CREATION OF THE SENE:
Having thought and then designed the world he wished to create, Amma tried as an experiment to superpose a bit of every kind of substance that formed a “flesh” originating from his own person, a “dross” to which he added his saliva. Softly kneading it with his hands, he molded it into the form of a seed, i, (one also says “of a child”; the parts that ran out between his fingers formed “roots.” The result of this first labor was the seed of the tree sene na, the first of all plants. The work is remembered by one of the names given to the creator, “Amma kneader” (amma manane). The oval-shaped seed, comparable to a “chicken’s egg” (ene talu), had to contain four elements and the principle of all beings. It was larger than the other seeds would later be, particularly those of the cereals. It is said that in order to create the sene na, Amma “cleared his throat,” which made earth; his saliva became water; he breathed when he returned to the sky, this being fire; he blew hard, this being wind. He did not mix the elements, but superposed them: he put down earth, then water, then fire, then air. “Amma, to create the sene na, superposed things separated into four.”’* It is also said that the four elements of the sene are “the four ‘nails’ of Amma’s thumb and fingers.” A figure, called “seat of the sene in four (elements) put on top of each other when one builds the lebe altar of the Fox,”” represents the seed (the circle) and the four elements, deliberately placed off-center.
The work performed inside “Amma’s oval egg in a ball” and by the superposition of the elements is compared to the creation of a nest, senu; hence the name given to the seed, sene 1.8° This action is also associated with the etymology of the word that designates the tree in general, timmu, which comes from timme, “to superpose.” Recalling both the formation of the primordial burmmo and of the sene, it is said: “Water is the food, the sene represents the first thing created by Amma.”
CREATION OF THE “FIRST WORLD.
Beginning with the seed of the sene na and the tree, which are said to be “the created things of the first world,”*? Amma formed a first universe. Of this creation, carried out secretly in “Amma’s clavicles,” little is known, for it was destroyed; only its rough outline can be told. He began by planting a seed of Acacia Faidherbia (sene i), which had the shape of the thorn of the present tree, also compared to the hand bell ganana,® which ends in a tapered point. On the tip of this upward pointed thorn, he placed, upside down, a small cap of the same wood by way of a cover; it had a mushroom-like bulge at its pole that served as a handle. ‘This cap was inverted in order to receive everything that was in the “sky,” and then to spill it out over the “earth.” On the circumference and on the inside were the signs. He steadied it with the help of another thorn pointing downward and forming, together with the first one, an axis on which spun the cap, a symbol of space. The parts of the cap have the following meaning: the bulge is “the ball of the world,” aduno gunnu, containing the germs of beings and things. The cap itself, which flares out from the top bulge, rep- resents the “extension of the world” (aduno ginnay) (fig. 13, A). The whole thing is called “hand of the Fox,”** because the germs, in order to be projected into the world, are drawn out as if by a “hand,” which is in itself a passage; one also says that “the germs were projected by a hand.” It is also said that Amma first put the things of the sene one on top of the other and in the second place the “hand” itself (fig. 13, B). This entire device represents the world standing on one foot, turning on itself, and filled with germs that are fertilized by the contact between the two thorns; the upper thorn is the male “sky,” the lower one is the female “earth.” Its bell shape, a symbol of the widening inherent in multiplication, allowed things to descend by their own weight, in order to pass back into the gunnu (the “ball” containing the germs), so as to be like filtered, clarified, and purified. The cap turned slowly between the two thorns (a top made of ponnu fruit recalls this).*° When speed had increased, the device exploded and all the germs were scattered. After the germs had developed inside the cap, Amma took it and turned it right-side up. This was like a birth process of germs, poured out over the “earth,” where they spread out because of their own weight and subsequently developed on their own, while the two points were rejoined. This is how the world first functioned, which is described as follows: “Amma placed ‘the Fox’s hand’ between the upper point and the lower one, and things began in that. Amma made ‘the Fox’s hand,’ which was in the middle, spin, scattering what was inside; all sorts of things came out of it. The hand of the Fox, which was with the palm up, contained all sorts of things belonging to the world; in turning it upside down, (everything) was scattered. When Amma stopped the spinning of the hand, which was between the upper and lower thorns, and drew it back, the two (thorns) which remained were like a man and a woman who lie down and unite (literally; to enter into). These two thorns (represent) the union of the sky and the earth.”®° When the germs were scattered, it is said that the empty hand “thinned down” and took the flattened form of the hand of the Fox as it is at present.
DESTRUCTION OF THE “FIRST WORLD.
But Amma had put too many things into the first creation. Moreover, their superposition was not effective; it failed. In fact, during the spin- ning the basic element “water” left the whole. Therefore, when empha- sizing that this scattering of the elements contained in the grain had been the cause of disorder, one says that “the sene seed is neither dead nor alive,” “that it is neither plant nor tree nor anyone, and represents Amma’s failure.” ®” Amma was not satisfied with the creation of this world by the sene, which constituted a first failed attempt, a first exercise. He abandoned and destroyed it, keeping of this roughly drafted creation with the sene only the seed itself and the four elements as well as certain germs of wild seeds, which were to develop later. These events are represented by a figure drawn under the altar to the Fox (yurugu lebe) at its foundation. It associates the “hand of the Fox,” yurugu numo, and the four elements contained in the sene, preserved by Amma. These consist of four yala, called sene i yala, placed at the center in a line oriented east-west which separates two inverted hands (of the Fox) respectively pointing to the north and to the south Amma decided to resume his work, to create another universe that would have man as its foundation. This new world — already included in, and prefigured by, the bummo of the “womb of the world” (see fig. 3, Ch. I) and depending upon the progression represented by the series of signs denoting different stages — will be formed according to another technique in which the elements will not be superposed, but rather mixed and blended in a continuous movement, the condition for their perfect integration. It is said of the sene kept by Amma, and which will find its place in the second universe: “The sene is the present witness of the former creation,” which is called “world which has passed before.” It will transmit to the “second world” the fundamental elements conferred upon it by Amma. The sene was, and will remain, the first plant life created by Amma; since the “first world” had been realized through the intermediary of a plant, in the second world the plant will be considered just like a “person.” A sacrifice will be performed annually on the trunk of the sene na in the “field of the family house,” ginna minne, and this sacrifice will hold good for all vegetation. It is said: “The sacrifice offered (sacrificed) to the sene is (valid) for all trees; the trees are like the Nommo, like a person.”®! When animals eat the leaves of the sene, they will assimilate the nyama of the tree; their excrement will promote the growth of cereals and of all vegetation. Men will absorb this force by eating the seeds of fruits and the leaves of the different plants, and will transmit it to the earth and the rocks by moving about. The aged who are nearing the end of their days will sleep on a board of sene. The gutter of dwellings will be made of sene wood; at the funeral of its owner it will be placed next to his blanket in the main square. This ritual will unite the witnesses of the former world and those of the new one, represented by the cloth, both symbols of Amma’s “word.”
So Amma began his work anew and proceeded with a second genesis. First of all, he decided to form new seeds, that is to say, new “germs” with which he would produce a second world. These seeds would be those of cereals, dene, and of food plants: the first and most important — but also the smallest — was to be the po seed (Digitaria exilis). Starting from the primordial “traces,” bummo, Amma first drew the “marks,” yala, of a new universe inside his “womb” or his “egg.” This formation took place in two stages, the succession of which shows the internal movements impressed, from the beginning, upon the fundamen- tal elements used for the creation of all things, animate and inanimate, which were to make up this universe. Amma’s drawings for the elabora- tion of this second genesis are represented by two successive figures.
FIRST YALA OF AMMA’S “EGG.”
