitute the point of departure, is situated the village, itself, a symbol of man. The village may be square like the first plot of land cultivated by man, or oval with an opening at one end to represent the world egg broken open by the swelling of the germinanting cells.
Whatever its shape, it is a person and must lie in north to south direction; the smithy is the head and certain particular shrines the feet. The hits used by women at their menstrual periods, situated east and west, are the hands; the family homesteads form the chest, and the twin-ness of the whole group is expressed by a foundation shrine in the form of a cone, the male sexual organ, and by a hollowed stone, the female organ on which the fruit of the “Lannea Acida” is ground to express the oil.
It is the village anthropomorphic but each part or section of it is a complete and separate entity and, so far as possible, must be laid out on the same pattern as the whole. Thus, individual families are fitted into a grouping which itself is a unity. Finally, if such group of habitations is seen from above or from a height, the fields shining in the sun on the one hand and the shadows cast on the earth on the other resembles hillocks of cultivated land casting their shadows into the hollows. This is a picture of a little family homestead which bears on its facade eighty incised lines of shadow separated by bright surfaces.
Furthermore, this facade is a substitute for the black and white checked blanket which resembles the appearance of cultivated fields and the alternation of light and shadow in the rows of hillocks. Thus the settlement of men dwell close together is a representation both of man himself and of the layout of the fields outside the walls. This is a way of calling to mind the fact that the processes of germination and gestation are of the same kind. In accordance with the principle of twin-ness, villages are built in pairs, one of which is often referred to as upper and the other as lower.
A pair of villages of this sort is regarded as the heaven and earth, “Nommo” and “Yurugu”, united, and also as the representation of man. The same pattern is reapeated in the layout of the district which, at the present time, often coincides with the administrative unit, “Canton”. This area is devided into 2 parts, One known as upper and the other as lower; it is also marked by an open public meeting space in the villagewhere the “Hogon”, the district chief, lives.
In theory, this open space should be round like the sky which it represents. The shrine of “Lebe” at its center symbolizes the sun, and around it are various shrines belonging to the “Binu” of the founders, and representing the most important stars. In fact, in the open space called “Lebe Dala”, in upper, “Ogol” of Upper “Sanga”, there are nine shrines placed in three parallel lines, the central one facing south. The central shrine of “Lebe”, which in one sense is the first,also has the number nine which is associated whit chieftainship. The other eight are substitutes for the shrines of the family fields, beneath which specimens of the eight original seeds are buried. They are also the eight ancestors of the arch of the world of which the meeting-place itself is a symbol.
In a sense it might be said that the place known a “Lebe Dala” represents the coming down to earth of a new world, borne by the eight ancestors who have now assumed the form of the eight stone altars.
The Dogon and the Homestead: It is possible to go into yet more detail; the basic structure of the village consists of a group of dwellings, among which may be distinguished the big house, “Ginu Da” of each lineage, the plan of which clearly demonstrates all that has been described above. The big house comprises the “Dembere” or room of the belly, that is to say, central room, around which are placed, a kitchen, “Obolom”, three store-rooms, “Kana”, a stable for goats, “Ende”, and the “Denna” or big room, flanked by the entrance, “Day” and another stable “Bel de”. On either side of the entrance and at the angles of one of the rooms are four conical towers surmounted by domes, “Arsobo”.
The plan of the building is said to represent, on the one hand, “Nommo” in his human form, the towers being his limbs; on the other hand, the kitchen and stable are said to be the heavenly placenta and its earthly counterpart, together representing the head and legs of a man lying on his right side, whose other limbs also have their architectural counterparts: the kitchen represents the head, whose eyes are the stones of the hearth; the trunk is symbolized by the “Dembere”, the belly by the other room, the arms by the two irregular lines of store-rooms, the breasts by two jars of water placed at the entrance to the central room. Finally, the sex organ is the entry which leads to a narrow passage to the work-room, where the jars of water and the grinding-stones are kept.
On these, young fresh ears of new corn are crushed, yielding liquid which is associated with the male seminal fluid and is carried to the left-hand end of the entry and poured out on the shrine of the ancestors. The plan of the house then represents a ma lying on his right side and procreating. This attitude has a logical consequence: the differences in height of the roofs over the rooms and sheds, wether or not there is more than one story, express the diversity of the beings which issued from the ejected seeds.
