Monday, October 21, 2013

Dogon Creation Story

The creation of the world was the deed of the god Amma, the one god and image of the father who existed before all things.  Following an unsuccessful initial attempt, from which he salvaged only the four elements (water, earth, fire, and air), Amma placed in the "egg of the world," or the original placenta, two pairs of androgynous twins in the form of fish . Their gestation inside the egg was interrupted by an act of rebellion: one of the male beings, Yurugu prematurely left the "mother" (the placenta), deserting both "her" and his  female counterpart, thus prefiguring the birth of single beings even though Amma had envisaged twin births. The solitary being descended into space and primordial darkness, taking with him a piece of the placenta that became Earth. Aware of his solitude, he traveled through space, attempted to reascend to heaven to join his  female twin again, and even sought her out in the bowels of Earth, an incestuous act that brought to a climax the disorder he had already introduced into the world by leaving the placenta. The piece of placenta rotted and thus death appeared on earth.

 Amma put an end to the male being's disorderly acts by transforming him into a jackal, an animal that occupies a very important position in Dogon ideology. This small, wild creature, which is known more properly as Vulpes pallida, goes about only at night and never drinks water from ponds near the village-which, for the Dogon, explains why the fox was chosen to symbolize this enemy of light, water, fertility, and civilization. [But this "pale fox" also learned the first power 'word' and ever since then can reveal the future and hidden truths to those who can read his tracks properly.]

 Unable to restore total order to his universe, Amma sought to mitigate the disorder let loose by the jackal; he sacrificed Nommo, the other male twin who had stayed in the egg. Nommo's dismembered body purified the four cardinal points of the universe, and the blood that flowed forth gave birth to various heavenly bodies, edible plants, and animals. 
 Amma then burst  a minuscule grain into which he had "rolled" all the elements of creation; these elements emptied into an ark of pure earth (the remains of the placenta). In that ark Amma also placed Nommo, whom he had already brought back to life, and his other "sons," the four pairs of heterosexual twins who are the ancestors of the human race. He lowered the ark from the heavens by means of a copper chain; the ark crashed onto Yurugu's earth at the time of the first rainfall, which formed the first pool of water. The sun also rose for the first time. Nommo went to live in the pool while the eight ancestors settled on the spot where they had landed. Using the pure earth from their ark, these ancestors created the first cultivated field, and cultivation then spread throughout Yurugu's impure earth (the bush)

The ancestors initially communicated by means of cries and grunts until one of the Nommo twins, the master of water, life, speech, and fertility, taught them language at the same time that he instructed them in the art of weaving. He then revealed to the ancestors such other fundamental techniques as agriculture, blacksmithing, dance, and music. The first human society was thus founded; marriage was introduced when the ancestors exchanged sisters.

The four male ancestors founded the four major religious cults, which are also the pillars of social organization; among the Dogon, social order cannot be dissociated from religion. The eldest of the ancestors, Amma Seru ("witness of Amma"), is associated with the creator god and with air (sky).The ancestor Binu Seru is associated with water, and his ritual is celebrated in sanctuaries whose facades are periodically redecorated with paintings done in thin millet paste . The ancestor Lebe Seru ("witness of Lebe") who, having died, was subsequently brought back to life in the form of a large snake; this ancestor is associated with Earth (the planet and soil, as well as the mythic archetype Earth), and with vegetation. The fourth ancestor, Dyongu Seru ("witness of healing")  was in effect the first human to die, following the breach of an interdiction. His cult is celebrated by the mask society (which exists only on the cliff and on the plateau) and is associated with fire, death, the wilderness (in his role as hunter and healer), and, consequently, disorder-connections that, in turn, link his cult with the mythical fox Yurugu who, on a more mundane level, is commemorated in divination rites.

Because of a dispute in their Mande homeland, four brothers of supernatural origin decided to leave Mande and found a new land where their descendants might live peacefully. Before leaving, they took a symbolic emblem of fertility and continuity. In different versions, this symbol takes the form of either a duge, an amulet left them by their supernatural ancestor, Lebe Serou, or a piece of the earth of Lebe Serou's tomb in which this ancestor had died and was reborn as a serpent. During their migration, Dyon, the eldest, rides on a horse carrying Arou, the youngest, on his shoulders. The two other brothers, Domno and Ono, accompany them. 
As the four brothers reach the cliffs, Arou shouts out a claim to all the land. Enraged by 
his youngest brother's boldness and disregard of the proper order of descent and 
inheritance, Dyon abandons Arou at the side of the road. Arou encounters an old woman 
at the side of the road who is pleased by his respectful manner and offers him gifts of 
supernatural value. These gifts will later serve the migrants with the tools of defense, 
domestication of animals, and rain-making. Arou receives these supernatural gifts and 
rejoins his brothers. Together the four brothers found the new land

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