Decoding the African Scientific Tradition
The Stars of the Galactic Inner-Sanctum
Lens, film, and amplifier circuit had not yet come to the aid of the old sky-clerks. Doubtless most of them lacked even the easy elegance of Algebra and geometry of the last millennium or two, but one resource they had in plenty, which modern astronomy cannot replace. They had time. Time for super-novas, time for the stars to shift, time for all the unusual arrangements of the planets, for the apparent close approach of Venus, Saturn, Jupiter, time for everything.(Philip Morrison. (Astronomy of the Ancients)
The Dogon of Mali
In Mali, west Africa, lives a clan of people called the Dogon. Their astronomical lore goes back thousands of years to about 3200 B.C. According to their traditions, their migrations began from the Northeast of Mali, about 1,400 years ago, finally leading them to their present habitat - a harsh, forbidding land abutting the Bandiagara Cliffs, in the southeastern Mali. Their populations assessed to be about 300,000 people living in the South West of the Niger loop in the region of Mopti, Mali(Bandiagara, Koro, Banka), near Douentza and part of North of Burkina Faso(North west of Ouahigouya). Though clear links to the ancient Nilotic system are everywhere evident in their thought, they seem to have more or less independently elaborated ideas in astrophysics and cosmology that go well beyond what is known of ancient Nile Valley science. Such ideas are advanced enough to compare favorably with certain principles in Einsteinian physics and quantum mechanics. How could a "pre-literate," post-neolithic people arrive at such a high level of thought? How could such a complex system be created without benefit of telescope, microscopes, mathematics, or any of the technical paraphernalia that undergird modern science. Brecher was racking his brains over these issues when he said: "The problem for us ... is how the Dogon could have known a host of astronomical facts, all of which are invisible to the unaided eye. In particular, how, could they have known about the existence of Sirius B? How could they have known of its incredible density? It elliptical orbit? Its 50-year period? They have no business knowing any of this." This was blurted-out by an eminent M.I.T. scientist. It is not altogether easy to know how to assess the Dogon, and in many ways, they are the most astonishing and enigmatic people in Africa.
According to the traditions of the Dogon, the Star Serius has a companion star which is invisible to the human eye. This companion star has a 50 year elliptical orbit around the visible Sirius and is extremely heavy. The Dogon say that it It rotates on its axis and this is the star which the scientists call Sirius B, and it wasn't even photographed until it was done by a large telescope in 1970. The Dogon knew about it at least 1000 years ago. Sirius Bhas formed the basis of the holiest Dogon beliefs since antiquity. Western astronomers did not discover the star until the middle of the 19th century, and it wasn't even photographed until 1970 as observed above. In addition to their knowledge of Sirius B, the Dogon Mythology includes Saturn's rings and Jupiter's four major moons. They have four calendars, for the Sun, Moon, Sirius and Venus, and have long known that the planets orbit the Sun.
Two Ethnologists, Marcel Griaule and Germaine Dieterlen, were members of a team that lived and worked with the Dogon for 25 years. The Dogon did not let him in on the deeper aspects of their system for a full 16 years. They were being tested or "vetted" by the Dogon Elders who had a larger purpose in revealing the most profound details of their hidden system to outside view for the very first time. Griaule and Dieterlen refrained form exploring and discussing the larger ramifications of the system they were uncovering. All they were doing was to follow the rules of the field of ethnology, i.e., to observe, inquire, report and not to interpret much. They somehow knew that their classic work would force a paradigm shift in the history of ideas, not merely for Africa, but for the whole world. It came to their attention that they were looking into a pool of African Cosmic ideas and seeing some of the most advanced Western scientific and philosophical concepts reflected back at them, concepts that Westerners had always assumed belonged only to themselves.
The Dogon Po and the Origin of Matter and Space-Time
Griaule and Dieterlen wrote: "Their conception of the Universe is based ... on a principle of vibrations of matter and ... a general movement of the universe as a whole. The Original germ of life is symbolized by the smallest cultivated seed - Digitaria exilis... This seed, quickened by an internal vibration, bursts the enveloping sheath, and emerges to reach the uttermost confines of the Universe." In the Dogon Cosmogony, there is nothing more fundamental than the Po -seed(Scientific name: Digitaria exilis. The Po , according to the Dogon, is many of this, and it being those many things, and it is always the smallest thing. We are told by Griaule the the Dogon oral records, concerning the World -Egg of Amma, the Creator: "The oval Po was created, which placed itself invisibly at the center [of the Egg].... " It is said: "When Amma broke the egg of the world and came out, a whirlwind arose. The Po, which is the smallest(thing), was made invisible, at the center; the wind is Amma himself. It is the Po which Amma let come out first." Amma's creative will was located in the Po, the smallest of things."