The first figure is called: yala of Amma’s egg” (amma talu yala) or “vala of Amma’s egg with 266 (signs),”°? and denotes the original thought of the creator (fig. 15). It is composed of dots that are undifferentiated, yet of an exact number, corresponding, one to one, with the bummo traced in his womb at the beginning, emphasizing the intrinsic value of number in the realization of the universe. For it is said: “The thing that Amma created, that he sent into the world, that is what one has counted.” In this figure, the “egg of the world,” still closed, is divided into four sectors, prefiguring the four divine “clavicles” which will open when the world is cast out of Amma’s bosom. Indeed, the clavicles form the suspension system of the body as a whole: “The clavicles are the equipment for the body’s suspension.”** God will open himself up into two twin pairs of “clavicles,” thus emphasizing the essential value of these supports for the human being; they will contain the symbols of the seeds of cereal grains, that is, of the basic elements of the second world. “The number in Amma’s egg is 266." The outline of the drawing encompasses the picture of the signs; the spiraled center plays a role on the inside comparable to that of the yolk in an egg. These 266 yala are positioned in the following manner (from the center to the periphery): — 66 for the po, the other cereal grain seeds, and the sene — 4 for the gaba seeds and 4 for the anu seeds — 128 for the circumference of the central circle or gaba gunnu “ball of the calabash” or amma kolo doy “seat of the inside of Amma” — 64 for the egg itself, which will later open into four “clavicles.”** a) The sixty-six yala of the central spiral break down as follows: twenty-two at the center for the po, then forty for eight seeds, at the ratio of five per seed, and finally four for the sene at the tip of the spiral. The po, in the body of which Amma will build the world, is here understood to be the principle and prefiguration of the seed. Therefore, one says that the po, symbol of the smallest thing in the world, is “the greatest of the cereals.” It has twenty-two yala. At the center of the spiral of the twenty-two yala of the po, first six yala are counted (as were the first six bummo in the breakdown of the picture of the signs). These six yala are the “sex of the po”; their number connotes the initial masculinity of the po’s sex, for three will represent, in man, the penis and the two testicles. The repetition of the number 3 underscores another fundamental aspect of Amma’s second genesis: twinness. In essence, the po, the first living germ, will be twin (3+3). When it will come into being, the seed of the male po pilu will be doubled by a female seed. Moreover, Amma will confer a double role upon the po pilu: as a male, it will give its impetus to the universe; as a female, at a precise moment of the development of this universe, it will play a role nearly comparable to that of Amma himself. The po will be twin because everything in this universe will have to be able to reproduce itself. The repetition of these two numbers in itself also connotes this essential duality: Amma, who created; the world which he created. For Amma will remain present in this universe by his creative word, of which one says: “The word came out of the first yala of the po.””” The six yala of the “sex of the po” are considered as the yala of the “sex” of the universe; they will also be the image of the sex of the first animate being formed in Amma’s womb, the nommo anagonno, symbol of the human fetus. With regard to the cereal seeds, the six yala prefigured the six varie- ties of po. The sixteen yala which follow are the “body of the po,” po gozu, that is, the seed itself and the plant that will sprout from it germ. The spiral formation of the yala makes it clear that the po will be “alive,” for it is prefigured in movement. It denotes the formation of the poseed,symbolof “the smallest thing,” as well as of the vital force that will give it an internal movement, life. In addition, the number of yala assigned to the future seed recalls the basic number of categories classifying the sum of primordial signs. In essence, through number, the po will contain the entire universe conceived in thought by Amma. At the time of the dineu kono, “beer of the twins,” a ceremony which begins the offering of the first fruits, the patriarch says: “God has given us bago, the most ancient of cereals is the po, its number is twenty-two, Amma, here is your water.” He then pours the porridge on the altar and adds: “We have had some harvest, may Amma have us finish it in the hole of the tooth: may he allow the cereals to be good, may Amma let us find the next year.” Next come forty other yala assigned to eight cereal grain seeds, five for each of them, in the following order: emme ya, emme pilu, emme di giru, emme na kolo, yu, ara, nu, namu. “The number in the eight seeds is five, together they are forty.”°° The numbers eight and five, into which the yala break down, refer to the “eight ancestors” of humanity, the “fami- lies,” lato sensu, which were later to develop on the Earth, and the five first generations that were to succeed each other within each lineage. The four final yada are assigned to the sene, here called “testimony of the former world” (aduno pey sere) and of the first genesis. Their number emphasizes the presence in the new universe of the four elements, preserved by Amma with the sene, in the following order: water, fire, earth, and air, the last being located at the tip of the spiral. For Amma, in order to insert the four elements that he had kept after he had destroyed the first world formed with the seed of the sene, picked them up again and incorporated them into the seed of po from which the new universe was to emerge. It is said: “Amma who had brought the four ‘kinds’ of thing to the world which had passed before, modeled this (present) world with the four divided things and put them into the body of the po. ”!™ The fundamental value of these sixty-six spiraling signs — which convey Amma’s dynamism — is recalled during the foundation of a totemic sanctuary with a sentence uttered by the priest: “At the beginning (of the founding) of the sanctuary of the binu, the sixty-six yala of Amma’s body are all drawn together.”b) The internal spiral of the egg is flanked on each side by two series of four yala, vertically positioned, which support it. Each of these four points is assigned to the anu seeds on the left, and to the gaba seeds on the right. As a sign, they respectively prefigure the male and female “souls,” kikinu, which will animate the po and the other seeds when they are formed. Therefore, when later a field of po will be sown on Earth, it will be mixed with the seeds of the anu, and the gaba will be sown on a hill, both of these being “guardians of the souls of the po” and, therefore, of all cereal grains.!°* Everywhere the millet fields are also surrounded by anu plants; all these seeds are put into a calabash for the sowing time.1°4 When sowing gaba (to the northeast and southeast of the field, since rain comes from the east), one says: “gaba, your number is four, enter into the field.”1°> When sowing anu: “anu, your number is four, sur- round the field at the four cardinal points.” !% The vertical position of the yala of the gaba and anu — fixed in | relation to the spiral of the po — also stands for the future “descent” of the universe out of Amma’s womb. c) This set of three figures is enclosed in a circle, made of 128 yala, that prefigures the shape of the calabash, gaba, at the state of maturity and represents “the seat (or the womb) of Amma’s inside,” amma kolo doy. These 128 points comprise primarily 120 yala, that is to say, 2 x 60, sixty being called me lugi, “number of the placenta,” connoting the future formation in that place of a double placenta where the first animate beings created by Amma, the nommo anagonno, will develop later. The eight remaining yala, placed in the bottom of the circle, are “Amma’s eyes,” amma giru, and they prefigure the formation of the four collateral directions of future space, called “angles four,” sibe nay. d) The sixty-four yala, which outline the egg and Amma’s closed clavicles enclosing “Amma’s seat,” are the representations of the develop ment and future organization of society within a territorial group of several extended families. For the extension of the universe will take place at the opening of Amma’s clavicles; this extension is also mani- fested by human societies. In the course of the ritual performed during the feast of the sowing around the altar of Lébé, the priest says: “The men of Amma and of the vageu who have come, their number is thirty because of their name; the men of the /ebe and the binu, their number is thirty-four; let men be born unto them. When they are gathered together, their number is sixty-four.” And then, addressing those present, he adds: “Do not take the wives of your friends; do not give the women of this village to another man; he who wishes to give them away, Amma sees him, the ancestors see him, the lebe sees him, the binu sees him. May Amma give us the next day”;!°” for the sixty-four yala of the egg were “the promise of the world.”
OPENING OF AMMAS “EYES”: SECOND YALA OF AMMA'SS EGG.”
Amma, having thus positioned the yala for the prefiguration of the universe, acted upon them.
He “opened his eyes.” This act provoked the emergence of the yala from the spiral which, turning in the other direction, will prefigure, inside the egg, the future expansion of the universe. Because of this, it is said that Amma “pushed aside the yala of the gaba and of the anu,” in order that the spiral turning on its axis might be able to reverse itself. Thus Amma had pierced the envelope of his own womb, and his “eye,” as it burst forth from the hole, had become a light that illuminated
the universe and revealed the existence of all things in their formation.
This stage of Amma’s acts is represented by a parallel figure, called amma talu yala leye, “second yala of Amma’s egg,” and also “yala of Amma’s removed egg with 266 (signs). At the bottom of the
central circle eight yala, so-called “Amma’s eyes,” amma giru, formed a star pattern and, having become fonu, prefigured the “four angles” (sibe nay) or the four collateral directions of future space (fig. 17). “Amma’s eyes are on (are watching) the world.”!!° The drawing of these tonu also ymbolized the future opening of the four “clavicles” that are still closed; and, at the same time — as a part of the gaba containing the seeds — the four chambers of a granary. The clavicle is indeed called “granary of anu” (anu guyo). It is also said that “Amma’s eyes (are) like the inside of a granary.”'"! In this figure of the second stage of the ege’s yala, the spiral turns in the opposite direction from the spiral in the preceding drawing and seeks a “way out” through Amma’s open “eyes.” So, the first yala shown at the exit are those of the sene, i.e., the four elements in the following order: air, earth, fire, and water. The yala of the cereal seeds follow in order, those of the po — created the first —
having to leave last. The number of lines is the same as in the preceding figure; this expresses the duality of “Amma’s egg” and of the universe in formation — both are 266 — for it is said that, while unfolding themselves, the spinning yala became twins. The emergence of the yala from the spiral crossing the signs of the collateral directions of space prefigured the future creation of all the
heavenly bodies: as they come out they will become tonu. However, reversing their movement a second time, they will once again spin in the
direction of the spiral inside the egg. Thus animated, they will be called
“diagram of the space of the po become seven ‘bounds of (the) place’”
(Milky Way).!" Now, the term yalu ulo, designates the Milky Way of our
galaxy, which includes the entire stellar world of which the Earth is part,
and which turns in a spiral. The number seven expresses the multiplication,
for as we have seen, it is the total of three, which symbolizes the male
sex, and four, the female sex. Seven expresses, in this case, the quasi-
infinite multiplication and development of the spiral-shaped stellar
worlds to be formed by Amma which, having reversed their movement
as they emerged, will spin, on the outside, in the original direction of the
movement within the primordial egg. Thus, the transformation of yala
into tonu marks a stage in the formation of the heavenly bodies —
visible and invisible — which are twins of the seeds. It prefigures all
spiraling worlds of stars that are to fill the universe of Amma — infinite
and yet measurable — when he will “open himself up.”
The second world, at this stage of its formation, had the shape of an egg.
The ostrich egg placed on the terraces of the dwellings of Hogons as well
as on those of certain totemic sanctuaries! recalls the original form
Amma gave to the universe in the process of its creation.
The ritual bonnet worn by the Hogon of Arou, religious leader of the
Dogon, recalls both the 266 initial bummo of Amma’s thought and the
formation of the universe from the 266 yala of “Amma’s egg.” It is made
of the stalks of the eight basic cereals and has the shape of a bonnet with
a convex top and a cylindrical body. It is composed of a basket work,
started from the apex in a conical spiral over the crown, then wound
helically down around the cylinder. Between the six coils, paired lines
are inscribed forming a continuous grillwork. It has the same form as an
utensil called a “bean bonnet,” nu goro, with which Sudanese house- ives separate beans from the sand in which they are stored.
