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Conversations with Ogotemmeli: An Introduction to Dogon Religious Ideas (Galaxy Books) Paperback – November 6, 1975

ISBN-13: 978-0195198218 ISBN-10: 0195198212 Edition: Reprint

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; Reprint edition (November 6, 1975)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195198212
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195198218
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 0.5 x 5.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #454,417 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Thoroughly recommended as one of the most important studies of West African traditional religion."--Geoffrey Parrinder, West Africa

"Will prove of interest and enlightenment to those still inclined to underestimate African subtlety and sophistication."--Times Literary Supplement

"Dogon religion (Sudan) is seen through the eyes of...an elder of exceptional intellectual attainments.... It is good to have this material now in English."--Anthropological Forum

Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Georgia on May 14, 2007
Format: Paperback
Many years ago a colleague in African Studies told me to buy this book. It had just been published in English, Griaule was dead and my study of Africa has just begun. After reading it I wanted so badly to visit the Dogon who seemed at the pinnacle of African cultures. Realizing that the French were fascinated by the Dogon and after visiting galleries all of the French Quarter in Paris viewing Dogon art. My obsession to visit Pays Dogon nerer went away. I did not get to visit Dogon Country until 2006 for a quick tour on my way to the Festival of the Desert near Timbuktu. What I found was just as stimulating as I had suspected, a group of people still surviving amidst huge change living on the escarpment as before. Islam has nearly taken over, but parts of the culture still remain and the charm of their cosomology still can be found for the person who studies the Dogon langusge. Out of Africa comes the most surprising information about how they lived. Of all the cultures of Africa I have looked at or lived in, this culture stands out and needs further investigation. The Pale Fox is a good place to start after Ogotmmeli. The Dogon and the Tellem are very mysterious cultures

that need further study. But better yet, go live there and figure out the mystery of their attraction. Andy Hanson
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44 of 53 people found the following review helpful By Ernest West on November 26, 2001
Format: Paperback
I first read this book in 1984 while I was doing research on the infamous "Face On Mars" photographs taken by NASA in 1978 and released to the press in 1981 or 1982. One of the main proponents of the Face On Mars being an artifact was Richard Hoagland and part of his theory hypothesized that the builders originally came from a planet or planets orbiting the star we call Sirius.
It turns out that the Dogon tribe not only has a religion/mythology that says the tribe's ancestors are originally from a planet orbiting the star Sirius,the Dogon are also famous for claiming that Sirius was actually a double star, years before telescopes could determine the same information. I began reading the book hoping to find more information along the same line.
As the title says, the book is a series of conversations with the tribe's resident wise man and it is interesting to note a sense of superiority in Ogotemmili's response to the author. It's as if all the things he is saying are without question, absolutely true and the poor dumb westerner can hardly be blamed for his ignorance.
Ogotemmeli's descriptions, explanations and narrations of the tribe's beliefs are fantastic in details as well as in scope, and his origin story alone is worth the price of the book.
Even Ogotemelli's idiosyncracies are telling; whenever he gets ready to talk he has to smoke tobacco first. He says everyone knows that tobacco puts the mind in the proper mood for such activities as these, and "coincidentally" it was 1998 when scientists confirmed that nicotine in fact does counter some elements of memory loss diseases.
All in all, the book will give the reader a different perspective on primitive mythology, human origins and "Alien Visitations". According to Ogotemmeli, his people are aliens from another star system who visited and stayed. That's something to think about.
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38 of 47 people found the following review helpful By rudiger on February 15, 2003
Format: Paperback
French ethnologist Marcel Griaule led numerous research expeditions throughout Africa from the 1930s until his death in 1956. He carried out his best-known research on the Dogon people of Mali. "CONVERSATIONS WITH OGOTEMMELI" is presented as a series of 33 encounters with Ogotemmeli, an elderly Dogon sage, who explains his people's creation myth and understanding of the universe.
Griaule's text offers us Ogotemmeli's words with comparatively little comment and even less explanation. We read of gods and water spirits, immortal ancestor figures and blacksmiths descending to earth on rainbows. Griaule asks questions and relates his own interpretation of the story but only rarely. Near the end he wonders whether there is more than a superficial resemblance between Dogon cosmology and the signs of the Zodiac. Otherwise, the book consists of elaborately rendered folklore, "straight from the horse's mouth" so to speak.
The problem with this text is that Griaule gives us nothing with which to evaluate what his elderly informant is telling him. As renowned anthropologist Jack Goody wrote of this English translation in 1967, "What are we to make of this rich and indigestible fare?" There is no way to judge the significance of this myth based on this book alone, and subsequent research has thrown much of what Ogotemmeli tells us into doubt: the question is not whether the old man really said all this to Griaule (he probably did), but whether what he told him was really at the heart of Dogon culture. The fact that other anthropologists working among the Dogon have failed to find evidence of a coherent creation myth, despite spending years in the field and mastering the language (neither of which Griaule had done), should make us ask what this book really represents.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By E. Worth on June 28, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book provides an interesting introduction to the religious beliefs of the Dogon people, though it can only be an introduction. It is written as a novel, with the author referring to himself in the third person as 'the European' or 'the Nazarene', so it is difficult to know just how seriously we are intended to take its presentation of Dogon cosmology as a unified, coherent system - Griaule seems to have wanted to cover his tracks in case anyone questioned its literal accuracy.

The previous user of my second-hand copy had underlined the one word 'Sigui' with the marginal notation 'Sirius B!', but anyone looking for juicy details of advanced knowledge of astronomy will be disappointed - at the time of writing this book, Griaule had evidently not come up with this interpretation. One wonders what Ogotemmeli would have made of it had he lived - there is certainly no indication here of an interest among the Dogon in Sirius. Their heavenly twins are - as in many other cultures around the world - the Sun-woman and the Moon-man. Robert Temple assumed that if the Sun-woman was equivalent to the Egyptian goddess Isis and the Moon-man to her consort Osiris and further that if Isis was equivalent to the star Sirius, then Osiris could only be Sirius's 'consort' Sirius B. This is a tortured chain of 'if's'. In any case, it is now acknowledged that Isis was associated with the constellation of Canis Major while Sirius was her son Horus, so the argument collapses.

Laird Scranton has made much of a connection to Buddhist stupas and Temple has stressed Egyptian and Greek connections, but I find the similarities to Australian Aboriginal myth of greater interest and possibly pointing to more productive lines of inquiry. The author's death interrupted work on a companion volume 'Conversations with Ogopogo: The Cosmology of a Lake Monster'.
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