Unless there be any doubts about the "atomic" significance of the meaning this facet of the Po, we are informed in the Dogon system that the "Po is the image of the origin of matter."(Griaule/Dieterlen) Modern physics has arrived at the same conclusion: In the structure and behavior of the very smallest things lies the explanation of all matter(R. Gore) The word atom comes from the Greek word meaning "Invisible". Democritus had been given credit for articulating the concept that 'matter is composed of agglomerations of incredibly small "grains" or "atoms". This idea has survived into modern physics, but we can also see the idea which is evident in the Po of the Dogon. The modern atom is modeled as a 'micro' Solar System, with nucleus of proton and neutron at the center, in the manner of the Sun and our planets orbiting it in the manner of planets. One can compare that to the Dogon description of the "smallest of elements": This internal movement of the smallest of all the elements God created[the Po] is reflected in space by the spiraling motion of the stars." (Griaule/Dieterlen)The Po signifies something more: it is the origin point of space-time itself. This is important and crucial to understand. Edwin Hubbell discovered in 1922 that all galaxies are Moving Away from the earth in all directions at ever increasing speeds; and, they are moving in all direction from each other in the same manner. In the 1940s, this led cosmologist Alexander Gamow to propose that the universe is expanding at an ever greater speed and that, at one time, all the universe - all space and time - was concentrated in a kernel or speck smaller than a proton(Encyclopedia Britannica Vol. 2, 1992; R. Gore) This condition is known as a "singularity", that is, a condition of infinite density and curvature of space-time where the laws of physics no longer operate.(S. Hawkings). This cosmic explosion came to be known as the "Big Bang", and it was the beginning of the creation of the Universe as we are seeing it.
The Po is the singularity whose singularity caused the universe to form and expand, and the Dogon refer to this as the "image of the origin of matter, and the Po's smallness, is the image of the beginning of all things. All the things that Amma Created begin like the little [seed of] Po.(Griaule/dieterlen) This is how the Dogon conceive of the "Big Bang" as the "Big Burst" explained by themselves: "The bursting of the Po and the whirling of the spiral in the other direction made [Amma's seat] pivot. ... Although Amma created the world, he made the Po responsible for putting it into motion: by whirling and then acting as a spring,the Po took along and then distributed all things in the Universe. The bursting Po is drawn with porridge of Emme Pilu on the north wall above the platform at the bago during the ceremony of the "tasting of the new millet" .... eight lines placed at the four cardinal points show the distribution of the primordial seeds in the realized Universe." We therefore have here a Dogon version of how the Big Bang, or Big Burst Singularity from which all Creation emerged.
Steven Hawking shows us that, given its expansion, the universe must have begun with a singularity. One can even say that the Universe must have begun in a Po-state. But Hawkings comes with a very interesting conclusion fro his primordial singularity: "At the singularity, general relativity and all other physical laws would break down: one couldn't predict what will come out of the singularity. As explained before, this means that one might as well cut the Big Bang, and many events before it, out of the theory [of general relativity], because they can have no effect on what we observe. Space-time would have a boundary - beginning at the big bang."(Hawkings) What Hawkings is saying is that what happened at and before the Big Bang Singularity has no practical bearing on what is happening in space-time now; he he sees it as being irrelevant because because it cannot be measured or determined by any laws that govern our present universe. The Big Bang singularity is outside our existence according to Hawkings. But the Dogon do not acknowledge such a limitation. The "existence before existence" is woven into the fabric of their cosmogenic system and the singularity just preceding creation is given tangible reality: "Now, the universe in Amma's womb was still outside of time and space, which were intermingled in a common state of valuation." (Griaule/Dieterlen)
The Birth of Space-Time, Signs and Symbols
African Investigation into space Time
Typical of African thought, the Dogon concept of space-time, its origin, an its evolution, is apiece with their mytho-religious ideas. Central to this holistic precept is the role of signs, the fundamental constituents of symbols, and the Dogon say: "Just as Amma began the world by the sign, it is by destroying the signs that he will annihilate it.(Griaule/Dieterlen) The Dogon called myths so tanie, i .e., we find that the signs are the constituents of symbols and the symbols the tissue of myths. When the Creator wishes to destroy the world, he will first take away the myths by destroying the signs. According to the Dogon, Amma created and recreated the world twice over. He created the new Universe in this fashion:: "Starting from the primordial 'traces,' bummo, Amma first drew 'marks,' yala, of a new universe inside his 'womb' or 'egg.'(Griaule/Dieterlen) Analogous language is used in modern scientific writing to describe the formation of the universe: "... imagine the Big Bang ... A kernel of the cosmos. ... researchers led by ... George Smoot ... had discovered primordial wrinkles, floating at the very beginning of time.... No more than wispy tendrils ... the ripples ... are no less that the handwriting of God."(Newsweek, 1992) George Smoot elaborated further in a book describing the monumental discoveries of his team: "The pattern of wrinkles I saw on the map was primordial. ... some of the structures represented by the wrinkles were so large that they could only have been generated at the firth of the universe.... I was staring at primordial wrinkles in time, the imprint of creation and the seeds of the modern universe." We have already seen that the Dogon conceive of the generation of everything in terms of germinating "seeds": "The transformation of yala into tonu (representational diagrams) marks a stage in the formation of the heavenly bodies - visible and invisible - which are the twins of the seeds. It prefigures the spiraling worlds of stars that are to fill up the universe of Amma - infinite and yet measurable - when he will 'open himself up."