Made in this way, the head-dress represents a theoretical diagram of
the 266 signs placed in six rows. These six rows recall the six yala in the
center of the spiral in the “egg.” The helix turns in the direction of the
development of the universe, that is, in the direction of the spiral after
the opening of ““Amma’s eyes.” One also says of this head-dress: “The
number of the Hogon’s bonnet is sixty; the number of the Hogon’s men
is sixty.”4!6 These expressions also point to the 120 yala forming the
center of the “egg” or “Amma’s seat,” which will become the womb, the
“placenta” where all beings are to be formed.!””
The bonnet, therefore, symbolizes the world and its formation as well
as the very essence of the thought and deeds of the Creator. Its impor-
tance is emphasized by the rites accompanying its making or its use, the
purport of which we will explain below.
The head-dress of the Hogon of Arou is braided by eight Hogon who
meet at the village of Arou-near-Ibi. This meeting, called “the world has
arrived,” aduno viay, is held inside the house or, if attendance is great,
outside. The chief of Arou, seated on his platform, faces the door, i.e.,
the east. His colleagues, seated in a circle before him, face the center,
after having reached their seats by completing a circle from left to right.
Between them and the master of the house, four totemic priests are
positioned, substitutes for the four cardinal points. Each works with the
stalk of one of the primordial plants — white millet, white sorghum,
bean, rice, sesame, hibiscus, female sorghum, and “road” sorghum —
after the Hogon, Amma’s substitute, has taken the first one to begin the
The eight plants that are used recall the first dispensation of edible
seeds to man: the different colors of the stalks are those of the rainbow.
The head-dress is never exposed to anyone’s view, with the exception
of the totemic priests, who help the Hogon, or other dignitaries. When
the Hogan wears it for public ceremonies, it is completely enveloped in
a turban or covered with a sort of tarboosh.
In the event of serious problems or a calamity, a ceremony, also
called “the world has arrived,” aduno viay, brings all the chiefs together
around the Hogon’s head-dress to invoke Amma. The Hogon, seated on
his platform in the main room of his residence, faces the door opening to
the east; the other leaders sit in a semicircle opposite him, their gaze
directed at the center embodied by the head-dress, this time having
entered by turning from right to left. Four priests are placed, two by two,
on each side of the platform and in front; they represent the four
cardinal points. The Hogon implores Amma and speaks with his eyes
fixed on the bonnet placed in the middle, top down, like a “world turned
upside down,” aduno bileniay.
CREATION OF THE PO.
Thus, inside the egg Amma himself was like a spiraling motion, called “accelerated ball,”; then the oval po seed was created, which placed itself invisibly at the center.
It is said: “When Amma broke the egg of the world and came out, a whirlwind rose. The po, which is the smallest (thing), was made, invisible, at the center; the wind is Amma himself. It is the po which Amma let come out first.”!!® Amma’s creative will was located in the po, the smallest of things. Like a central air bubble, it spun and scattered the particles of matter in a sonorous and luminous motion which, however, remained inaudible and invisible. It was less a word than a thought.'”
As the sene might have been in the first creation (with which Amma was dissatisfied), in the second one the po is the image of the origin of matter. Therefore, it will later be forbidden for different categories of men to eat it or speak about it; because “the beginning of things is Amma’s greatest secret.” Moreover, the po is also the image of the creator. “Amma, the creator, was not himself great (big), but of that it is
forbidden to speak; in his place (i.e., in order to replace himself) he transformed the po into wind and left it that way. Amma, from the moment when he created all things, each was like the po; they grew larger whereas the po did not; the seed was formed like wind and it is forbidden to talk about it.”
The seed is in this fashion a “living testimony of the air,” that is, the proof of Amma himself who, at the beginning, was comparable to the whirlwinds, today’s visible elements. It is called po, a word considered to have the same root as polo, “beginning.”
Indeed, due to its smallness, it is the image of the beginning of all things. “All the things that Amma created begin like the little (seed of) po.” And, beginning with this mfinitely small thing, the things created by Amma will form themselves by the continuous addition of identical elements: “Amma makes things begin (by creating them as) small (as the) po; he continues to add (to the things created) little by little, that thing (i.e., the element as infinitesimal as the po). As Amma adds that (i.e., elements the size of the seed), the thing becomes large.”
While molding the po, Amma placed the signs in it that were in his hand; this is represented by a figure called “drawing of Amma as a person making the body of the po,” or again “Amma making the world in the body of the po. > Amma is presented there in anthropomorphic form, because of the “hands” with which he creates matter. The drawing placed under Amma represents the initial po at the moment of its
formation. The three central figures are the penis (the circle) and the testicles (the two filled-in figures), and the dotted line surrounding them in a Spirial is the semen (or seed). Thus, the fact is emphasized that the creation of the seed began by the creation of sex, the very source of transmission of life. The figure is the toy of the first six yala of the spre within the egg which denoted, at the beginning of the progressive realization of matter, “the sex of thepo.” The last dot has two lines coming off it: it thus represents the future germ of the seed piercing the two “skins” of the envelope that will open at the time of germination.
And as germination is comparable to the birth of anew being — the plant in this case — the figure conveys that “Amma created the po as twin,” that is to say, male and female. In addition, it underlines the fact that the po will produce six =
varieties on earth:[…] these varieties will be considered as twins, two by two,the last two having appeared belatedly during cultivation.
In this infinitely small thing Amma then placed the four elements which thus far had contained the four zonu of the sene. Amma’s acts are represented by a series of figures.. The first, called “diagram of the sene seed placed high up inside the four corners of the sanctuary, shows in the four corners of a square the four elements contained by the sene in the form of tonu. It evinces the role of the sene in the second genesis, and also connotes the superposition of the four elements in the formation of the seed.
In accordance with Amma’s will, each of them extended its “germ” to touch its neighbor, from east to north, from north to west, etc. This “crossing of the germs” is compared to the intertwining of twigs forming a “nest,” senu.'?® These germs then gathered at the center, where they mixed together and were transformed at the very site of the po, which was still invisible. Then, surrounding the seed, they made it visible.
This second stage is represented by an analogous figure, called “tonu of the four elements of the sene passing into the po (drawn) on the sanctuary platform”? (fig. 20). It shows the extension of the “germs” from one to the other inside Amma’s egg and the extension of his four “clavicles” around the central “seat” where the po is to be formed. “Amma took the four things of the world which had passed before, he modeled the world of today with the four separate things to put all of
them into the body of the po.”
Thus the first po seed was created. In this infinitely small element resided an even smaller principle. It is said: “Inside the po, which is (the symbol) of the smallest, is an even smaller thing which is life.”!! Life developed at the same time as its (means of) support made of the blended elements: this development worked on the principle of a motion turning in a conical! spiral. It is said: “When life increases, it increases by whirling,” which is a repetition of Amma’s first act, because “that imitates how Amma came out of the egg of the world The bummo of the po provide a first view of the internal movement of the seed (fig. 21, a,b,c). The first prefigures its spiraling motion; in the second, the curve twists as if rolling itself up in continuation of the spiral; and in the third (fig. 21, c), called “trace of the image of the ending of the creation of the world by the po, "4 this same curve no longer bends when it emerges, but rather extends itself more, prefiguring the “complete opening of the created world.”
This spiraling motion is evidence of Amma’s intentions. On the one hand, to avoid what happened with the sene seed made of the superposed elements (one of which, water, had detached itself), Amma blended and mixed these same elements in the po seed. “Except fortrees (which are all of the same essence as the sene, Amma created
things by mixing together the four separate things.”!° On the otherhand, this mixing caused vibrations inside the seed. These vibrations were evidence of the action of the “word” of Amma — a “word” which, at this stage, formed the life of the seed. The development of life inside the seed is represented by a series of
figures called “drawings of the multiplication of the word of the po,’which suggests the successive appearance of seven vibrations developing in star-shaped fashion around a central nucleus. The first contains a central spiral, which recalls the form of the bummo and the formation from it of the first vibration of the “word”; the vertical bar placed below symbolizes the presence of the spiritual principles
of the future seed. The following figures show the development of the vibrations in segments of increasing size, ending with the seventh (at left), called “tonu seven,” tonu soy.
In this figure, which evinces the fundamental action of Amma’s “word,” the seven branches must be interpreted as the sum of three, the male number, and four, the female number, indicating a creation of the seed in both masculinity and femininity.
Thus, an important turning point occurs in the labors of creation: while the seven segments marking the seven first internal movements have the nucleus as their point of departure, their extremities are at a progressively greater distance from the center. As a result, these extremities are on a spiral comparable to that of the yala of the po. The development of the seed can take place only on the outside after the seventh segment had gone through the “wall” of the egg; because of this, it split up to form an eighth element. Thus, the seventh vibration reached the wall,
pierced it and, its extremity passing to the outside, made itself into an
eighth segment. The eighth figure shows the appearance of this segment,
which is compared to a “birth.” In this way, the eighth articulation of the
“word” within the seed will also have the privilege of being the germ of
the first in a new being.
