- For the Dogon, exoteric knowledge and myths represent some common knowledge available at a first glance to everyone; it doesn’t require any side explanation as it involves no additional connotations of the given object or phenomenon. Esoteric knowledge is not seen as the contrary to the exoteric; it is understood as something exceeding the borders of the first one and suggesting various connotations (Griaule and Dieterlen 83). Such understanding of the nature of knowledge makes it for a rather complicated cosmogony, which in its turn defines the social structure and life order of the Dogon. Their central idea about the world creation is in the huge egg that contains everything in it; the supreme God Amma divides the egg into equal parts and establishes plans for creating everything from this egg (Griaule and Dieterlen 84). The Dogon concept of the universe is based on the principle of vibrations of matter and general movement of the earth. The pairs of opposite corresponding objects to ensure equilibrium are innate and individual. In the Dogon world, every term and sign is interlocked, so that everything seems to contain its opposite meaning as well.
- Every single part of the planet has its vibration that incites the tiniest particles to move. The germ is like the smallest cultivated seed driven by the internal vibration. This seed moves in a particular spiral manner and creates conserved matter. The internal vibration makes it for the seed to reach the utmost limits of the universe. The spiral move in the end forms an ovoid form. The starting point of creation is “the star which revolves round Sirius…and contains the gems of all things” (Griaule and Dieterlen 85). Amma is the primary God Creator in the Dogon mythology; he emerged from nothingness and now is ready to streamline the development of the cosmic egg. Amma defined the model of the world’s, but his plans were disrupted. Each of the twin placentae of the egg carried a pair of Nommo, the first ancestors of a man. One of these sons of God decided to be born into the world earlier than the plan provided. This premature creature named Yuguru tore the placenta and headed off to explore the real universe. By that, naughty Yuguru brought confusion into the world and caused Amma’s anger. Yuguru returned to his twins but then twice again went to travel somewhere and finally descended to the earth. Being indignant at Yuguru’s behavior Amma gathered everything this half-god created and put it back into the grain (Griaule and Dieterlen 86-89).
- The social and family structure of the Dogon is elaborately organized following their traditional views on the universe. The Dogon believe they derive from common relatives, with Amma representing the father’s side and Nommo the mother’s; they, thus, see themselves somehow equal with the God creator. For the mother side, the obedient Nommo is preferred more than rebellious Yuguru (Griaule and Dieterlen 91). The Dogon also believe that they all are “derived from the same stock” (Griaule and Dieterlen 89). To their point of view, four pairs of Nomo twins created four tribes and assigned specific key economic activity to each of them. Arou tribe handles medicine, divination, and chieftaincy, Dyon tribe deals with agriculture and Ono, and Domno are to perform various trade and craft functions. The Dogon also believe that the warfare is controlled by the male Nommo and his shrine has to be put in the center of the settlement; cultivation is the deal of female Nommo with shrines in the field, and divination refers to Yuguru with shrines across the settlement (Griaule and Dieterlen 89). Hogon is the leader of each tribe; he performs both political and religious functions (Griaule and Dieterlen 99). The Dogon villages are built in an anthropomorphic manner; they resemble either the divine egg or the sacred grain (Griaule and Dieterlen 92).
Griaule, Marcel, and Germanie Dieterlen. “The Dogon.” African Worlds: Studies in the Cosmological Ideas and Social Values of African Peoples. Ed. Cyril Daryll Forde. Oxford, UK: James Currey Publications, 1999. Print.