(Griaule/Dieterlen) The signs of creation and the myths woven about them by scientists is as similar in description that the the Dogon offer. The primal explosion of the Universe as described by modern science, bringing about into existence the formation of the galaxies, makes us observe that they use the same terminology: "Gravity draws matter to denser regions, which act like seeds for galaxies and cluster of galaxies." In the Dogon cosmic system, matter comes into existence spinning out of the "primal egg," after the Po burst."(Newsweek, 1992/1996) It is important to note that the more we find mytho-religious terminology creeping into the theorizing of scientist, and this is done in such a way as to give coherence to concepts that emanate from the investigation into the deepest nature of things and of galaxies. At the outer limits of modern science, myth and matter are merging(Smoot and Davidson) This spinning motif seems to underlie the Dogon conception of how space-time comes into existence and evolves. They say: "Amma's creative will was located in the Po, the smallest of things. Like a central air bubble, it spun and scattered the particles of matter in a sonorous and luminous motion, which, however, remained inaudible and invisible. It was less a word than thought. In the work of creation, the axis of the world emerges spinning: one sums up this work [of creation] by saying of the egg: 'It spun, opened; the remnant was the ... axis of the world."(Griaule/Dieterlen)
Wherever creative forces are at work, again and again, there is a creative spinning bringing forth the fibers of matter, and that is why the spider is a mytho-type that is consistantly appearing throughout West Africa. Hawking uses parallels the Dogon's idea of the spinning process of creation: "[After the big bang] the Universe as a whole would have continued expanding and cooling, but in regions that were slightly denser than average., the expansion would have slowed down by the extra gravitational attraction. This would eventually stop expansion in some regions, and cause them to start to collapse. As they were collapsing, the gravitational pull of matter outside these regions might start them rotating slightly. As the collapsing region got smaller, it would spin faster. ... Eventually, when the region got small enough, it would be spinning fast enough to balance the attraction of gravity, and in this way, disk-like rotating galaxies were born."(Hawkings) Whirling and spinning forces produced wind, and this wind was crucial to the life of the stars as the Dogon state: "When Amma broke the egg of the world and came out, a whirlwind arose. The Po, which is the smallest thing, was made invisible at the center; the wind is Amma himself. It is the Po which Amma let come out first. When life increases, it increases by whirling. Its been already stated that the Po represents the smallest of things, anything,; it is therefore the smallest of stars, i.e., those known as "white dwarfs" According to material provided by Griaule and Dieterlen, strictly speaking, white dwarfs are not the smallest of stars - neutron stars are. In a white dwarf, the mass of a sun is packed into a sphere the size of earth; in a neutron star, the mass of a sun is packed into a a sphere the size of a small city. Neutron stars thus possess incredible density and gravity. They spin on their axis at high speeds. There is, however, a suggestion that the Dogon recognized the existence of a spinning body smaller than the Po Pilu("white dwarfs")
In this character, it's called the Po Pilu("white seed") which specifically refers to the first- and best-known of the white dwarfs, Sirius B, the companion to Sirius. We find this uncanny parallels in modern science: One modern scientist put it tis way: "As the degenerate[white] dwarf and it companions orbit each other, the dwarf's strong gravity pulls gas from the other star. This swirling gas forms ... an accretion disc, which feeds onto the surface of the dwarf, wrapping it in an ever growing mantle. Our Sun, or any star of about the same mass, has a typical history. It begins as a cloud of gas and dust, or nebula. When enough matter falls to the center, the central mass ignites and becomes a star, which may go through a "jet phase." Stellar winds blow gas and dust away from the star and , in the case of our Sun, leave planets in the clear.(Gore)
This creative force of the whirlwind appears in the Dogon system when describing their resurrection mythology. The eight ancestors of all creation are called Nommo . The one called Nommo Anagonno , is repented as the Fish-Nommo, which will be sacrificed to counteract disorder in the Universe and renew creation. Concerning this sacrificed Nommo's relationship to the Po, the Dogon state: "By its spinning the unwound Po had poured everything it contained into the Nommo's 'great ark'.... This ark was made from the rest of the [sacrificed] victim's placenta. According to the Dogon, this ark symbolizes the entire world in time and space and eventually, ti fill is creation, Amma causes the ark to descend, moving back and forth like a pendulum: "While the ark was swinging to and fro, the fact that it was suspended from a chain made it pivot on its axis, back and forth. In this way, the line of its descent made a double helix, reproducing the very movement of life, of the whirlwind that quickened the first seed. This movement was maintained by the breath of the ancestors, as it passed through a nozzle. The nozzle is shaped like this whirling respiration, called "spinning wind," which gave force to the "helix of descent."(Griaule and Dieterlen)This sound like the spreading and speeding up of the galaxies away from each after the big burst, and this is what Hubble noted in his observation of the Universe.