This procedure is called “expansion of the creation of man,” an expression used to designate the initial spiral. For it is repeated in human reproduction, where the semen develops in the same way to form the placenta, which bursts and brings forth a new being, who repeats the begetter. It is comparable to the development of the millet grain, whose husk bursts under the pressure of the seed of the future
With regard to the formation of seeds, such as it was prefigured by the yala of the central spiral in Amma’s egg, the seventh figure must be read as follows: in the center of the oval, a point represents the germ of the po, the smallest of all cultivated grains. Around it are seven rays of increasing length, in the form of a star, marking the seven hypostases of “Amma’s word,” seven vibrations which are, in order, the principal seeds: yu, emme, nakolo, emme digiru, nu, namu, ara, emme ya. The last figure, in which the eighth segment has appeared, detached from the seventh, is the image of their germination and of the future reproduction of the cereal grains.
This figure is also called Amma’s tonu (fig. 23, B), one of the images of the creator, for “Amma is (like a couple of) original twins, which is expressed by the sum 3 + 4 = 7, as indicated by the reproduced figure if read according to its own duality, ie., by separating the four upper vibrations (2-3-4-5) from the three lower ones (1-7-6). The two top rays (3 and 4) form the head; the two below (2 and 5) the arms; the bottom two (1 and 6) the legs; and the last (7) the sex. This last ray divides itself into two, ejecting an eighth segment. It is the illustration of one phase of the creation when Amma divided himself into two parts, the first (the
central point and seven vibrations) being his word and himself, the second being the eighth segment, representing in itself the total of the first, that is to say, the whole creation in formation, i.e., the po seed. It is said: “The po came out of Amma like a bibile (a mutation or metamorphosis).
B. Amma’s tonu, In such an anthropomorphic form , it is also the prefiguration of the formation of the eight first animate beings (the nommo anagonno), which Amma will create after the production of the seeds, and who will be his workers, whose duty it is to perfect his creation.!? Now, the realization of this group of nine will entail the presence of both perfection and imperfection in the universe. From this perspective, the figure called “sign of the Nommo’s head”!! must be read as follows: the first seven segments will first form an androgynous whole, each containing twice the four elements (water, earth, air, and fire); they will thus be
made up of eight substances. Upon the creation of the eighth, each of the seven will give up a bit of its substances towards its formation, the whole of these contributions being equivalent to one part, so that the eighth will receive seven parts or seven substances. It will be less complete than the others, which possess eight. The missing substance is water; the new being, formed in this way, will become the Fox. Amma had deliberately acted in this manner. The eighth had to be
incomplete so that everything would be contained in nature, perfection as well as imperfection. Just as later, at amore evolved stage of creation, there had to be dryness and moisture, fertility and sterility, life and death, and also at the beginning of the world there had to be the dry po seed and the oval drop of the water element, the twinness of which is simultaneously antithetical and complementary.
The number of vibrations also bears evidence of a quasi-genetic link associating the “word,” so, with “seven,” soy. Indeed, soy literally means “this is the word.” Amma placed his “word” in the po where it progressively took on the form of seven vibrations: “The first thing that Amma did was to put the seven words into the po.”!”? The seven words, as we have already seen, constituted a couple of opposite sexes. The eighth word will be like the birth of a new being, begotten of the original couple; it prefigures the birth of Amma’s second universe, which will
emerge from the po.
The spiraling motion attributed to the “word” inside the seed is connoted by the name it has been given: the word po comes from a root meaning “to roll up” (into a turban).
Finally, the po, having reached a maximum of internal dynamism caused by the development of life, burst. And, imitating what had happened in Amma’s egg, the inner spiral then turned in the other direction. The figures denoting the formation of the seed recall these final stages. The yala of the seed is made of twenty-two yala in a spiral (twenty-two being in the “egg” the total number of the sex (six) and body (sixteen) of the po). The spiral turns in the direction imposed upon it by
the opening of “Amma’s eyes” (fig. 24, A). The tonu is made of seven rays around a dot, recalling the presence and action of Amma’s “word” (fig. 24, B). In the completed seed this burst of rays causes the spiral to spin in the other direction, as is shown by the toy of the seed.'* It represents the rolling up of the “word” — thus of life — in the mature seed
At this stage of creation, the “seat” or womb of Amma — represented in the “egg” by the yala of the gaba gunnu — contained the po seed like a spring, rolled up on itself. Inside, having spun in the direction imposed on the yala of the internal spiral of the “egg” after the opening of “Amma’s eyes,” Amma’s “word,” the seed’s life, once again spun in the original direction of that same creative spiral.
The internal movement of germination was prefigured by this spiral movement in two directions, which is the movement of the po. It is said: “The seed grows by turning.”'** Inside, while germinating, it first spins in one direction, then, after bursting, that is, after the emergence of the germ, it spins in the other direction, in order to produce its root and stalk. In addition, the explosion and release of the spiral in the opposite direction produced — in the image of the “word” which it contained — the fundamental twinness of the po, as provided for by Amma. It is said: “The po, spinning as it came out, became twins.”!° Thus this second
creation, that of the po, displays a movement that belongs to the universe. It was not enough for Amma the creator, who was a whirlwind himself, that his “word” had been emitted in vibrations of different order, length, and effect, nor that their spiral formation could fill all things of the world with internal movement: it was still necessary that this moving whole be churned in some manner, so that it might later be fertile.
The po, coiled up around itself, will keep the “word” until such time as Amma gives it the role of setting this word free by transmitting it to the whole of his creation.'“ In the second created universe it will be — with all the seeds born after it — evidence of the “vital” aspect of Amma’s “word.”
CREATION OF THE EIGHT SEEDS.
Continuing his work, Amma then created the other grains, dene,'beginning with the eight seeds prefigured by the forty internal yala of the spiral. Like the po, they will be twins, male and female. And the movement imposed upon their creation will allow some of them to form mutations (bibile) within the womb and produce other varieties (the emme ya, for example, producing other varieties of sorghum, the ara
geu producing other varieties of rice, etc.). He began with the emme ya, “female sorghum,” the most important of the cereal grains after the po pilu, a seed which will have a status and role similar to that of the po It is said that the emme ya seed, which Amma held between his fingernails, was the most tiring to make because it does not stand well on its ear.!*® The grain’s pod represents “Amma’s fingernails” that still hold itin place. For unlike the po pilu, which will come under many avatars in the course of the events that will take place on Earth, the emme ya will always remain intact. One says of it that “it is the purest of the cereal grains.”
ya means “woman,” as well as “yesterday” and “to leave.” A popular etymology gives yara, “to release”; for one says that “the second creation in the past (yesterday = ya) was released and liberated by Amma.” This is also an allusion to the beginning of things; ya, “to leave,” here takes on the meaning of “creation by action”; the expression yaga is used to say “in the beginning, at the origin.”
Of feminine essence, the emme ya will later be the guardian of the female sex souls of the cereals, while the po will be the guardian of the male souls. The emme ya is the “mother of the cereal grains.” It is said: “In the family of seeds, the po is the father and the emme ya the mother,”
In this manner the formed seed acquired the shape of the feminine sex. Given its reproductive role, it was also made larger than the po. It is said, figuratively, that Amma “tired himself making the emme ya seed (the world) enter into the smaller po seed (the origin of the world).”
But the emme ya did not burst like the po; it germinated. And its germination took place slowly, in contrast to the virile emission of the po. It gave “birth” to all the varieties of sorghum, the first being the emme di giru. In speaking of the emme ya, one says: “It is the biggest of all the emme; may it make us grow.”"!
The figures representing the creation of the emme ya recall its prerogratives; the graphic designs connote the seed’s germination and, likewise, the germination of all cereal grains.'>? Just as the po pilu, the plant will be shown in its entirety (on the facades of sanctuaries) by dipping a tuft of millet in rice porridge and quickly slapping it flat against the wail: there is a spattering forming the rays of the drawing and a thick plaster at the center of the ear. They alone will be shown this way, thus emphasizing their roles as the progenitors of the other seeds.
A variant of the figures representing the emme ya shows a tonu, connoting the stalk, Amma’s “fingernails” (the pod), and the seed itself; then a toy, which recalls “Amma’s work.”!>> The image is also that of the ritual iron lance (binu solumo), kept in the totemic sanctuaries connoting the stalk, Amma’s “fingernails” (the pod), and the seed itself; then a toy, which recalls “Amma’s work.”!>> The image is also that of the ritual iron lance (binu solumo), kept in the totemic sanctuaries to be the “eye of the Nommo” and “shows the path of the water to the emme ya. ” Then he created those of the emme pilu and the emme nakolo. Then black rice, ara geu; the figures of this seed are made up of three ovals, one within the other, connoting the later formation of two other varieties of rice, the ara pilu and ara banu'.
If the predominantly masculine po pilu and predominantly feminine emme ya are associated with the spiritual principles (Aikinu), with the souls of the grains of which they are the “guardians,” in like manner the yu and the nu are associated with the life force (nyama) of the seeds in its complementary masculinity and femininity.
From the beginning the yu had the shape of a male sex organ. The tip of the seed is the “mouth of the world that opens,” and the husk the image of the “ark” that will descend on earth.
The figure of the seed of “small white millet” (yu pilu i tonu), D) features a hook denoting the germ. It is repeated seven times, for the yu pilu gave birth to six other varieties: yu tolone peze, yu donno, yu toroy, bobo yu, manu yu, and sana yu.'*"
The bean, nu, which is said to be larger in volume than the largest cereal grain, is called “Amma’s food,” amma da.
