Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
The majority of Dogon practice the traditional tribal religion, with its festivals and Sirian mythology, but a significant minority practice Islam, and some have been converted by missionaries to Christianity.
The Dogon record their ancestry through a patrilineal system. Each Dogon community is headed by one male elder. This chief head is the oldest living son of the ancestor of the local branch of the family. Within this patrilineal system local couples will marry monogamously, although polygyny is occasionally known.
They are one of many African tribal groups which practice female circumcision.
The Dogons and Sirius
Dogon mythology seems to describe the white dwarf star Sirius B, which orbits Sirius but is not visible without the use of a powerful telescope. Some of the information given by Dogon natives on the Sirius system was recorded before it was discovered by Western science in 1862.
The Dogons call Sirius B Po Tolo. This star was the seed of the Milky Way galaxy and "navel" of the entire universe, according to the Dogon mythological explanation of the universe. They describe the universe as "infinite, but measurable", and filled with many yalu ulo, or spiral star systems, including the one with our own sun.
According to the Dogon perception of the universe, most of the universe is part of the "external" star system, while nearer to Earth is the "internal" star system. The stars in the "internal" system include many that they claim affect the lives of people of Earth and play a part in human history, including not only the Sirius binary/ternary system, but also Orion, Pleiades and others.
The tribe neighboring the Dogon, the Bozo, have a similar mythology about Sirius in the sky and refer to it as the "Eye Star."
According to some, the Dogons came in contact with an amphibious alien race, the Nommos, about 5,000 years ago. The Nommos came from a planet orbiting Sirius and passed on information regarding the star system. However, scientists would point out that intelligent life could not have evolved on any planet orbiting Sirius, as the gravity of Sirius B would constantly alter the orbit of any such planet, preventing it from remaining at a stable, life sustaining distance from Sirius.
Most of the information regarding Dogon mythology and knowledge of Sirius and its companions comes from Robert Temple and his book The Sirius Mystery (1975). While interviewing the Dogons, Temple found they had some information on Sirius and its companion star, Sirius B. Sirius B is invisible without a telescope. Since the Dogons did not have telescopes and were not an advanced civilization, he concluded that the only way they could have obtained the information on Sirius B were by contact with an advanced civilization. Therefore, Temple concluded that aliens from the Sirius star system personally visited the Dogons and made them familiar with the operation of their astronomical home.
Carl Sagan, among others, agrees with Temple that the Dogons could not have known about Sirius B without contact with an advanced civilization. However, Sagan argues that the Dogons could have found out about the Sirius neighbor by contact with terrestrial advanced civilizations. Information from those other cultures do talk about dark companions about 5,000 years ago in their mythology which may have reached the then less isolated Dogon.
The Dogons have had a traditional interest in astronomy. By the 1920s, the Dogons had had contact with western civilizations. It is only natural that conversations with visitors would eventually turn to astronomy. In fact, in the 1920s, there had been a great deal of press in scientific journals regarding Sirius and its neighboring star. Since Sirius A, which is visible to the naked eye, was a part of their mythology, it is reasonable that the visitors passed on information regarding its companion and its period of orbit and other information regarding the star.
By the time Temple visited the Dogon's in the 1970s, they had had a great deal of contact with the western world and had time to incorporate Sirius B into their religion. To skeptics, it is unreasonable to assume that the Dogons' only source of information on the Sirius stars was extraterrestrial in origin.
The Dogon languages are a group in the Niger-Congo language family.
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