The Dogon's African Intellectual History
Where the history of African people is concerned, Africa must sit at the center of its study and interrogation. Though scholars would vehemently deny it, myth-making either or rises out of history. Examples of national myths that decisively impacted history of certain people include the "chosen" mantle of the ancient Hebrews, the "manifest destiny" of an expansive American nation, and the "thousand-year Reich" of German National Socialism. If a people do not have a national myth, they create one because it is the myth that determines what they hope to be and what they strive for. Thus, myths are not "fiction", they are the symbolic essence of a people's quest for meaning and destiny. The myth, "So Tanie "['astonishing word'] which the Dogon consider to be "real" history ... constitutes here the whole of coherent themes of creation; t his is why, by virtue of their coherence and their order of succession, they make up a "history of the Universe,"- Aduno So Tanie.
Every sixty years the Dogon celebrate a ceremony called Sigui , corresponding to the renewal of the world during which Amma and his son, the nommo or the world's demiurge. The Dogon knew the szygies; thus, the world was created in seven twin years. They call Sirius, whose heliacal rising they knew, Sigui tolo = "The Star of Sigui," the feast of the world's rebirth marking the time when a new "sigui" priest had to be chosen for another sixty years. What is more extraordinary is that for the Dogon, the Star Sirius s not the basis of the system. a minuscule star, called Po Tolo or Digitaria .(Griaule/Dieterlen) , is the true center of the Dogon system. In modern astronomy, it is called 'the invisible companion of Sirius', which is also a double star. Po tolo, its companion, is a white dwarf star, which is invisible to the naked eye and its unsuspected presence explains the perturbations of the orbit of Sirius, the most brilliant star in the sky, qnd which is also the basis of the Egyptian sidereal calendar. Although we might not assert that the Dogon or the ancient Egyptians had already acquired the same scientific comprehension of these phenomena as modern scientists. But it is certain that the Dogon have acquired a preise knowledge of the existence of this white dwarf star, invisible to the naked eye, and of it enormous density; they know its trajectory and that of Sirius: "Digitaria is the smallest of ll things. It is the heaviest star," say the Dogon.
The vivid language used by the Dogon must not lead us to devaluate their comprehension of the phenomenon, for it could not be otherwise. Other than its translatory movement on its orbit around Sirius, Po tolo or Digitaria makes a complete revolution round its axis in one year. mOst importantly, modern astronomy is not capable of invalidating or confirming this annual revolution of Po tolo, but it has confirmed another affirmation of the Dogon,namely, the period of fifty years taken by another star that revolves around Sirius. They also know Saturn's rings and the four biggest moons of Jupiter. (Adams) The same idea is also expressed by the Woyo people of Equatorial Africa, according to former Zairian Ambassador M. Nguvulu-Lubundi. The theory of the four elements is known. (Griaule/Dieterlen) According to Griaule and Dieterlen: "Digitaria's orbit is situated at the center of the world; Digitaria i the axis of the whole world, and without it movement no heavenly body could maintain itself. This is to say that Digitaria is the regulator of the celestial positions; notable, it regulates that of Sirius, the most uncoordinated star; it separates from the other bodies surrounding its trajectory."