It is said (when the seed splits in two) after germination: “The (climbing)
stalks of the bean are like Amma’s house,”!5* because of the oval they
describe, and because the form of the leaves recalls the shape of
Amma’s clavicle. In this capacity, it plays an important role in the big
family house (gunna), for it is the symbol of fertility and denotes preg-
nancy.’ The three figures called “tonu of the germination of the bean,”
The figure of the emme nakolo is drawn under the altars to Amma of the priests of binu 1,
under the same conditions The vocation of those individuals who, within the family or clan, offer a personal cult to Amma and to his agent the Nommo, is determined by the occurrence of trances, as 1s the case with the priests of binu na. nu tey tonu, connote the progression in the formation of the bean, nu ninu, and of its pod, nu kizu (fig. 27, C).1®° The toy of the bean shows the seed, with a stroke on either side of it, containing eight internal figures connoting the germination of the eight primordial seeds: the outside stroke on the right is called “nose of the bean,” nu kinu. The eight strokes are the “gift (given) by the bean,” nu solu: the curved stroke on the left is po pilu ready to emerge; then, from left to right: po banu, namu i, anu, yu, all the emme and the emme ya.'
A drawing one cubit high is also made above and to the left of the entrance door to the ginna, depicting the bean in question and the seeds: po banu, namu i, anu, ara, and yu, all of the emme, emme ya, and po pilu which, in the preceding figure, were shown to be inside in the process of germination.
There will be a great many types of beans on Earth that are considered to have originated from the first nu ninu: nu day dolo, nu seru, nu banu, nu pilu, nu teu, dunu nu.
The seed of the cottonbush, namu i, is included among the cereal grains for it will be consumed by man. The figures represent the formation of the arborescent cottonbush seed, namu na, “large cottonbush,” for the dwarf cottonbush will appear only later on Earth; they are drawn under the weavers’ altars to Amma, soy ti amma’.
The eight seeds are evidence of the presence of the “word” placed in the po — a “word” which, at that stage, constituted the “life” bestowed upon the second creation and implied fertility and reproduction. They are like the eight “words.” Therefore, they will later be symbolically represented in the clavicles of man, the support for his physical being, where they will become evidence of his wholeness.
Having thus successively formed the eight seeds of the primordial spiral, Amma then created the gaba and anu grains.
GABA AND ANU.
The seeds of anu and gaba, represented by the yala outside the spiral of Amma’s egg, will not emerge from the po as did the cereals. Amma had not placed them in the spiral of seeds, but had rather kept them in reserve, like the sowing seeds, dene toy, set aside in the granary.'* This spiral was contained in the womb-like gaba; the gaba seeds were formed inside “its pulp,” the very place where the first animate beings will be developed, the ancestors of humanity. And, “as if gently held by the pulp of the gaba,” the anu seed also formed itself. Like the yala, evidence of the body and sex souls of the cereals, the formed grains will also bear evidence of the links uniting grains and humans; for one says that “grains and men are of the same kind (species)”:'™ they will be associated with the eight principal vital internal organs of man — organs which are relays for the passage of the “word” through the human body by way of the bloodstream.!* In this capacity, they will be drawn as toy at the four openings of the main room of the ginna, the dembere, >womb of the inside,” two per opening, the gaba on the right and the anu on the left.° Each of these figures symbolizes one of the first four varieties of gaba (koro kuno, koro pomu, koro kinigu, koro kembogu) and of anu fanu na, anu golo, anu gonnoru, anu gogobolo). Their position in Amma’s egg and their particular role in the development of the universe will confer a special status on them.
The four yala assigned to each seed, and the twin creation of the gaba and anu seeds are remembered at sowing time. The calabash contains the seeds for sowing: anu is sown around the field “to guard it”; the seed of the calabash tree is sown at the east side of the field, because the rain comes from the east.'’ Of all the plants that can be cultivated, anu is the only one whose parts can all be utilized: one eats the leaves and seeds; ropes are made of its fibers. Consumption of the leaves takes place before the seeds have ripened. Also, it is sometimes said that Amma created the leaf first — and not the seed — which gives it its sour taste.
One also says that on Earth it will be the “adversary of the sene.” The formation of the anu will complete the cycle of the creation of the seeds; although created last, it will be man’s first food. Ata later stage, it will be the role of the anu to classify the elements of creation, especially the basic cereal grains — before their descent on Earth.'® That is why man’s clavicle (seat of the symbols of the eight primordial seeds) will be named ani guyo, “granary of anu.” A “figure of the ani,” anu tonu, conveys these various associations and, at the same time, it recalls the genesis of the primordial seeds: the upper circle, A, represents the divine “clavicle” where the seeds were formed, represented by the eight lines to either side (B and B’). The vertical line, C, shows the future descent of the seeds on Earth where they will be passed on to man; they are shown here by the bummo drawn inside the lower circle, which is both the gaba and the “created world”: D, the po;
E, the emme ya; F,theemme digiru; G, the emme pilu, H, the emme dum; K, the yu; L, the nu; M, the ara geu, N, the anu.'® The stages of creation of the seeds are summed up by comparing them with the succession of generations, and it is said, in speaking of Amma,
The life placed inside the seeds by the “word” is comparable to a fermentation. “Inside Amma, many things fermented.” It is the fermentation of the seeds in Amma’s bosom, causing them to burst and to germinate, that “will open the world” and allow it to develop. Theoretically, this development, associated with the four elements, will happen in the four directions of space. In light of this, one says that the yu and anu, gone to the east, correspond to air; emme ya and emme di giru, gone to the west, correspond to water; nu and namu, gone to the north, correspond to fire; po and ara, gone to the south, correspond to earth. These positions are recalled by the arrangement of the first five pots placed at the time of the foundation of an altar to the ancestors, vageu, and at the death of the founder of the
family house The active role of the fermentation at the time of the creation is
recalled by the brewing of beer at present:'’? the fermentation of the
liquid constitutes a “resurrection” of the cereal grains destroyed in the
CREATION OF THE NOMMO ANAGONNO
AMMA’S DOUBLE PLACENTA.
“Amma’s egg, that had enveloped all things inside it, became his placenta.”!”? This placenta was formed at the center, within “Amma's seat,” amma doy, or “calabash in a ball,” gaba gunnu, which prefigured the womb (matrix) of the world.
The word designating the placenta, me, comes from the same root as the word for copper, menu.'’* Copper is considered to be impure fire,'” i.e., fire which has undergone some mutation. It is “solid” fire and the second stage of fire which, as an element, was at the source of creation. Like the human placenta, which will always remain “alive,” even after coming out of the womb, copper, also called ya menu, “copper of past times,” is the symbol of permanence because “it does not die”: the
expression designates “all ancient things that do not end,” that do not disappear.
Now this primordial placenta was double, and its two parts were as if joined by Amma himself; the whole of it, called menu, “this is copper,” formed the world.
A figure made of two V’s — one upside down under the other — recalls the formation of the double placenta. It is called: “Amma forming two points,” that is, developing space. This bummo will be ritually drawn in the fields where sacred functions are performed and on the facade of the Hogon’s dwelling at Arou. It is one of the fundamental representations of Amma’s work.
This division also prefigures the two elements that emerge at the birth of a human being: the child, i, and his placenta, me. This double representation concerns what happens in the womb at the time of the formation of the fetus, namely, a division between the sac, sosoy,'”® also called i guru, “child’s nest,” and the placenta.
This division is also recalled by a drawing of a vertical line separating the moon and the sun,'”? and which prefigures, from a different viewpoint, the future division of time into day and night. Thus these three figures associated with the division of the first placenta represent the future separation of the sky from the Earth, the implementation of time and calendars (solar and lunar), and the basic duality of man.
Regarding Amma’s placenta, it is also said that it bears the name yaduro (“laden «or loaded down woman” or “which one loads” in the sense of “to superadd”). “Amma is in charge of the life of mankind,” yaduro is the “substance” of the placenta that Amma will use to model the first animate beings. yaduro is the name given to Amma’s placenta as “earth.” Because, as fire, it also contains the other elements, including earth, the raw material with which he will produce his work. Thus, the
other elements will still be present during this gestation: the primordial signs made of water, the placenta made of fire (copper), and the living beings of earth receiving the air that had been stirred by Amma to determine space and that will give them life.
With regard to the element “water,” the substance used to make the signs, Amma’s placenta was divided into six registers bearing his thought and his word, i.e., things and beings, schematically and in reduced form. “Amma who created the place of things ‘in a ball’ (in formation), (for) each thing he traced the division of the placenta into six (parts).”4*! This division was related to the initial impetus given to creation by the male sex (3 x 2) (represented by the six yala of the inner spiral of Amma’s egg), as if imprinted on the womb where the eight first beings (4 x 2) were to be formed. A figure shows the internal layout of this placenta (fig. 31). It reproduces the ancient round divination table to which all apprentice diviners are first initiated. “The division into six of the table of the Fox is like
the division into six of the placenta of the world.”!®? This table, called kala gono, “torn round,”!* has six divisions or “houses” (ginu) which are, respectively:
- amma numo da: Amma’s upper hand,
- amma numo donu: Amma’s lower hand,
- ginu bere da: upper central house,
- ginu bere donu: \ower central house,
- yimu numo da: upper hand of death,
- yimu numo donu: lower hand of death.
