The Venus Calendar and Related Lore of the Dogon
by Philip C. Steffey, PhD
 
(Venus knowledge figures)

 

1: Top: The only pictograph of Venus so identified in Le Renard Pale (fig. 84, white on beige), in its obya position. Short rays relative to the central spot size indicate a view near conjunction with the Sun, most likely superior. (Viewed from a distance the appearance was a jagged spot.) Bottom: Called "symbols of po (fonio)", the fast-growing cereal grass that provided emergency food in years of poor main crops and protected the soil from wind erosion, these pictographs (L.R.P., fig. 92, white on beige) actually show celestial phenomena. The right one is the path of Mars retrograding east of the head of Scorpius (e.g. in 1811, 1890). The left one resembles the Sickle of Leo, but its occurrence with the right one implies a celestial path, perhaps an incomplete representation of Venus' during an evening or morning apparition. A bright comet's track is another possibility: the Star of Po is a comet in much of the Dogon lore.

2: Map of the two-level village of Ogol, in the Sanga district, showing locations of six sogoor altars to Venus (large letters), adapted from fig. 76 in L.R.P.: G--Yazu/Bayara; N--Enegirim; O--Dige tanu; P--Yapunu da; B (off map)--Obya (uncertain); H--(off map)--Donno/Albana(uncertain).

3: Three of the Venus altars in ca.1950, copied from Plate XIV in L.R.P.: top--Donno/Albana, dolmen; middle--Dige tanu, small flat stones in hollowed rock; bottom--Yapunu da, dolmen. The dolmens were manmade.

4: Symbols for the six "positions" of Venus, from fig. 183 in L.R.P.(top); also "they signify its march in space." Obviously they are numbers 1-6, but the odd orientation of the 3-symbol and the irregular stroke or ray patterns in the 5 and 6- symbols (compare the latter with Fig. 1, top) imply additional significance overlooked by Griaule and Dieterlen. Bottom: The symbol pattern oriented for calendric use.

5: Annotated appearance of part of a Venus calendar, incorporating the symbols in Fig. 4, on the east-facing outside wall of the house of the Hogon of the Arou, according to L.R.P., p. 481. The symbols were drawn with python dung. Bold- face numbers are approximations to the 3.2-year interval between successive, same-season apparitions (synodic periods) of the planet; plainface numbers give the true elapsed times after one and two cycles, respectively.

6: Recent examples of the 4 types of figures described by Venus on the sky during evening and morning apparitions, from freehand copies of computed figures for 40 minutes after sunset as seen at the latitude of Dogon territory, 14-15°N. A small "s" marks first visibility.

 
 
 
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