Certain schools of quantum theories are experimenting with "super-position of state" and these experimenters have been able to develop a device called SQUID(Superconducting Quantum Interference Device) that detect electrons moving in more that one state; that is to say, , existing in two different forms simultaneously. This has led some theories to leave an impression that modern physics has moved closer than ever to science fiction. One of these theories posits that "multi universes" existing in a "superposed" state relative to one other, that. at quantum, particles such as electrons can and do move through more than one universe.(Hogan) These separate universes are self-contained but not entirely impermeable to one another. There are way-put theorists who attribute all manner of phenomena, ranging from schizophrenia to paranormal phenomena, to the existence of these "superposed" universes. Now, compare these ideas to the Dogon's explanation of Amma's work: "The number 14, attributed to the spiral worlds produced by Amma, implies the concept of potential reproduction and multiplication: seven is the sum of three, the masculine number, and four, the feminine number. Here it designates the seven Earths and seven Heavens. Amma created 7x2, that is to say, an infinity in words. The superposition of worlds and the concept of the infinite multiplication of stellar universes are indicated by the fact that the number 28 is attributed to Amma as well; it is called "Amma's number," because one also says: "Amma fourteen above, fourteen below, etc..." The spiral worlds of stars were populated universes; because simultaneously with things, Amma, having given form a movement to the world, created all living things. As the Dogon say, 'all creation comes out of the Amma egg which is the Po. Also, quantum physics postulated multiple universes point out to the Big Bang, so too are the multiple universes that emerge out of the bursting Po superposed. What is of most striking importance here is the Dogon's insistence that there is intelligent life elsewhere in our universe and in other universes. Physicist Fred Alan Wolf articulates this point thus: "What is a parallel universe? Like an everyday universe, it is a region of space and time containing matter, galaxies, stars, planets and living beings. In other words, a parallel universe is similar and possibly even a duplicate of our own universe. Not only in a parallel universe must there be other human beings, but these may be human beings who are exact duplicate of ourselves and who are connected to ourselves through mechanisms explainable only by using quantum physics concepts."
Anansi the Cosmic Weaver and the Web of Creation
The Dogon from Northern Mali are called HABRE(unbelievers) by the Fulani, because they resisted Islam, and following their migration under pressure form the MOSSI Kingdom, they sought shelter among the rocky country at the foot of Andiagara and Hombori mountains where they wrested fields from the arid ground with the aid of artificial irrigation. Dogon social and religious organizations are closely interlinked and out of this arose principal religions, which accounts for the richness and diversity of Dogon culture and art. The Hogon is the religious leader of a region, in charge of the religion of Lebe, the 'mythical' serpent. Assisted by the blacksmith, he presides over agrarian ceremonies. The clans are subdivided into lineages,overseen by the patriarch, guardian of the clan's ancestral shrine and officiant at the totemic animal religion. Beside this hierarchical system of consanguinity, male and female associations are entrusted with the initiations that take place by age group, corresponding to groups of newly circumcised or excised boys or girls. circumcision thus creates wholly male or female person prepared to assume an adult role. The members of an age group owe one another assistance until the day the die. Initiation of boys begins after their circumcision, with the teaching of the myths annotated by drawings and paintings. The young boys will learn the place of humans in nature, society and the universe. Because of the difficult approach to these regions and the aridity of the climate, the Dogon have been isolated and hence were able to conserve their ancient religious habits and ways of making their implements necessary for their carvings.
The spider holds an important place in their mythologies, and among the Akan, for example, there exist a whole constellation of tales around Anansi, the Spider. The spider plays a special role in the Dogon cosmogenesis as well, because Anansi the Spider is a trickster, and among the Dogon, Dada the Spider is allied is allied to the Prince of Tricksters," the source of all Chaos and Disorder. According to the Dogon, Dada, spins the Fox's thread to assist him in his rebellion against Amma's creation. This rebellion and creation of chaos, is in reality, entropy, the force that pushes the universe ever outward. It's known that chaos is intrinsic to the universe for it is the undifferentiated "stuff" from which material space-time arises. The spider attaches himself to the original Tree, the acacia, i n the Dogon lore, in order to "weave the words of Ogo: "Placed at the center of the acacia, the spider wove its threads in a conical spiral for the placement of the warp, and by moving vertically, for the coming and going of the passing woof. ... Through the fabric, it sifted the germs that had been hurried into the universe by spinning. The sound of its work, of the same nature as the word, grabbed them as they passed by and, with them, fastened its self at the crossing of the threads)Griaule and Dieterlen) This is another way of seeing the creation of the clusters in the universe as described by the Dogon.