Man whom Amma will have “descend,” i.e., whom he will send down to Earth (only at a later stage in creation), will be created like nommo anagonno and following the same stages. Therefore, according to another version, the cosmic placenta is said to be divided into five registers; from this perspective, the five registers stand for Amma’s placenta and the individual placentas of the first two pairs of twin nommo anagonno. These five registers also recall the succession of the first five human generations descended from one of them,'* and prefigure the successive partitions of the field of the ginna into five parcels, that is, the squaring off of arable soil by the successive generations.
Inside this double placenta Amma created the first animate being, the silurus,* called nommo anagonno. It is said: “The nommo anagonno is the first living thing created by Amma.”!® The word for silurus, anagonno, breaks down into ana, “rain,” and gonno, “to sinuate,” ana also designates “man” (vir), whose seed, on the mythical plane, is associated with the fertilizing rain and fresh water. The word can also be translated as “sinuous rain,” or “male (who walks by) sinuating.” The sinuous walk belongs to the fish, or to the rain and to fresh water. But the term ana foretells that the living being created will become “man,” vir. Amma first created two pairs of male twins. The rough design of this pair of twin nommo anagonno created in the double placenta and their *(Any of the numerous fishes of the family Siluridae, comprising the catfishes.) position in relation to Amma’s clavicles are recalled by a tonu called “sign of the position of the Amma of the Dinu (representing) the design of the four nommo anagonno” . It stresses the positions of the
nommo anagonno created by Amma inside himself. The four strokes are also the bummo of the four kikinu of the body placed in the placenta, with which everyone will be endowed at the very beginning of his formation.'®’ The partition of the placenta into me da, “upper placenta,” and me donu, “lower placenta,” is made along a line going from east to west, denoting the future orientation of the rains. The figure also shows the future opening of “Amma’s clavicles” (shown at the cardinal points).
Like the bottom one, the top placenta contained a pair of twins, who were to develop normally at the same time. In order to accomplish this, it is said, Amma tried seven times; the realization took place the eighth time.
THE EGG OF THE “NOMMO ANAGONNO.
Like the “word” with which they are endowed, the nommo anagonno are already sketched inside the po. It is said: “The nommo anagonno that Amma created inside the po, Amma who created the po had made the image of the nommo anagonno inside.”The gestation of the nommo anagonno took place slowly in Amma’s womb, according to a process recalled by a series of figures. It started with the “fish egg” (izu talu), in this case the egg of the nommo anagonno. The yala of this egg, called nommo anagonno talu yala, contains 112 of the twin elements which first composed “Amma’s
egg,” because he divided them. Of the sixty-six yala of the central spiral which, from a certain viewpoint, constitute the beginning of Amma himself,°° Amma kept the first twenty-two, those of the po, and bestowed the remaining forty-four upon
the nommo anagonno. These yala were those of the eight seeds (five yala
per seed) and the yala of the sene (with four yala), evidence of the first
genesis and of the four elements. In the figure of the fish egg, these forty-
four yala make up the walls and divisions of this egg by four rows of ten,
with the four elements placed at the center. He also gave it sixty yala from the circumference of the gaba, a part of those of his “seat,” amma doy, of his own placenta.'®! He completed the egg by adding to it the eight lower yala of the circumference called “Amma’s eyes”; which had opened when the spiral was unwinding, and
which prefigured the existence of the four cardinal directions.Now, these final eight prefigure here the “four body souls and four sex souls” of the being in formation: thus, “Amma’s eyes,” which prefigured oriented space, will also be the supports for the spiritual principles of the nommo anagonno. It is said: “Amma’s eyes, four corners, became the kikinu of the nommo anagonno.”!? This attribution was also the image of the future rule of the nommo anagonno over the universe in formation; one of the roles of the nommo anagonno will be to protect and watch over the world created by Amma. And already during the division of the yala, the respective position of the amma giru, in relation to all those of the egg of the nommo anagonno, will play an essential role of orientation, as well as function as a sort of initial framework. Indeed, the yala of the four body kikinu placed themselves at the top of the egg (in the form of three strokes emerging from a central point) dominating it somewhat like the ribs of an umbrella (fig. 33). At the opposite end,
the yala of the four sex kikinu became inverted, placing themselves in the same way at the bottom of the egg. Thus, in the world to come, the spiritual principles of the nommo anagonno will be “Amma’s eye” that looks at and watches over the progress of the universe.'The yala of the egg also show the elongated form of the fish itself. The bottom of the V-shaped figure is a rough sketch of the tail of the
anagonno. The division of the signs, initiated by the position of the yala that
represented the Nommo’s body souls and sex souls, already prefigured the social structure of humanity. Indeed, the vertical lines do not touch the egg, but rather separate four registers meant to outline the sketch of the “ancestors” of man. Thus, forty yala of the spiral of the po (in four rows of ten around the four elements) are distributed in the same manner as later the first four lineages of man.
Also, as soon as the egg was formed, the nommo anagonno received the tokens of the four elements, of the four cardinal directions (associated with his spiritual principles), of the eight seeds (related to the future content of the clavicles), and, finally, those of “Amma’s womb,” or the womb of the world, which became those belonging to his placenta — all these signs being evidence of his future completeness and fertility. To emphasize their respective roles, one compares the yala of Amma’s egg with those of the egg of the nommo anagonno by saying: “The yala of Amma’s egg is like an egg with its yolk and its germ; the yala of the egg of nommo anagonno is stretched like the world that is going to spread itself out”; or again, “the yala of Amma’s egg is seated, the yala of the nommo (anagonno) caused the elongation (enlargement, growth) of the world.”!°5 In fact, the formed being will be complete and alive, therefore pure, and a promoter of general fertility. The priest who invokes it says: “The number of the ‘master of water’ is one hundred and twelve; here is your purification, may the soft (good) rain fall, give us marriage, give us
ripe millet.” “In the past, in the sky (of Amma), one used to say nommo fish.”!”
Therefore, the nommo, silurus fish, originally existed in the form of an gg somewhat larger and longer than the po seed. In this egg Amma will first place fire, then water that will unite with the fire. In the form of blood, this water will enter the first clavicle to be formed, just as water flows into a pond. The power of the fire will increase the power of the water. Then earth will be added, that will form the bones, but part of which the creator will keep. This earth, like the air, will be surrounded by water. Finally, the air will penetrate the formed being and endow him with life. Thus, the creation of the nommoc-silurus prefigures the crea-
tion of man, who also begins with fire, for semen is fire in the womb.This penetration of the four fundamental elements took place during the development of the principal organs of the nommo anagonno inside the egg, as shown by the tonu of the egg In fact, while in the egg, it received the three main supports of its being from Amma’s thought: the “clavicles” (ani guyo) having the same form as those of
man, the suprabranchial (i.c., above the gills) organs (sosogu), or “adenoids,”
of the fish, and the cartilage forming the hinge of the pectoral fin (literally: “child of the door” or “key”). The expression applies to the external part of the pectoral fins. ani guyo, “clavicle,” designates more precisely their helicoid base. However, the first of the two terms is currently used to designate the entire fin
considered as the clavicle. Amma modeled, as it were, the clavicles upon the water, which came to join the fire. It is said: “The form of the water, he spun it like a circle in the ani guyo.” The clavicles, an essential element, potentially con-
tained all the organs (with the exception of those two mentioned above), and the heart contained the water. The suprabranchial organs (sosogu) are the seat and symbol of the permanence of the being. It is said: “The sogo of the Nommo is a thing
that always remains in place; for this (reason) one says sosogu.” The latter is the nominative case for sosogo, which means “to remain in place indefinitely.”?°'. They will be nourished by the heart. In the egg, they were kept closed by the ¢a i, their “keys,” which Amma had wanted to open only at the right time so that the fertilizing air, together with the germs contained in the clavicles, might penetrate, thus making the multiplication of fish possible.?°? Therefore, one says that “the key of the fish is the passage way of the air,’°? and that the sosogu is the
“breathing” of the clavicle. Moreover, the sosogu of the being in formation received from Amma the kikinu of the po (on the right) and those of the other grains created after it, placed in the emme ya (on the left): this arrangement of the souls
of the basic grains stressed the future role of Amma’s creature in the universe, i.e., his essential function as guardian and protector of the primordial elements of Amma’s second world. It is said: “The fish that Amma created, he put in its sosogu the eight kikinu of the po; all of the seeds which Amma created without their kikinu, he did not give them to the po, but to the emme ya; in the right sosogu of the nommo anagonno are the kikinu of the po; in the left sosogu (are) the kikinu of the other seeds”; and, finally: “When Amma’s egg opened up, Amma opened the
ta iin order to put in the seeds.” This allotment of the seeds and their spiritual principles also reminds us that the formed being is of the same essence as the po, and that it has received the “word” that makes up the “life” of the seed, the symbol of which will be the content of the clavicles. To create the fish’s skeleton (that is, the bones),2°° Amma then introduced the element “earth,” of which he kept a part.
FORMATION OF THE “NOMMO ANAGONNO.”