Each part of the building represents an original being germinating and growing from its genitor. The whole plan is contained in an oval which itself represents the great placenta from which have emerged, in course of time, all space, all living beings, and everything in the world. Procreation is also expressed in the patronage under which the house is placed; while the “Sirige” house, also called “Tire gingi”, the house of the ancestors, belongs to the Fox, “Yurugu”, the big house is placed under a sign of “Nommo” the Demiurge, the reorganizer of the world. Thus the thunder stone, “Andugo” placed on the central terrace may be explained as a materialization of “Nommo”, who comes down in rain and fire. The stone itself is fire and water, and near it are placed the funerary urns of the ancestors, who are regarded as the human representatives of “Nommo” through the ages. Thus the same pattern, continually repeated on an ever-expanding scale, leads from man to the cosmos, each stage of the process also representing the whole, while a series of material avatars leads from the world itself to smaller and smaller groupings, district, village, village-section, homestead.
The “Hogon”: The chief of the district among the “Dyon”, the “Ono” and the “Domno” is given the title of “Hogon”, and the same designation is applied to the single chief of the “Arou”. Primarily, the “Hogon” is the representative of his group, which is divided into 7 age classes, he himself constituting an eighth.
These eight classes symbolize the eight ancestors and are represented in each village by eight elders, who possess the necessary knowledge and who act as a corporate body, having been constituted as such by means of various rituals. Thus the chief stands for the group as a whole; but the seven classes and the chief are represented by a chapter of eight notables who, to some extent and in specific situations, act in their name. So, the chief does not rule alone, he is assisted by a council. Every “Hogon” is the successor of “Lebe Seru” and as such is responsible for one of the two seeds which “Lebe Seru” had charge to with the female sorghum, “Emme ya”, which is in some sort a substitute for all cultivated plants, and therefore the “Hogon” is ruler of all land laid out in cultivation and of all the rituals connected to it. But since the seeds are the earthly images of the stars, the “Hogon” controls the cosmic rhythm, and is thus the personification of the universe and the regent of “Nommo” on earth.
In consequence, all his material attributes and all the prerogatives attaching to his function represent the qualities and movements of cosmic mechanism. The “Hogon”’s clothing: The usual dress of the “hogon” consists of a tunic, trousers, a head-dress, and sandals. The Tunic is made of strips of cotton cloth sewn together to form a long rectangle, which is folded over and sewn along the edges, leaving opening for the arms and a slit in the folded part for the head. This is garment, which is the genral dress of all Dogon, resembles the egyptian “Calasiris”, but those worn by the “Hogon” and the notables, unlike the common style, have wider sleeves.
The white threads of the wrap are striped with the red, white, dark blue and light blue threads of the wool. These colors symbolize the four cardinal points, the elements, and, in general, the world; but the name of the garment, “Arge Bunugu”( the tunic which has not come), indicates that it cannot achieve the size or the diversity of the world owing to its limited dimensions and the small number of colors which compose it. To express the universal character of this garment, all the “Arou” contribute to the cost of their chief’s dress, which is woven by a “Dyon”. Conversely, the tunic worn by a “Hogon” of the “Dyon” is woven by an “Arou”. The trousers, which are white or dark blue, have on the front and back of the legs four colored stripes to which the same significance is attached as to the colors in the tunic. The sandals represent the arch of “Nommo”, the point of the toe being the east.
The moon is symbolized by the button which fastens them and the sun by a disk on the heel. This interpretation is valid for the “Arou”, while for the “Dyon” it is reversed. The button is ornamented with a cluster of twenty-four cowries, representing the twenty-two categories, with two added for the original “Nommo”. Finally, the sandal is the image of the “Hogon”, the point of the toe being regarded as the head, the heel as the feet. The Head-dress symbolizes even more clearly the function and the quality of its wearer, particularly in the case of the supreme chief of “Arou”. It is in a shape of a cylinder, slightly convex at the back, made of basketwork woven from the stalks of the seven sacred plants, millet, sorghum, hibiscus etc...
