Did the Dogon Know about Sirius B?
by D.M. Murdock/Acharya S
Many people believe that the world was visited in antiquity by aliens. They cite the African
tribe of the Dogon, who supposedly received knowledge of the invisible companion to Sirius, the brightest star in
the night sky. What is the truth? Did this remote tribe in Africa really receive extraordinary knowledge from
In my article about the entities called "the Anunnaki," I provide the mythological background of these Sumerian deities, as opposed to
the current "ancient aliens" theory. A related subject is the so-called mystery of the Dogon people and the star
Sirius, a theory also popular within UFO circles. This "Sirius mystery" purports to show that this African tribe
possessed extraordinary "alien" knowledge of an invisible, tiny, white and heavy stellar "companion" to the
night's brightest star, called "Sirius B" and nicknamed "the Pup," as Sirius itself is the Dog Star. This
white dwarf star was discovered in the late 19th century and could not have been known
before the modern era and sophisticated astronomical instruments. Thus, it has been asserted, as by Robert
Temple in The Sirius Mystery, the Dogon must have been visited by aliens from Sirius who conveyed the
astronomical secret to them. However, as is often the case, things with the Dogon story are not what they seem
to be, and there exists a natural explanation for this apparent coincidence.
"Things with the Dogon story are not what they seem to be,
and there exists a natural explanation for this apparent coincidence."
The Dogon people have thrived in the region south of Timbuktu, Mali, for many
centuries. They are "well known to anthropologists for their elaborate indigenous cosmology." Since the
1930's, European and other scholars have been studying Dogon lore and tradition. The most famous Dogon
cosmological story concerns Sirius, extremely significant to a number of peoples globally, including the
Dogon's African neighbors, the Egyptians. According to the anthropologists' reports, the Dogon believe that
the Dog Star, "or rather an invisible companion they claim resides with Sirius, is one of the most important
objects in the sky" and that this "very tiny, invisible partner" is called po tolo or "deep
beginning." (Krupp, 222)
Star and Grain
In his book Beyond the Blue Horizon: Myths & Legends of the Sun, Moon, Stars &
Planets (222), professional astronomer Dr. Edwin C. Krupp, director of the Griffith Observatory in Los
Angeles, remarks that this "second star," po tolo, is "closely associated with the fonio grain" and is
styled the "star of the fonio."
This cereal, fonio, is the smallest grain the Dogon know and was "the first of eight different
seeds fabricated by the creator god Amma." The Dogon claim the star po tolo is identical with this
seed. In other words, they are one and the same, the seed considered to be a divine gift from Amma and tied into
Sirius as the star's "invisible companion."
This gift of grain is associated modernly with extraterrestrials of a strange
appearance, because the sky god Amma's creations, the Dogon's mythical ancestral spirits called "Nommos," were
depicted as amphibious fish-like creatures. These "Nommos" purportedly were portrayed as descending "from the
sky in a vessel accompanied by fire and thunder":
After arriving, the Nommos created a reservoir of water and subsequently dove into the
water. The Dogon legends state that the Nommos required a watery environment in which to live.
Firstly, this description is no more historical, representing aliens in a spaceship, than is the
depiction of the Greek sun god Apollo, also a divine giver of important gifts to humanity, including laws. Like
Helios before him, Apollo too arrived in the sky in a fiery chariot, appearing in myths with his father, the sky
god Zeus, styled "the Thunderer," a motif commonly associated with solar and storm deities. Secondly, a watery
origin for mythical fishlike amphibian deities is logical, since these species live in the water.
Divine Gift Giving
Furthermore, the history of a deity or deities presenting gifts to humanity is very old and
widespread. It can be found in practically every culture that has religious ideas, in fact, so this part of the
myth is not extraordinary but to be expected. Indeed, stories of gods with strange appearances proffering divine
presents to humanity also are common in many ancient cultures.
As but one example, the ibis-headed Egyptian god Thoth, identified by the Greeks
with Hermes, was considered to have given many gifts to humanity, including the all-important
writing. The ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs do not represent an alien alphabet brought by a birdlike
extraterrestrial, however, but are completely indigenous to the time and place in which these
African humans existed. The Egyptians considered these symbols—which they
themselves derived—to be divinely inspired, and they created a deity to whom they
attributed this sacred gift.
