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Observations placeholder

Ogotemmeli - Anvils, hammers and the celestial granary



Type of Spiritual Experience


A description of the experience

Conversations with Ogotommeli (An Introduction to Dogon Religious ideas) – Professor Marcel Griaule

Dogon Nummo

The chief tool he went on to say is the hammer.  The celestial granary was a hammer; and everybody believes that it was in this hammer that the seeds came down from heaven.  The hammer is the webbed hand of the water spirit.  The arm is the cone shaped handle, and the hand itself is the four sided face of the tool which it strikes.

The hammer is also the whole body of the water Spirit, the male great Nummo in heaven.  Two of the opposite sides are his arms, and the other two his back and chest.  The cone shaped handle is the serpent’s tail in which the lower part of his body ends.

The anvil is something like the implement reapers use; it is the female form of the hammer, and represents the female Great Nummo.  The slab at the top is very narrow but rectangular and ends in a blunt point.  There is often a small hole at this lower end, reminiscent of the part played by the hammer that is, by the granary, in the organisation of the world, when its interior, symbolised by this hole, was full of organs and seeds.

The beam in which the anvil is embedded is made of a medium sized tree trunk about a cubit in length roughly squared.  It is sunk in the earth in a line north-south, as all men’s beds should lie.

The wood of the anvil is the bed of the two great Water Spirits.  When the hammer strikes the iron, the two come together.......................

But blows on the iron must be dealt by day.  The smith’s work is day labour, no doubt because the smithy fire, being a fragment of the sun, could not shine at night.  That is why it is forbidden, not only for smiths but for everybody, to strike blows on iron or stone or earth in the night time.  No blow of hammer or tap of pestle should be heard, whether loud or soft in the silent hours.

The source of the experience


Concepts, symbols and science items



Science Items

Activities and commonsteps