The cult of Lebe, the Earth God, is primarily concerned with the agricultural cycle and its chief priest is called a Hogon. All Dogon villages have a Lebe shrine whose altars have bits of earth incorporated into them to encourage the continued fertility of the land.
According to Dogon beliefs, the god Lebe visits the hogons every night in the form of a serpent and licks their skins in order to purify them and infuse them with life force. The hogons are responsible for guarding the purity of the soil and therefore officiate at many agricultural ceremonies. The cult of Binu is a totemic practice and it has complex associations with the Dogon’s sacred places used for ancestor worship, spirit communication and agricultural sacrifices. Marcel Griaule and his colleagues came to believe that all the major Dogon sacred sites were related to episodes in the Dogon myth of the creation of the world, in particular to a deity named Nommo.
Nommo was the first living being created by Amma (the sky god and creator of the universe) and he soon multiplied to become four pairs of twins.
One the twins rebelled against the order established by Amma, thereby destabilizing the universe. In order to purify the cosmos and restore its order, Amma sacrificed another of the Nommo, 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. Binu shrines house spirits of mythic ancestors who lived in the legendary era before the appearance of death among mankind. Binu spirits often make themselves known to their descendants in the form of an animal that interceded on behalf of the clan during its founding or migration, thus becoming the clan’s totem.
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The priests of each Binu maintain the sanctuaries whose facades are often painted with graphic signs and mystic symbols. Sacrifices of blood and millet porridge (the primary crop of the Dogon) are made at the Binu shrines at sowing time and whenever the intercession of the immortal ancestor is desired. Through such rituals, the Dogon believe that the benevolent force of the ancestor is transmitted to them. In the late 1940’s, Dogon priests greatly surprised the French anthropologists Griaule and Dieterlen by telling them of secret Dogon myths about the star Sirius (8.6 light years from the earth).
The priests said that Sirius had a companion star that was invisible to the human eye. They also stated that the star moved in a 50-year elliptical orbit around Sirius, that it was small and incredibly heavy, and that it rotated on its axis.
All these things happen to be true (the actual orbital figure is 50.04 +/- 0.09 years).
But what makes this so remarkable is that the companion star of Sirius, called Sirius B, was first photographed in 1970.
While people began to suspect its existence around 1844, it was not seen through a telescope until 1862.
The Dogon beliefs, on the other hand, were supposedly thousands of years old.
The Dogon name for Sirius B (Po Tolo) consists of the word for star (tolo) and "po," the name of the smallest seed known to them.
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