It is very interesting to see the work of spiders applied in the theories of physics that have developed since 1984. In particle theories, the history(or movement) of a particle is represented by a line,but in string theories, matter in the time dimension ramifies differently: "A string, on the other hand,occupies a line in space at each moment of time. So, its history in space-time is a two-dimension surface called the world sheet ... The world sheet of an open string is a strip... The world sheet of a closed string is a cylinder or tube. In string theories, what were previously thought of as particles are now pictured as waves traveling down a string, like waves on a vibrating kite string..... The idea was that particles like the proton and the neutron could be regarded as waves on a string. The strong forces between the particles would correspond to pieces of string that went between the other bits of string, as in a spider's web[note emphasis].(Hawkings) This web imagery or analogy is constantly echoed by quantum theorists: "Quantum theory has shown that particles are not isolated grains of matter, but are probability patterns,interconnections in an inseparable cosmic web. Relativity theory ... has made these patterns come alive by revealing their intrinsically dynamic character."(F. Capra). Over and over again we find the "web imagery" used in the physical description of the universe: "A nice image ... is the way cobwebs often unseen in ordinary light, become strikingly visible when dew that settles on their strands during the night is lit by the morning sun. The gossamer network of galaxies we see in the night sky is the shimmering dew on a cosmic cobweb , as visible mater outlines the shape of structures of invisible 'Dark Matter', to which it has been drawn by gravitational attraction(Smoot and Davidson)
The Dogon's Internal System of Stars- The solar System
Griaule and Dieterlen write: "... in regard to the construction of the universe, the sacrifice of the Nommo determined the creation and the path of the stars, evidence of the blood, of the clavicular seeds and spiritual principles, and of the vital organs,when the body was divided up. Summing up this series of events, one says: "Amma was the in the Po, the seven grains came out of it in spirals. Because of the sacrifice of Nommo, the stars and seeds were strewn throughout space. ... In the beginning the stars walked in the sky by following the sacrifice of the Nommo." P. Moore wrote that: Star streaming: In their passage around the Galaxy, stars move in parallel groups called star streams, whose paths cross so that the stars intermingle like marching bandsmen in military display."
Recent advances in astrophysics now show that the universe is actually a closed system, and that its expansion will eventually stop some billion years hence. Eastern philosophies say that the universe is like a respiratory, expanding on inspiration and contracting on expiration. The Dogon's probing of the universe has shown them a larger version of man there. The Dogon recognized an inter system of stars, the solar system, which they say corresponds to the flow of blood on the placenta of the sacrificed Nommo.. They consider it to be the driving force of the stellar world, directly influencing the life of man and is development on earth; it plays a part much like the system of internal organs in the human body the "external" star system is descried as the "path of blood" outside the placenta and is made up of stars much further away, i.e., outside the solar system. This external system of stars also influences life on Earth though not as powerfully as those of the internal system. This external "path of blood," according to the Dogon, includes the Milky Way, itself the image of the spiral of stars within the 'spiraling star world' in which earth is found.(Griaule and Dieterlen)
Orion and the Sirian Star System: Birth of Nursery of Stars
"There is Nothing New Under the Sun"
The Dogon call the Orion's Chariot, or known today as the Trapezium, as the "seat of Amma's foundation". They say: "In stellar space, the Chariot is the symbol of Amma's seat; it surrounds the Atanu, the Belt.... It is related to the basic elements and to the cardinal directions, which presided during the realization of the universe that was 'thought' by the Creator. This is interesting, considering that the Orion Nebula is considered the birthplace of stars, veritably a '"Cosmic Nursery".(See picture of Carina Nebula that is bathed in the glow of light from hot, massive stars off the top of the image) What has been more astonishing than the Dogon's description of the properties of the star known as Sirius B, Po Tolo, to the Dogon, was not until the 17th century that Western astronomers realized that planetary orbits, orbits with of most heavenly bodies, tended to describe ellipses, as the Dogon represented that of Sirius B.
In the early 20th century, Carl Sagan purported the myth that some European affected the Dogon's presentation of the Sirius myth and repeated it verbatim to Griaule a generation later. Aside from the total absence of records - oral or written- this preposterous fiction and scenario ignores the inconvenient truth that the realization that Sirius B was a white dwarf did not occur until 1914. Moreover, any of the properties of white dwarves that the Dogon describe did not become part of the general body of astronomic knowledge until after Griaule began his researches among them in 1931. Carl Sagan, the astronomer and many of his ilk, have consistently tried to fabricate the Dogon's galactic knowledge to demonstrate that they are not legit or is from somewhere else. it is the Dogon who had 700 years of knowledge of this tradition that it is correct to say that the Dogon deserve credit for having discovered Sirius B and the white dwarf as a category of star. What is more, they have knowledge that Sirius B was incredibly dense and heavy of the non-neutron stars. This is what the Dogon have to say concerning the metallic structure of Sirius B: "The Star [Sirius B] contains basic elements, "air", fire and water"; the element "earth" is replaced by metal in all its forms, particularly by the metal called sagala, somewhat more shiny than iron and of such density that 'all the beings on earth together could not lift a small part of it,' Hence the star's weight and,since it is so small, its density."(Griaule and Dieterlen)
How do the Dogon's know that white dwarves are composed mostly of an iron-like metallic substance which has only been documented in the last generation by spectrographic analysis. Also, we do not have anything that comes down to us from ancient Nile, Chaldea, China or the medieval Arabic world that remotely compares to the Dogon's caliber of astronomical knowledge. It is therefore unconscionable to call the Dogon a "tribal" and 'primitive" people when they are able to operate at a level of cosmic understanding comparable to "modern" Astrologists with their modern equipment. If an obscure African people living their lives tucked away in a half-forgotten corner of Mali, can be ignored about their knowledge and culture and its connection to the universe, and due given to Einstein, the quantum theorists and modern astrophysicist ass having re-cleared a road for modern astronomy, which the Dogon's have been talking about for over 700 before, it seems like we are not learning anything new in this old beaten path by long expounded by the Dogon people.
