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The Dogon and The Sirius B star

An African tribe, the Dogon, lives in the Mali Republic and has known precise informations about the Sirius star system for 3000-4000 years. In the late 1930s, four Dogon priests shared their most important secret tradition with two French anthropologists.

By Michele Bugliaro Goggia - last modified: April 12, 2007 1:16 PM

An African tribe, the Dogon, lives in the Mali Republic and has known precise informations about the Sirius star system for 3000-4000 years. Dogon shared their most important secret tradition with two French anthropologists, Marcel Griaule (1898-1956) and Germaine Dieterlen (1903-1999) after they had spent an apprenticeship of 16 years living with the tribe. In the late 1930's, four Dogon elders:

The Dogon live in a place called Bandiagara, in what is today the nation of Mali, between the fabled city of Timbouctou and the city of Ougadougou. Bandiagara is quite isolated, although Timbouctou was once a mighty trading center on the Trans-Saharan trade routes. By the beginning of the twentieth century, all of this area had become a French possession known as French West Africa.

In 1966, Robert Temple, a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society and the author of several books, happened to read some of the Griaule material on Dogon Cosmology. In 1968 he obtained an English translation of Le Renard Pale. Temple became interested in the question of how the isolated Dogon could have known for hundreds of years that Sirius, one of the brightest stars in the sky, has an invisible companion: Sirius B.

Po tolo

The secret myths moved around the Sirius star, which is 8.6 light years from the Earth. They published an article for the "Journal De La Société Des Africainistes" in 1950 reporting the deepest secrets of the Dogon tribe.

According to them, the most important star in the sky was "po tolo" (Digitaria exilis, a plant with the smallest seed known by the tribe), that was not visible and gravitated around Sirius elliptically in 50 years and whose spin is in one year. At the time, this was yet undiscovered and only a hypothesis, for astronomers.

"Po tolo" in fact is Sirius B, a white dwarf, the smallest kind of star. Discovered in 1970 by Lindenblad, the star is made of the heaviest metal called "sagala". A third star called "Emme ya" is four times lighter than "po tolo" and has a longer trajectory, also completed in 50 years. It has a satellite. "Emme ya" were Sirius C. Finally, in 1995, French astronomers Daniel Benest and J.L. Duvent published a study in Astronomy and Astrophysics that proposed that certain perturbations seemed to exist in the Sirius system that could be explained by the existence of a third star in the system. They proposed that this third member is a small red dwarf star that would be Sirius C. The Dogon also know planets gravitate around a sun, they know Jupiter, "dana tolo", has four moons, Saturn's ring and the three types of stars (still star, planet, satellite).


There is more: Dogon claim threir knowledge was given to them by the Gods called Nommo. According to the Dogon mythology, Nommo was the first living being created by Amma, the celestial God and creator of the universe. He soon multiplied to become six pairs of twins. One twin rebelled against the order established by Amma, destabilizing the universe. In order to purify the cosmos and restore its order, Amma sacrificed another of the Nommos, whose body was cut up and scattered throughout the universe. This distribution of the parts of the Nommo's body is seen as the source for the proliferation of Binu shrines throughout the Dogon region.

The Dogon elder, Ogotemelli, describes them variously as having the upper part as a man and the lower portion as snake; or as having a ram's head with serpent body. Author Robert Temple describes the Nommo as amphibious beings sent to Earth from the Sirius star system for the benefit of humankind. They look like Merfolk, Mermaids and Mermen. They called the Nommo "Masters of the Water", "The Monitors", "The Teachers or Instructors", "Saviors", and "Spiritual Guardians". You'll notice that Africa is desertic: it could not be an ideal ecosystem for Nommos-like creatures. In fact, the Dogon were from Mesopotamia. Ancient Egyptians were also attracted by Sirius, basing their calendar on its yearly motion.

You have noticed the Dogon use different words, often drawing. For Temple, the fact remains that Dogon know astronomical informations that required advanced high tech instruments. This can be explained in two ways:

Where is the truth?

Sceptical notes

Carl Sagan made an issue of what the Dogon don't know. Sagan asked why extraterrestrials would tell them about only four of Jupiter's moons, about Saturn's rings, but nothing about any of the planets beyond Saturn. He suggested that these things, along with Sirius B, were what a European visitor would have told the Dogon in the years between 1925 to 1935. Therefore the Dogon must have obtained their knowledge of astronomy from missionaries or traders or other visitors to the area in the years before Griaule. Sagan claimed that the Dogon simply incorporated this new knowledge into their already existing beliefs about Sirius A. Reverence for Sirius A, the brightest star in the sky, was not uncommon among ancient peoples, because its appearance in the dawn sky signaled the nearness of summer, with implications for agriculture. Trouble is, the early missionaries arrived in Mali in 1949.

If we want to be honest, then we must admit that Sirius cannot support life. Also, for Dogon, Sirius has two companions: a male and a female. Therefore, they were fertility symbols and not stars! One more: the "sagala" were, for Dogon, the heaviest metal: Sirius B was the smallest known white dwarf in the 1920's. Trouble is, there are smaller and denser white dwarfs out there. "Sagala" is not the heaviest metal, then.

Interesting connections

But there is more: we can find further possible cultural links with the Sirius and Nommo. Firstly, the Syria area, then the mythical "sirenes" ("mermaids"). About this, there is serious historical evidence on creatures "half man and half fish". Others are found in the Greek culture from the VI° Age:

Skylla derives from skylax ("young dog"). Greeks called the shark "skylion". Sirius is the Dog star, and here we can find the amphibian feature of Oannes with the Dog-Sirius relationahip. Oannes is a key factor. During the day, Oannes stayed on the surface among people, for all night he had to go into the sea to survive. Oannes, with other similar beings called Annedotus, is the creator of the Babilonian civilization (Berossus). Later, Oannes will become the Fish-God for the Philistines and recalled Dagon or Odacon. Apollodore studied Berosso's writings and pointed out Oannes wasn't a semi-god, but a semi-demon:

"in that era emerged from the Eritreo sea Oannes, the Musaurus Annedotus".

We have two words to translate: "musarus" means "abomination", "annedotus" is "repellent being". Definetly a demon. It's clear people were disgusted by these beings, though they were very wise and created a civilization on Earth. Were they amphibians or wore they a skin-diver overalls? We don't know, but the case is intriguing!

external links

Dogon Tribe - Nommo

Sirius at Wikipedia

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