The ibis with its long beak and claws seems to be a natural scribe, as it leaves marks all over
the muddy and marshy grounds where it feeds on fish, crabs and other creatures. It should be recalled in this regard that
humanity's first writing most likely was drawing with a finger or a stick on the ground, dating back many
thousands of years. It is possible that such behavior towards literacy was inspired by birds like the ibis;
hence, the bird was given divine honors for this gift.
In addition, the sun, moon, planets, stars, water, air, trees and numerous other elements
affecting life on Earth are considered in many myths to be divine gifts—did extraterrestrials bring
all these elements as well?
In any event, the belief that a divine gift brought by a strange-looking creature in itself
cannot be held up as "proof" of extraterrestrial visitation.
Moreover, like the bird-headed deity, fish-headed or fishlike gods are known elsewhere, as a
reflection of the genius of that species, a valued indigenous animal that helps sustain
humanity globally, and not an alien being who landed in a spacecraft. As another example, the Assyrian fish god
named (coincidentally) Dagon and the Babylonian water-god called "Oannes" were also considered to have come out of a pool or sea of water, as is to be expected
from a fish that one may catch and throw up onto the bank. Anything that could be learned from a fish would be
attributed to the deity that humans created, not a real extraterrestrial landing in a spacecraft and producing a
puddle whence they emerged or other mythical motif.
Furthermore, it is clear that the star-seed mythology existed before it was
attached to Sirius. Hence, it would not represent extraterrestrial knowledge about Sirius B. As Krupp (223)
Because the fonio grain is very small and white, the star po tolo is very
small and white. According to the story of creation, all things emerged from the star, just as all things
emerged from the primordial grain. The Dogon liken the star po tolo to the husk of a seed. Some
of the blood of all the things that were created was left inside the star after they were released, and this
makes po tolo very heavy. The Dogon say it is the heaviest of stars. It used to be
located where the sun is now, but it moved away.
The star po tolo is the genius of the grain po tolo, tiny, white and
nearly invisible because of the seed's characteristics, and heavy because of its status as the container of the
blood of everything created.
The original Latin word genius refers not to a brilliant person but to "the
individual instance of a general divine nature that is present in every individual person, place, or thing." In
this regard, a genius was defined in antiquity by writers such as Horace (Epist. II, 2, 379) as "the
companion which controls the natal star..." Hence, we can see that the star with a companion is a
very old concept that reflects the projection of divinity upon numerous elements and aspects of life.
The po tolo seed-genius was located near the sun originally, not near Sirius, but
was moved. Did the aliens come to straighten out the Dogon by telling them the seed-genius actually belonged to
Sirius, rather than the sun? Or was this development a natural transference by the Dogon, as the brightest star
began to take on significance greater in this regard than the solar deity? In a desert region—possibly
one increasingly desertified—it is understandable how the sun would be viewed as a pestilence,
especially towards crops, and how the brightest star in the night sky would take on greater importance,
particularly since it heralded the rains, as did Sirius when it rose with the sun in the summertime.
The star Sirius, in fact, has played a hugely important role in humanity's past, including and
especially in Egypt, where Sirius mythology is complex and sophisticated. It is no wonder that this brightest and
all-important star was said to have "invisible companions," which would be the geniuses of various
plants and animals that it appeared to influence in some way. In this regard, other mythologies project
"companions" on Sirius, including the Egyptian.
For example, the god Osiris is associated with Sirius, appearing in
myths as Sah, the star itself, which means that all of his siblings, including Isis and Anubis, would
be "companions" of Sirius. The green-colored Osiris is "Lord of Everything," particularly fertility, water and
foliage, reflecting photosynthesis. Hence, when in other myths Isis herself is Sirius, Osiris too is the seed
and companion of the star. Osiris, however, is not an alien but a mythical god.