Modern Astronomy and Dogon Views of Gravity and Supernova
The Dogon seem also to have a concept that can be described as 'gravity': "The Movements of Po to keep all other stars on the respective places: in fact, they say that without this movement none of them would "stay in place." Po Tolo forces them to keep their trajectory: in particular, 'it regulates the trajectory of Sirius, which is the only one that does not follow a regular curve, and which it separates from the only one stars by surrounding it with its own orbit."(Griaule and Dieterlen). This is how modern scientific research bears this out: "The first white dwarf to be discovered was the companion of Sirius, now called Sirius B. In 1844 Friedrich Bessel discovered irregularities in the motion of Sirius, and concluded that it must have a companion, the pair forming a binary system with a period of about 50 years. In order for its gravity to swing Sirius around in its orbit, it was clear that the companion must have a comparable mass.(Moore)
It is now known that gravity is related to the Einstenian curved universe; the Dogon too say that the universe is "curved." The Po Tole is the mother-seed of all stars, as the 'star of deep beginnings' it is the oldest of heavenly things. Or every solar system was created of a dying star such as Sirius B. In fact, since Sirius B is the closest white dwarf to our solar system, the Dogon may not be far from the truth when they declare that our solar system - including Earth and everything on it - owes its very existence to Sirius B. The Dogon explain it this way: "The movements of Po Tolo, the heavy embryo of the world and the mark of all creation, are quite active: its contents are rejected by the force of its spinning in forms that are "infinitely small," much like the Po Pilu which grow rapidly: in this way, the star. white like Po Pilu, continues to distribute the germs of life once contained by the seed it represents.... Amma created Po Tolo the first of all stars. In the (body) substance of Po Tolo, [all] the things in the [entire] world, their sign exists a bit."(Griaule and Dieterlen)
Compare the Dogon's statement above with the modern scientific explanation:
"As the degenerate [white] dwarf and its companion orbit each other, the dwarf's strong gravity pulls gas from another star. This swirling gas forms ... an accretion disk, which feeds onto the surface of the dwarf, wrapping it in an ever-growing mantle. Gas swirling around a degenerate dwarf is accelerated to 5,000 kilometers per second. As this gas strikes the dwarf's thickening mantle, the impact heats the degenerate gas enormously. Temperatures in the mantle rise to the ten million degree needed to ignite nuclear fusion.... But since it is degenerate, the mantle cannot shed the heat by expanding.... Basically a new sun is temporarily created around the ember of a dead one .... A nuclear smolder begins to spread. when it hits a flash point, a holocaust engulf the dwarf."(Gore)
When reference is made about the "holocaust", this means a nova explosion which appears to us on earth as a sudden, brilliant, pinpoint flash of light in the nighttime sky and persists for several nights. Most white dwarves go Nova many times in the last phases of their existence before vaporizing completely in a Type I supernova explosion. These Nova explosions are critical for the creation of new stars and star systems.. concerning the recent Nova Aquilae, an infrared telescopy has yielded significant data concerning its activity: "The question about Nova Aquilae that intrigued UKIRT astronomers Longmore and Williams was whether the nova had begun emitting much infrared. That would mean, they believed that the shell of gas blown off by the Nova had cooled enough to form dust grains. Even the first time we looked at it, we saw excess dust grains. the gas blown off by the nova couldn't have cooled that fast. That means some of that dust was there already. Hot gas must have been coming off the star for perhaps thousands of years before it went nova.... Like, why is tis star dust so interesting? Primarily because it is the stuff of new stars. Matter evolves during the lives of stars and emerges largely through their nova, and red giant states. More complex elements are forged only in the fiery throes of those stars. Some of the air we breathe ... may have been released by a nova or red giant. so were many carbon and silicon atoms. supernovas have created most of the heavier elements...." As Sumner Starrfield put it: "The very material out of which our bodies are made were cooked up in a violent process somewhere in the universe."(Gore) Modern astrophysics literature is abound with the Dogon imagery of grains from the Po Pilu, i.e. Sirius b, ejected into space and forming the germs of life: "Condensing solid grains in the gases expelled by novae may be expected to contain ... nuclides, and so would form a component of interstellar material with an unusual chemical composition.... When the solar System formed from interstellar grains, some grains derived from novae would be present." (Moore)