The nommo anagonno was formed from the egg and in proportion to
the development of its organs. The “word,” originally placed inside the
sosogu by Amma, will flow through the body via the blood stream; seven
internal organs, kolo da (literally: “foods of the inside”), will be their
relay points, the heart supplying the impulses, because integration of the
“word” in the body will also take place in relation to the food nourishing
the blood. Thus, all respiratory and digestive organs will be associated
with this integration. It is said:
“When the word was not spoken, it was like the seven marks of the po
which Amma had drawn. The seven yala of the beginning of the po are
the seven words that the po transmitted to the nommo anagonno. The
words which were in the tonu soy of the po, Amma had them emerge and
gave them to the nommo anagonno. The words entered the seven internal
organs of the nommo anagonno. The seven articulations of the nommo
anagonno which are the word, are the words that the po spoke.”?°”
Therefore, in the first stage, the word in the sosogu was androgynous: it
was the “life” of the being, still undifferentiated: it was “vegetative” life.
During the following stage, the “word” will be nourished by food, the
essence of which will be passed into the blood. It will differentiate itself
(into male or female), will take on its character by passing through the
internal organs, beginning with the heart, which connects with the
suprabranchial organs, thus associating the being’s physiology with its
psychology. The eighth articulation of the word will be in the sex, the
reproductive organ that will permit the adult to give birth to a new
being.”** The formation of the fish is represented by two successive
bummo which bear, like all signs of this category, the secret character of
the initial abstract. Images of fish eggs as well as of the po seeds they
evoke, and therefore of life itself, the rings of these bummo, by their
number (eight), recall the “words.” They also prefigure the potential
multiplication of the created being even while it is still in its initial stage
The first one (fig. 35, A) shows a stylized sketch of a head in which
only the open mouth and tongue are visible, organs of the “word” at the
oral stage which the nommo anagonno is to reveal and transmit. The
vertical line crossing the outline of the second one (Fig. 35, B) represents
the backbone without vertebrae; it will be given the “articulations”
much later, because the nommo anagonno is to be created with a
smooth body and without articulations (joints).
These two figures are called “burmmo of the setting of the vageu,” or
“bummo of the setting of the Kuno and twins.’”°° They are drawn when
one places the seven earthenware pots of the kuno and the eight pots of
the twins in the same nook as the altar to the ancestors (vageu) — as well
as above the pots — inaugurated by the consecration of its foundation.
When he sets them in their place the officiant says: “The number of the
eight (pieces of) earthenware of the twins which we put down is like the
(future) ‘articulations’ of the Nommo.”?!° Moreover, these numbers are
related to the po: seven is the number of vibrations of the “word”
pursuing the formation of the seed; eight 1s the number of elements of
this “word” in the seed at germination.”"' On a parallel plane, the open
circle at the top of the drawing of the kuno represents the ancestral
earthenware (bunno) of the founder, which will be placed immediately
after those of the kuno and twins, and which is “Amma’s mouth”
gathering the spiritual principles of the deceased. Inside is the forked
tongue of the nommo anagonno which will reveal the “word.” In the
other drawing, the line emerging from the open circle is the fish’s tongue.
Thus, despite their apparent abstraction, these two figures, like most
Dogon signs, express in advance the fundamental states and first stages of
the being in formation: its identification with the primordial seed, po; its
primitive quality in relation to the womb being “formed without the
appearance of menses”; while the next stage, almost concomitant,
brings out its androgynous quality, which will eventually manifest itself
as twinness. Henceforth, the nommo-silurus will bear these two successive
and definitive physiological characteristics, which will give it its wholeness
and purity. Essentially “alive,” omo, it will be of immortal essence like
Sketched in the egg where Amma had placed those elements essential
to the support of the being, the nommo anagonno was slowly formed.
The pattern of the yala of this formation depicts the body of the silurus
at the initial stage. In order to represent the emptiness of the universe at
that time, each line making up the whole is egg-shaped, yet remains an
empty circle: the yala of the nommo anagonno are empty circles because
Avama will put life into them.
The first yala shows an outline of the being inside the po seed, which is
The first yala shows an outline of the being inside the po seed, which is
of the nommo-silurus, whose sign already existed in potential within the
seed. The second yaila is that of the nommo-silurus after the bursting of
the po (fig. 36, B).?? Its outline prefigures the formation of the pectoral
fins and clavicles; it is called “mark of the body,” gozu yala. These two
yala show by their structure that the nommo-silurus brought into exist-
ence was an egg before being a fish — inside a seed, however, thus
emphasizing the original direct connection between seed, egg, and fish.
In addition, the stages of the fish’s development, represented by the
successive figures, denote one aspect of social structure. In fact, the two
yala are called tire ayne and dene ayne, named after the two generations
following those of the “sons,” unum — represented by the bummo —
which constitute, on the mythical plane, the first generation of man. In
like manner, the bummo are related to the extended family, ginna, the
other two to the ginna dagi and the tire ginu, descended from the first by
virtue of its extension.?!*
The schematic tonu of the fish, nommo anagonno tonu (fig. 37)?"
shows a sharp differentiation of the essential organs (clavicles, supra-
branchial organs, and pectoral fin) and their position on the animal.
Also represented are the head and barbels, the caudal fins and the
backbone (the vertical line). The “keys” of the pectoral fins are closed.
The formation of the nommo anagonno, the first being created after
the seeds, marked an important step in the creation. Its coming into
being, which was to be perfect (like its creator), could only result from a
precise order in which the four elements were placed. Now, it is said that
the fish realized that it was not complete, because it had no teeth, and
that it asked for them. Indeed, before the teeth were put in, it possessed
only three elements. First fire, then water, then a part of the earth to
form its skeleton; it still remained incomplete. Because of this, the being
was without movement, being “neither dead nor alive.”
Then Amma placed the four elements into the nommo-silurus by incorporating the rest of the earth into it in the form of teeth; he also added air, thus making it complete. This “piece” of earth, at first witheld and then returned to complete the whole, strengthened the dependence of the nommo anagonno upon the creator.
This addition took place according to a process recalled by a series of
figures called: tonu of the nommo anagonno of the sanctuary of Dewa
Accompanied by the air, this bit of earth, starting where the tip of the backbone is connected with the head, went along the right side of the head and formed the teeth The air, returning alone by the same route, drew the ta i to the right, which became the respiratory tract of the sosogu. Turning around, it crossed the silurus to form the on the left. In doing this, it gave the head a fourth side, i.e., a quadrangular form,like a square, and symbolic of the earth itself. Indeed, the incorporating the rest of the earth into it in the form of teeth; he also added air, thus making it complete. This “piece” of earth, at first witheld and then returned to complete the whole, strengthened the dependence of the nommo anagonno upon the creator. This addition took place according to a process recalled by a series of figures called: tonu of the nommo anagonno of the sanctuary of Dewa.
The teeth of the nommo-silurus were eight in number, of triangular form, and pointed outwards. They had this form because of the piece of earth, at first withheld and then granted, which was a corner of the square of the complete element “earth” (fig. 39).?!8 When Amma appropriated them, these two parts were separated; when the corner that had been torn off was put into place in the form of teeth, Amma noted this former separation with the line the air drew in its final motion.
In the silurus, this separation is represented by two bones that start at the head and widen towards the back. They are called suguru donu, “bottom of the ear,”
or aa pegu, pegu of the jaw, for it is there that the jaw is attached.
Similarly, the gift to the nommo-silurus of the four fundamental elements is recalled by bummo assigned to them,and which concern the sosogu.“Fire” was first, for its coming into being had begun with fire; it is drawn like a flame and also like the clavicles, the creature’s first Fic. 40: bummo of the sosogu support. The “water” had been of the nommo anagonno. united with the “fire” and is shown as an empty circle which represents the sosogu of the fish — the circle also prefigures the first pond to be formed on Earth — the “earth” granted in the form of bones and teeth is a full square like the square mouth of the silurus. The “air,” which is a
broken line, also represents the ta i, “keys” of the respiration. As he did with the nommo anagonno, Amma will bestow the basic elements upon all beings he will mold. It is said: “Amma who keeps the four elements has shared them with (granted them to) all living things.”??! Besides the elements, the bestowal of teeth upon the nommo anagonno will also impart to it the gift of the “word.” The eight teeth of the nommo anagonno are compared to the “baby teeth” of a child (i tonu): they have spaces between them, seven in number, soy. By adding teeth Amma will permit the nommo-silurus to “speak the word,” so soy. This concerns another stage of the “word,” during which it becomes verbal expression or language. This potential, placed in the piece of earth which formed the teeth, will eventually be realized: it will be the nommo anagonno’s duty to exteriorize the word, to reveal and transmit it; borne by the pegu of the jaw, it will pass through the spaces between the teeth.?”? In fact, the words, like rivers that divide up a region, are comparable to the circulation of water around islets formed of earth, which are the teeth.
The eight “baby teeth” of the nommo anagonno will eventually be replaced by twenty-two teeth, symbols of the categories of Amma’s “thought.” In the course of the events that will take place during the development of the universe, Amma will momentarily withhold them for use elsewhere.?*> This again emphasizes the dependence of the nommo anagonno upon its creator, underscored by the final gift of the “piece of earth,” first withheld and then used to make the teeth.
“Amma, when he created the nommo anagonno, formed the clavicle . . . What existed that day (at that time) was the darkness of night. . .
In creating the nommo anagonno, he began first with fire. . . The flame (tongue) of the rising fire is like the key (pectoral fin). . . After fire, Amma added water to the fire. . . The nommo united fire and formed on Earth — the “earth” granted in the form of bones and teeth is a full square like the square mouth of the silurus. The “air,” which is a broken line, also represents the ta i, “keys” of the respiration.