It needs also to be asked, did these alleged aliens speak Dogon? Why did they land in a remote
region to tell only the Dogon about Sirius B and then leave again, without this extraordinary knowledge serving any
purpose? Since the Egyptians were keen astronomers who revered highly the bright star Sirius and who had a large
network whereby they could spread this knowledge provided by aliens, why would these extraterrestrials not approach
Moreover, the astronomy associated with the Dogon otherwise does not provide anything out of the
ordinary for the star-gazing ancients and, indeed, is flawed with errors typical of primitive cultures without
advanced astronomical instruments. As Krupp (223ff) states:
Bypassing Temple's distorted interpretation of Dogon beliefs and byzantine handling of their
origin, we still have to deal with what the Dogon have to say. Some have suggested that Dogon astronomy has
been influenced by foreign visitors—from earth, not outer space. The Dogon, after all, have lived for centuries
near a major West African trade node that hosted markets and trans-Saharan caravan traffic. They have been
exposed to considerable foreign influence and other beliefs, especially Islam....
Even if we rule out contamination of Dogon tradition by European travelers and traders,
other explanations are still possible. Dr. Philip C. Steffey, an American astronomer, has examined the
astronomical symbols and myths rather carefully and suspects some of the stars mentioned by the Dogon may have
been misidentified by the anthropologists....
Also, Dogon astronomy and cosmology contain much that is at odds with the facts. For
example, the Dogon say there is a third star in the Sirius system…. It is supposed to be larger and four times
brighter than Sirius B. Despite a few reported telescopic sightings of a third star in the Sirius system, its
existence has not been confirmed. Further painstaking analysis of the wiggling motion of Sirius allows no room
for any more than two stars. If the Dogon say there are three stars in Sirius, and we detect only two, perhaps
it is time to review what else the Dogon said to find out what they really meant.
During the 1990's, when Krupp wrote this book, a debate occurred about whether or not the
original anthropologists recorded the Dogon's cosmology accurately:
More recently, doubts have been raised about the validity of Griaule and Dieterlein's work.
In a 1991 article in Current Anthropology, anthropologist Walter van Beek concluded after his research
among the Dogon:
"Though they do speak about sigu tolo [which is what Griaule claimed the Dogon
called Sirius] they disagree completely with each other as to which star is meant; for some it is an invisible
star that should rise to announce the sigu [festival], for another it is Venus that, through a
different position, appears as sigu tolo. All agree, however, that they learned about the star from
Griaule." ("Dogon people," Wikipedia)
Thus, we can see this contention that the sigu tolo star was a gift not from
aliens but from a modern human. It is doubtful, however, that the Dogon did not know about and revere Sirius long
before the anthropologists arrived. The po tolo star-seed myth makes perfect sense for its time and
place, reflecting nature worship or astrotheology, not "history" involving the supernatural or
tolo star-seed myth makes perfect sense for its time and place,
reflecting nature worship or astrotheology, not 'history' involving the supernatural or
Regarding this myth's enduring importance, Krupp concludes:
Astronomical and agricultural associations in Dogon religious symbolism all suggest that the
Dogon idea of an invisible companion of Sirius is a product of their view of the fonio kernel and of the
seasonal cycle as it is linked with the broad theme of renewal of fertility. Normally the companion of Sirius
can’t be seen, but it does appear in the po crop. It dies that others might live and through
death is itself returned to life. For the Dogon, too, the harvest is a necessary sacrifice….
The parallel between the grain and the companion of Sirius also means that Sirius in some
way participates in sacrifice. When the rains come, Sirius withdraws from the sky in a kind of sacrifice…. By
exploiting the seasonal behavior of Sirius in this baroque symbolic system, the Dogon, like so many others,
contrived their own charted territory in the starry sky.
As we can see, the invisible, tiny, white and heavy "star" is the divine genius of
the nearly invisible, tiny and white "seed of creation," mythologically heavy with "blood." This fonio seed
was associated first with the sun, a completely different star, and was moved to Sirius after the latter
became important for planting, as it is all along the Nile.
This move of the invisible, tiny, white and heavy stellar seed-genius from the day star to the
brightest star in the night sky occurred not because of a visitation from a fishlike extraterrestrial species but
through logical and natural means. The fact that there does exist in actuality a real stellar
companion of Sirius with similar qualities is purely coincidental, not the result of extraordinary knowledge
conveyed by aliens to a remote tribe in Africa thousands of years ago.
Sources and Further Reading
Krupp, Edwin C. Beyond the Blue Horizon: Myths & Legends of the Sun, Moon, Stars &
Planets. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991.
Temple, Robert. The Sirius Mystery. 1987.
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