The Dogon describe the nova process affecting Sirius B as a white dwarf. They say of Po Tolo: "On the totemic sanctuaries, Po Tolo is represented by a circle with six rays marking the six yala of the sex of the Po in Amma's womb. The rays are dotted lines indicating the star - which will burst, as did the Po Pilu, and be invisible for some time - can at present not be seen except under special circumstances.(Griaule and Dieterlen) The Dogon speculated that Sirius B has contributed an undetermined amount of the formative matter of our solar system, and the Dogon knew as much if not more than modern astronomers. If we can begin to understand the interrelation of red giants, white dwarfs, novas and creation of new star system, we can see how the Dogon scenario fits the facts. Some Historians could not help but think that the way of the Dogon to Conceptualize this system is eerily similar to the transmission of Genetic information.(When the messenger RNA transmits the genetic code from DNA to transfer RNA, that will eventually tell the base-pairs of the amino acids in formation to line up to create protein, the constituents of living organs)
The Four Calendars of the Dogon People
The Dogon have four calendars and their main calendar is a lunar one, and they also maintain a solar calendar. Their lunar year is 354 days and their solar year is 365 days. There is also a soli-lunar year of 360, and the twelve others grouped into twos, each containing 60 days. Their solar calendar begins in the Winter Solstice like ours, and they observe the Solstices and equinoxes the whole year round. This whole system seems to be surviving amongst the Dogon, that as they have described to us, the erecting of the altar of the resurrected Nommo , who sacrificed to renew the world, is correlated with what the Dogon call "the meeting of Sirius and the Sun, viz., the heliacal rising of Sirius. They enlighten us further and state: Sirius is the symbol of the ever-living placenta of the resurrected Nommo: the star is also called Alabararu which is a contraction of "Amma Albarka (or thanks to Amma.... On the spatial level, the figure of Nommo's placenta(Sirius) denotes the collateral directions of "four angles" of celestial space(See last picture of Sirius in the photo gallery)
There are three main calendars we are now aware of, of the Dogon, i.e., and they are the lunar calendar, the solar and the Sirian. The fourth cycle in unusual because it is based on the sic positions of Venus. Their agricultural cycle is tied to the positions of Venus whenever it appears; i.e., the path of the planet through space and at specific times during the year. These positions are explained as follows:
- Enegirim: Venus as the "star of the goatherds," referring to the time of sowing and germination.
- Dige Tanu: Venus as the star of midnight," referring to the time of the millet emerging from the earth.
- Dono Tolo: Venus as the "star of the west" or Evening Star and refers to the time of the millet that has grown into an ear.
- Yazu: The position of Venus just after midnight and refers to the time of the grains formed in the ear)Pregnant millet).Obia: This word means "hidden," referring to Venus as the Morning Star, and is the time of the "ripe millet." Yapunu da: The position of Venus in the heavens literally translates as "dish of the menstruating women," that is referring to the time when the millet is eaten(symbolically 'dead') and in the end presenting the clavicle of the people it has nourished.
In the end, as a reality and testament of their being supremely sophisticated in their presentation of their knowledge, through their culture, architecture and universal galactic knowledge, it is clearly important to note their knowledge of entropy of the universe. And when it comes to To Polo(Sirius B), the Dogon's said: "The Star's former position in space is where the sun is where now the sun is, called "seat of Po Tolo," po tolo doy. Like the other stars, it moved away and is presently at the center of the sky: but it is a center in motion...
The Dogon have been saying what Hubble saw in 1922 that on the spectographic analysis, all the remotest galaxies in the universe were moving away from him: everything was moving away from his position, and everything was moving away from everything else; the remoter the galaxy, the faster it was moving away- and this discovery led to the the Big Bang Theory, and this permanently changed modern cosmology. TheDogon have observed this phenomena for the past 700 years. Relativity and quantum mechanics have rewoven western science into the fabric of universal consciousness. But the disunion in thought within modern thinkers and astronomers, has never happened to the Dogon: Their cosmic system is one to the most legitimate and thoroughly consistent models extant of the seamless interweaving of empirical science and symbolic myth.