The weaving produces a spiral pattern from the center of the crown to the edge, which symbolizes the path followed by the original seed. Eight “Hogons”, representing the eight ancestors, share in its making. Not counting the female sorghum “Emme ya”,which is quite separate, the stalks of the seven other seeds used in the head-dress symbolize the seven colors of the rainbow. In any serious emergency, the chiefs assemble round the head-dress of the “Hogon” of “Arou”, who then invokes the God “Amma” and , before all the assembled company, speaks into his head-dress and places it on the ground, as if it were a world turned upside down which has to be restored to order. With this Head-dress, whose shape suggests the moon, the chief indicates the positions of the planet in its various phases.
The female soul of the chief reside in the head-dress, the chief may not wear it on his head, if he does, the course of the moon will be disturb and therefore the course of the seasons as well. At the death of the Head-dress’s owner, it is deposited in a granary at his home, which is opened on that occasion only; it is regarded as the shell of the world-egg since it contains all the potency of dead chiefs and all the seeds symbolized by their head-dresses.
The Homstead of the “Hogon”: The house of the “Hogon” of “Arou”, paramount chief of the Dogon, is so built as to present a model of the universe. It portrays, either by figures made of millet pulp or in reliefs of puddled earth, the beneficient heavens. On the wall behind the platform or dais on which the “Hogon” sits are painted the northern stars to the left, the stars of the south to the right. This diagram is divided in two by vertical row of four hemispherical earthen bosses, the topmost of which is level with the ceiling of the room above the platform. Each boss is decorated with a spiral of four coils, representing the descent of the world, and is itself the center of four rays with four intercalary rays. Each of the four sections of the three lower bosses on the wall represents a lunar month, while the boss at the ceiling symbolizes the head of the “Hogon” and the thirteen month. In another context the four bosses are interpreted as the four seasons which, like lunar months, serve to sustain the head-dress of the “Hogon”. Facing the platform, the sun is represented on the wall between the two doors of the east. This egg-shaped relief is painted red and surrounded by 22 rays of the same color symbolizing 22 chieftainship of the Dogon world. The solstices are represented by 2 smaller ovals placed to right and left of the doors.
In the wet season the “Hogon’s” pouch, called the pouch of the world, is hung on the left, while his staff, called the axis of the world, is placed on the right. In the dry season, their respective positions are reversed. The “Hogon’s” platform is made of sun-dried mud, in which are embedded fragments of dry stalks of eight varieties of millet; eight store-rooms set in walls also represent these eight cereals. The house is entered by a flight of 8 stairs, representing the first eight chiefs; thus the “Hogon” follows in the step of its predecessors. To the left of the entrance is the “Hogon’s” own hut, “Toguna”, which is also approached by 8 steps. Beside it are 8 stones, representing the eight mythical predecessors, which serve as sits when the “Hogon” sits in judgement.
The whole arrangement of standing stones reproduces the great constellations, especially Sirius and its cluster. To the right of the entrance is the hearth where beer is brewed; a row of eight stones represents the “Hogons”of the future. By the side of these a hollow stone serves as altar where the spirits of dead chiefs come to drink. The daily life of the “hogon” is thus set against a background which presents the world in miniature, and in reference to which his ceremonial acts and movements symbolize the motive power which animates the whole. At dawn, seated with his face towards the East, he is present at the rising of the Sun; he then proceeds to walk through his homestead following the order of the four cardinal points. At the end of the day he takes his sit facing towards the west. His walks abroad are similarly regulated: he may never go outside the homestead during the season of vegetal growth when his two souls are in close communion with the spirit of the corn.
The beginning and end of this period are marked by libations of water, one from the first rain and the other from the last. In the dry season, however, when growth is suspended, the “Hogon” enjoys greater freedom of movement except at time of the new moon, when the moon is not yet out. So, the “Hogon” represents the world by his clothing, he participate in the universal rythm of things by his movement about his home, and in addition, he controls the calendar through his links with the motion of the stars, and particularly the moon. On the other hand, he is set at the midpoint of time, between two theoretically equal series of predecessors and successors, symbolized by the steps placed before his doorway and his judgement sit.
