Guide Dogon Mali

Dogon cosmology

 The Dogon believe in a single God, Amma who created the sun, moon and stars. According to Dogon legend, after this he created the earth by throwing a ball of clay into space. The ball spread to the 4 points of the horizon and took on the shape of a woman. Alone in the universe, Amma attempted to make love to the earth, but her termite mound blocked his path en tore her out. Because of this violence, the earth could not bear the twins that should have resulted from a happy reunion and instead gave birth to a jackal.

Amma again had intercourse with the earth, and a pair of twins resulted, known as Nommo. They were born of divine semen, the precious water found in everything in the universe. Green in colour, their upper bodies were human and their lower bodies like snakes. Living in the heavens with their father, the Nommo looked down on their mother and, seeing her naked, made a skirt into which they wove the first language. Thus the earth was the first to possess speech.

Meanwhile, the jackal was running loose. His mother was the only human and he raped her. The earth bled and became impure in the sight of Amma. It is for this reason that today, menstruating woman are considered impure in the Dogon society. When he forced himself upon the earth, the jackal also touched her skirt and thus stole language.

Having turned from his wife, Amma decided to create al human couple from clay. The couple had elements of both sexes – the foreskin being the feminine part of the man, and the clitoris the masculine part of the woman. Foreseeing that problems would arise from this ambiguity, the Nommo circumcised the male and later an invisible hand removed the clitoris from the woman. The couple was thus free to procreate and produced eight children, the original Dogon ancestors.

After creating eight descendants of their own, the ancestors where purified and transformed into Nommo, and then went to join Amma in the sky. But before this ascension, the seventh ancestor was charged with giving the second language to humans. Using his mouth as a loom, he spat out a cotton strip from which the new speech was transformed to humanity.

The eight ancestors didn’t get along with Amma and the Nommo and were eventually send back to earth. On the way, the eight ancestors came down before the seventh, who was angry as a result. He turned himself into a snake and set about disturbing the work of the other ancestors. They told the people to kill the snake – which they did. But this seventh ancestor- who’s name was Lebe – held the third language, needed for mankind, since the second wasn’t adequate. The oldest of the eight original ancestors thus had to be scarified and was buried with the head of the Lebe snake. Human’s then received the third language in the form of a drum.

To this day, Dogon dances symbolizes this creation story.

Source: Rough Guide of West-Africa