The “Hogon” and the millet beer: Just as his clothing and his homestead are necessary in the exercise of the “Hogon’s” power, and substitutes, in their particular spheres, for the whole universe, so also the large yeast-container belonging to the chiefdom is the image of the world. This vessel, of a different shape from those used for making beer in other cults, consists of a large cap-shaped container made of basket-work with four small tassels hanging from its rim, and represents the sun in the centre of the four cardinal points. When the beer is being brewed, it is dipped in the boiling liquid in which the grains of millet have lost their vitality; This signifies the plunging of the sun, with its rays and the world which depends on it, into a state of death in preparation for the renewal of spring and in order to set in motion again the phases of creation.
The baobab fiber of which the vessel is made is a substitute for all vegetation and , in particular, for the original seed; the bubbling of the fermenting beer recalls the movement of living beings struggling to emerge from the enclosing sheath. Finally, the pattern of its weaving resembles the chief’s head-dress woven from the stalks of eight grain plants, and signifies the moment when men first obtained possession of seeds.
At the “Sigui” ceremony, which is held every sixty years and at which one of the chief ritual actions is the drinking of fermented liquor, the “Hogon” makes the first brew of beer and reserves a portion of it which is distributed to every family and mixed with their own beer. In this way the chief signifies his control of all the brewing. It may be pointed out, however, that everyone must be seated when drinking, because the seated position symbolizes founding and planting and thus to drink while seated is to found villages and set plants in the earth.
On the other hand, the liquor purifies the man who drinks so that he becomes, as it were, the scene of resurrection. The living seeds, which died in the boiling liquid, were restored to life in the process of fermentation and finally live again in man. The drinking of the beer causes the seeds to come in contact with the living grain with which the human clavicles are filled; the beer passes out of the body again in the urine which makes its contribution to the family dunghill. The dung, containing dry straw which once was living, will itself distribute the ferment of life to the fields.
The economic functions of the “Hogon”: The “Hogon” controls all trade. This control is exercised through his regulation of markets. Until 1932, the “Hogon’s” drums, on the eve of a market, beat out instructions for the population as to the procedure to be followed on the morrow. But even at that date this is no more than a gesture, the relic of and institution of which the chief ceremony used to be celebrated by the supreme “Hogon” of “Arou”. At the time of the first-fruits sacrifice, an assembly of all the chiefs is held on the parade-ground of the court on which is drawn the diagram of the world, a human figure whose head lay to the south and whose arms are indicated by a triple row of dots symbolizing cowries. This figure, on which the assembled chiefs stands, represents among other things, the accounting system required for trading.
Thus the three rows of 20 dots forming the arms give number 60, known as the “Mande reckoning”, which is formerly used in the West Sudan. The circle formed by the head and the open circle of the two legs, symbols of the male and female “Nommo”, each represents 10, the whole and perfect number. The sum of 20, 10 * 2, and 60 gives 80, the basis of the later system of reckoning in French Sudan. But to the value of each “Nommo” may be added the unity which it represents; thus, if only the one pair is taken into account, the result is (10+1)*2=22, the number of the original categories in which all things and living beings are classified.
This arrangement of numbers on the “Hogon’s” parade-ground is not accidental; in theory the “Hogons” of “Arou” form series of 60, reckoning by their funerary urns. At the same time the parade-ground is, as it were, the site of a great market square on which are displayed the cowries represented by the sixty dots marked out in millet pulp. But the cowries themselves, on which the assembled chiefs stand, are an avatar of the finger-nails of one of the cult ancestors which he leaves in his grave; they signify, therefore, finger-tips counting out money and handling it over in payment.
The Dogon and Totemism: Totemism among the Dogon emphasizes that men belong to 22 categories, and demonstrates the links which bind them to the universe, all the elements of which are similarly classified. In theory, and on one plane, the Dogon believe that the eight original ancestors sprang from eight families each of which rules an eighth part of the universe. Each family are united in substance with that whole and thus all animals and plants in the corresponding series are taboo to it, while each individual in the family is linked to one specimen of each animal and plant.
When a man is born, because he is their head, all animals are born at the same moment. But because this situation is burdensome and man are entangled in too complex a mesh of prohibitions, the rule is applied only to some animals and plants. The cult of “Binu”, which may be as totemic, is associated with that of “Lebe”, on of those attributes is the female sorghum, “Emme ya”, brought to earth by the monitor of the arch called “Lebe Seru”, who dies and returns to life after cleansing the soil. When the arch arrives on earth another monitor, “Binu Seru”, makes war on “Yurugu”, who has stolen the 7 seeds intended for man. 22 animals take part in the struggle, 7 of which are on the side of the victorious “Nommo”, “Binu Seru”. To mark the recovery of the stolen goods, he hands on to his successor “Dewa” the stone, “Duge”, symbol of the 7 seeds, and on it the cult “Binu” is founded. “Dewa”, whose name is given to the totem of which he becomes the priest, divides his good, his attributes, and his functions among 22 original cults, each of which is attached to a particular “Binu” with its own special name; this division corresponds to the order of the universe itself, divided into 22 categories.
The 7 animals who have been the allies on the “Nommo”, and the 7 plants associated with them, are all taboo for the priests of the 22 “Binu”, acting as substitutes for their groups. The division into 22 “Binu” corresponds to the 22 members of the first 3 mythical generations which comprise, first, the 2 original “Nommo”; second, the 8 “Nommo” ancestors of the arch; third, their 12 human descendants, 4 pairs of twins and 4 single individuals. But as the families of the Dogon increases in number and expands territorially, the 22 original “Binu” divides as segments as is necessary, and as they divide their names are changed, the segments often adopting other taboos to distinguish them from the original group; all the priests, however, continues to observe the basic double series of seven taboos.
Every individual is attached to the “Binu” of his father and therefore belongs to an exogamous agnatic group wider than his major lineage. This affiliation is indicated by the name of the “Binu” which is given to him by the priest at his birth. Rules of endogamy and exogamy applied to clans and smaller groups are expressed in terms of the compabilty of the symbolic contents of the clavicles of each group. As we have seen, the clavicles are thought to contain a series of seeds, 8 in theory, peculiar to each people.
It is also accepted that, as regards to the Dogon, each tribe is distinguished from the others by the particular order in which the same series of seeds is placed. It has not yet been possible to study fully the variations in the series of seeds in relation to what might be called the totemic clan. The cult of “Binu”, intergrated as it is with that of “Lebe”, is primarily aimed at promoting growth in the widest sense of the term; that is to say, it is concerned to secure the well-being not only of the crops but also of men, the bearers of the seeds and partakers of their substance. During the period between the harvest and the next seed-time, the totemic shrines house the spirit of the corn embodied in ears or clusters gathered in certain specified conditions.
The seeds from these are put into circulation again by the priests at the next sowing; during the rains they throw them down from the terrace to be gathered up by the women and mixed with the new seed. As regards to men, the “Binu” guardian of the clan bestows on each the clavicular seeds associated with his two souls. A breach of the “Binu” taboo deprives the offender of his seeds, which the “Binu” takes away; the purification ceremony proper to the “Binu” cult consists in restoring these seeds of the clan, and that he is concerned with the sustenance of its members and with the substance proper to them. It follows that the “Binu” preserves the special character of each person as member of a particular clan, tribe, and people.
The Dogon’s Technology, Iron-working: Among the Dogon, as among all the peoples of the Western Sudan, iron-working is one of the most important crafts. Iron-workers are, in a sense, a separate race, whose members, in some localities no more than a single family, are found all over the Sudan. Among the Dogon only the “Dyemme na”, meaning great skin, an allusion to the bellows, are regarded as iron-workers by origin; the “Irin” are Dogon who practise the craft by permission of the former and after the requisite initiation. In fact, however, they perform the same functions as if they were craftsmen by origin. Iron-workers are an endogamous group in relation to the rest of the Dogon, the prohibition of sexual relations being based, as has already been said, on differences in the symbolic contents of the clavicles. In theory these craftsmen own no land nor do they receive any direct payment for the agricultural implements which they make or repair. At harvest time they are given a portion which is their recompense.
The special position occupied by these men, a state of economic and cultural symbiosis, derives, in Dogon belief, from the fact that they are the culture heroes of agriculture who came to earth on the arch. In addition to the clavicular seeds, the original iron-worker has in his hammer eight others intended for men. The violent collision with the earth when he arrives, breaks his limbs, providing him with joints enabling him to do his work; at the same time his anvil buried itself in the ground, thereby cleansing the earth and giving it, and men, cultivable grain. The iron-worker, as a result, suffers a diminution of energy, but this puts him on an equality with other men. According to the Dogon, this enfeeblement constituted a kind of uncleanness, though of a different sort from ordinary impurity. The situation of iron-workers is characterized by a diminution of vital energy which excludes them from the category of ordinary living men, “Omo”. But this diminution is not comparable to that of death, which also divides them from men who are by destiny unclean, “Puru”. Neither are they to be ranked with white men, such as leather-workers, witch-doctors, basket-makers, wood-workers etc...
In one sense they are diminished, but in another sense they are increased, because they have given their energy for the common good. Along with this ambivalent position, there is a recognition of the unquestioned superiority of the craftsman who, in relation to the exercise of his ritual functions, is thought to possess all the seeds which are his at the time of his arrival on earth.
The Dogon and weaving: The Dogon make a large range of narrow lengths of cloth, plain-colored and striped, the most usual colors being indigo, white and red; these are used chiefly to make clothing and blankets. Weaving is held to be one of the original crafts, and innumerable symbolic images are associated with it. It says that cloth is the center of the world, that it expresses everything, since the originating signs of all things are traced in it. The “Nommo” who invents weaving uses his jaw-bone for loom and his tongue for shuttle. He weaves into cloth the words which are bringing in a new order. In another way, the weaver imitates the “Nommo” who, springing from the clavicles of God, forthwith wove together the four elements contained therein and made from the whole universe. Just as he draw the four elements from the clavicles of God, so the weaver draws his threads, that is, the four elements, from the spindles, the clavicles of the loom.
In some sort, textiles from 7 families comprising 22 principal strips corresponding to the categories of the universe. It seems that the total number must be equal to the number of signs inscribed in the original seed. For the strip of cloth is itself a sign and connotes a myth, partial or complete, a material or spiritual image. To wear a particular cloth, to possess a certain blanket, is therefore to display a symbol which , in practice, corresponds to the physical or moral condition of the wearer, to his social and religious functions and his ordinary activities, which are themselves in harmony with the rhythm of the universe.
As among the “Bambara”, malian tribe, there is a science of cloths which is an account of the mechanism of creation. In the Dogon mind this knowledge is identified with its subject and therefore the possession of the complete number of cloths in the form of a blanket represents the ideal form of wealth, the acme of riches. It is possible to exceed this number, but to acquire twice the ideal number of 22 kinds of cloth would be excessive. A man in such case would surpass the God “Amma” and draw disaster on his people.
For this reason the men are reluctant to display the family heritage of cloths, for this would be to reveal to the common gaze both the supreme expression of wealth and the symbols of cosmic knowledge. These possessions are never shown except at the death of the family head, at a moment when the social upheaval would forbid anyone to count the goods or detect hidden motives. To exhibit cloths at a funerary ceremony is evidence that death has gathered up the whole universe under the form of the symbols which also constitutes wealth.
“Mangu”, an International alliance between Dogon and “Bozo”: The original situation of the ideal couple, twins enclosed in the same egg, is also illustrated in a religious and economic relationship maintained between the Dogon and the Bozo which exists from the earliest times. This institution,which flourishes over a wide area, is known as a joking relationship, though the term cathartic alliance is suggested for it. A dogon myth relates that when reorganization of man first begins, Dogon and Bozo, represented by the “Nommo” spirits, have in their clavicles 8 seeds and 8 fishes respectively. The most important thing in the world for the “Mangu”, ritual partner, say the natives, is the seeds in his clavicles. By this means the “Bozo” are marked out as fishermen and the Dogon as cultivators. When they come down to the newly made world together, they make a pact whereby they become mutually complementary. This solemn act, at once a consecration and a recognition of the contents of their clavicles, takes place on the original field in which the iron-workers anvil is embedded. His hammer is beating out the rhythm of the first operations and, since hammer and anvil participates in the form and nature of the universal system, in this instance regarded as granary, the pact is bound up with rhythm of those 2 symbols.
By the oaths which they exchange the 2 eponymous ancestors, who are already twins, confirms their complementary relationship; each, by the words he speaks, penetrates the other, depositing within his partner something of himself. This bridgehead formed by energy proceeding from himself enables each to act effectively and with impunity on the other, more especially in that essential action which directly or indirectly effects purification, and which seems to be one of the chief aims of the alliance. This complementary state is deeply felt and is expressed in 2 typical instances in the material life of the two peoples.
For the Dogon cultivator the double ear of millet, and for the “Bozo” fisherman the fish “Izu ya” represents this relationship of twin-ness. If a cultivator finds in his field an ear of millet, “Yu”, with 2 tufts, he immediately cuts it, takes it to the family shrine and, at the next sowing, the family head will distribute 4 grains to each member of the family in order to ensure him an abundant harvest. At the same time one grain is thrown in the direction of “Bozo” territory, which amounts to giving them half the ear, that is, half the good fortune and the abundance, as one would do for a twin. In the same way, if a “Bozo” catches an “Izu ya”, he must immediately seek a Dogon to eat it with him. If he cannot find one, he simply puts a piece of the fish in with catch he is taking to the market; if he still fails to meet a Dogon, he tries again at the next market, substituting another fish for the first, and so continues till he is able to share his find with a Dogon.
Only then will he feel that he has discharged the debt he has incurred by catching a fish which symbolizes twin-ness. But it is not only in circumstances such as these that the 2 groups are under an obligation to provide reciprocal gifts and services; they normally acknowledge a wide range of obligations of all kinds, particularly in regard to food. These relations are characterized by exchanges of insults and jests, often of an obscene nature, which may be easily observed and have often engaged the attention of investigators.
It might be said, indeed, that this is the characteristic method of establishing the relationship; the insult is in fact directed at that part of oneself which resides in the other and which one is trying to recover. It is as if one attempts to detach some of the seeds from the other and appropriate them for oneself. Here, acting in another direction, is a mechanism comparable to that of purification. The relationship is attended by taboos, any breach of which will have most serious consequences: the “Mangu” must never, in any circumstances, shed the blood of a partner; the penalty for transgression is impotence. Murder is thought to entail the death of the murderer.
Sexual relations between members of the 2 groups are forbidden: they would unquestionably be incestuous, and would result in the guilty parties being completely denuded of the sustenance lodged in their clavicles. That is to say, the Dogon would lose his millet, the staple grain which no other transgression can affect, and would be, as it were, emptied of his substance. The benefits of this institution are not confined to realtions between the 2 peoples.
Within their own society the Dogon have woven a close web of relationships all of which, in different degrees, recall the Bozo pact, and many examples can be given of alliances between groups of regions, between regions, between villages, and between kin-groups. Traditionally, the oldest of these alliances is that which links “Bamba” with a number of other regions, and is explained by the story that a “Bamba” man is travelling through the “Sanga” region at a very unsettled time.
On the way he is set upon by 6 bandits, whereupon he cries out “Mangu Mangu”! The brigands, disconcerted, put their heads together and ask the advice of an old man, who tell them to spare him; they all think he is a “Bozo” since the “Bozo” are the only people with whom the Dogon have relations, so the man escapes.
Later the fraud is discovered, but the precedent becomes a rule and the alliance between the “Bamba” and the people of the plateau come to be included in the “Bozo-Dogon” system relationships. All the “Mangu” here, meaning all the relationships between Dogon, says the elder “Ongnulu, copy the “Bozo” “Mangu”. The importance of such an institution is obvious; those who participate in it are equals in the sense that each is the product of a totality of forces to which an alien element has been added; they are complementary in the sense that each possesses the part that the other lacks. The 2 partners are equal; each finds himself in the other. When “Mangu” cleanses a man it is as if he purifies himself.
bottom of page