As he did with the nommo anagonno, Amma will bestow the basic elements upon all beings he will mold. It is said: “Amma who keeps the four elements has shared them with (granted them to) all living things.”Besides the elements, the bestowal of teeth upon the nommo anagonno will also impart to it the gift of the “word.”
The eight teeth of the nommo anagonno are compared to the “baby teeth” of a child (i tonu): they have spaces between them, seven in number, soy. By adding teeth Amma will permit the nommo-silurus to “speak the word,” so soy. This concerns another stage of the “word,” during which it becomes verbal expression or language. This potential, placed in the piece of earth which formed the teeth, will eventually be
realized: it will be the nommo anagonno’s duty to exteriorize the word, to reveal and transmit it; borne by the pegu of the jaw, it will pass through the spaces between the teeth.?”? In fact, the words, like rivers that divide up a region, are comparable to the circulation of water around islets formed of earth, which are the teeth.
The eight “baby teeth” of the nommo anagonno will eventually be replaced by twenty-two teeth, symbols of the categories of Amma’s “thought.” In the course of the events that will take place during the development of the universe, Amma will momentarily withhold them for use elsewhere. This again emphasizes the dependence of the
nommo anagonno upon its creator, underscored by the final gift of the “piece of earth,” first withheld and then used to make the teeth.
“Amma, when he created the nommo anagonno, formed the clavicle . . . What existed that day (at that time) was the darkness of night. . .
In creating the nommo anagonno, he began first with fire. . . The flame (tongue) of the rising fire is like the key (pectoral fin). . . After fire, Amma added water to the fire. . . The nommo united fire and The bestowal of the teeth conferred upon the nommo anagonno the four elements as well as mastery over the “word”; at the same time,
Amma gave it its four “body souls,” gozu kikinu. In speaking of the four elements, one says: the kikinu of fire is smoke, and also ash; that of the earth is dust; that of the wind is fog; that of water is the cloud after the tornado (because before that it contained both water and the soul). Amma mixed them with one another (fire with smoke, etc.) stuck them together by using his saliva, then folded the whole thing into chevrons, which made up the nommo anagonno as a person.
But this is both a realistic and figurative way of explaining this creation. In exact terms, we remember that eight of the yala of Amma’s first egg (cf. fig. 17) had spread open to form “Amma’s eyes,” prefiguring the “cardinal corners” of future space. “Amma’s eyes, four corners, became the kikinu of the nommo anagonno.”?** Thus, the fish, whose animation followed the prefiguration of the oriented universe, became both the image of Amma and the synthetic image of his creation, the
four “body souls,” gozu kikinu,?” containing the four elements as well
The last lines of this text concerning the “word” are uttered during the construction of a new totemic sanctuary.
The bestowal of the teeth conferred upon the nommo anagonno the four elements as well as mastery over the “word”; at the same time, Amma gave it its four “body souls,” gozu kikinu. In speaking of the four elements, one says: the kikinu of fire is smoke, and also ash; that of the earth is dust; that of the wind is fog; that of water is the cloud after the tornado (because before that it contained both water and the soul). Amma mixed them with one another (fire with smoke, etc.)??° stuck
them together by using his saliva, then folded the whole thing into chevrons, which made up the nommo anagonno as a person. But this is both a realistic and figurative way of explaining this creation. In exact terms, we remember that eight of the yala of Amma’s first egg had spread open to form “Amma’s eyes,” prefiguring the “cardinal corners” of future space. “Amma’s eyes, four corners, became the kikinu of the nommo anagonno.”?** Thus, the fish, whose animation followed the prefiguration of the oriented universe, became both the image of Amma and the synthetic image of his creation, the four “body souls,” gozu kikinu,?” containing the four elements as The last lines of this text concerning the “word” are uttered during the construction of a new totemic sanctuary.
nommo anagonno, which were then to give birth to perfect beings like themselves. He proceeded by consecutive divisions, first forming four male nommo anagonno, then, by continuing to work always inside his own placenta, their female twins.
nommo anagonno, in order to form four kskinu of sex, which he will receive after his
resurrection. there are figures recalling this multiplication. The first one, called “tonu of the four nommo anagonno ” shows the designs of the first four formed beings: it constitutes the tonu of the four original bummo of Amma’s placenta. Each diagram is made of six strokes denoting the yala of the “sex” of the po. This figure recalls the formation of the nommo anagonno inside the po (hence the identity between the seed and the fish egg), and makes it clear that Amma will proceed by first summoning the reproductive organ. The second one, drawn on the ceiling of a ritual cave representing the “sky where the eight nommo anagonno were formed,” shows this multiplication in Amma’s womb, representing it by the design of the eight fish heads and the vital organs . It is called “tonu of the great twin nommo ”
42). The figure is not a toy, because other events will come to upset the order of things before complete realization of the eight nommo anagonno.
Meanwhile, this multiplication of the original being implied ideas of wealth, good fortune, and power that Amma had bestowed upon his creature, which was complete, fertile, and animated by his Word. “Amma, who brought together (or made to come together) all things, enclosed them in the po. The superposed nommo anagonno came out of the body of the po. The four nommo anagonno which came out of Amma are chiefs, rich.” (ogo).?°° Chiefs because they are primordial ancestors; rich because they are strengthened by their multiplication; powerful because they possess Amma’s “word”; therefore, their name will be ogo.
The nommo anagonno called ogo are represented by drawings which underscore the order of their formation in Amma’s womb and also their respective future roles in the development and organization of the creation.
The first one, called nommo die, “great Nommo,” will remain in heaven with Amma as his agent; as witness and regulator of the sky atmosphere, it will dispense the rain and also manifest itself by storms, lightning, and the rainbow, called nommo sizu, “path of the Nommo.” It will also be the guardian of the spiritual principles of beings living on Earth, especially of those of the cereal grains. The figure called “drawing of the great Nommo”! shows the head and body made of four lines of four colors which denote the rainbow and the four elements: from the outside to the inside, respectively, water (black), fire (red), air (white), earth (ochre). Similarly, on the social level, the four colors are evidence of the four first ancestors of man and of the four “races” (or lineages) that descend from them. The sinuous shape of the figure portrays the falling of the rain (represented on the inside by black dots) and the water flowing on the ground. The general form of the being
recalls that of the snake which, on Earth, is the symbol of the immortality originally bestowed upon the nommo anagonno.
The second, called nommo titiyayne, “messenger (or assistant) of the Nommo,” is the protector and guardian of the spiritual principles of the first. It will also be its executioner and, in this capacity, its “sacrificer” or (“he who holds the sacrificiab knife”). A first figure of the titiyayne (fig. 44)?°? shows a diagram of the backbone containing the seven internal “words” (the dashes) and the yala of the future “articulations” or digu soy (the dots). The latter will be given to the nommo anagonno after the disruptions that occurred during the development of the universe in which it will perform its work. In the “drawing of the nommo titiyayne” the teeth are marked, those with which it will act; the oblique extension of its tail is evidence of the basic opposition it will show to the wicked deeds of one of its twin “brothers” by crushing its placenta “with its foot.”The third is called o nommo, “Nommo of the pond.” It will be sacrificed for the purification and reorganization of the universe after the wicked deeds of its twin (at that moment it is called nommo semi, “sacrificed Nommo”). It will resurrect in human form and descend to Earth on an ark with the ancestors of man, created from the substance of its placenta;?** it will then take on its first form again, reside in the waters, and give birth to numerous offspring.
The figure that represents it, called “drawing of the nommo of Sommo di” describes the important stage in the opening of the ta before the bestowal of the clavicular seeds in the sosogu, which will be returned after its resurrection. In addition, although created as a fish with a smooth body and without any joints, the sacrifice will provide it with “articulations.” The backbone contains here five vertebrae, standing for the first five generations descended from man’s mythical ancestors.
elements. water, air, fire, and earth, and are evidence of the completeness of the being who had been formed in this way. The drawing is also the diagram of the rainbow. (“he who holds the sacrificiab knife”).
A first figure of the titiyayne (fig. 44)?°? shows a diagram of the backbone containing the seven internal “words” (the dashes) and the yala of the future “articulations” or digu soy (the dots). The latter will be given to the nommo anagonno after the disruptions that occurred during the development of the universe in which it will perform its work. In the “drawing of the nommo titiyayne” the teeth are marked, those with which it will act; the oblique extension of its tail is evidence of the basic opposition it will show to the wicked deeds of one of its twin “brothers” by crushing its placenta “with its foot.”The third is called o nommo, “Nommo of the pond.” It will be sacrificed for the purification and reorganization of the universe after the wicked deeds of its twin (at that moment it is called nommo semi, “sacrificed Nommo”). It will resurrect in human form and descend to Earth on an ark with the ancestors of man, created from the substance of its placenta;?** it will then take on its first form again, reside in the waters, and give birth to numerous offspring.
The figure that represents it, called “drawing of the nommo of Sommo di describes the important stage in the opening of the ta, before the bestowal of the clavicular seeds in the sosogu, which will be returned after its resurrection. In addition, although created as a fish with a smooth body and without any joints, the sacrifice will provide it with “articulations.” The backbone contains here five vertebrae, standing for the first five generations descended from man’s mythical ancestors.
elements. water, air, fire, and earth, and are evidence of the completeness of the being who had been formed in this way. The drawing is also the diagram of the rainbow. door is closed and represents that which Amma will keep for himself; the other, which has the key in it, represents what he will give up. The key is placed on what he gave the world because it is “like the germination of grains,” that is, the future proliferation of seeds and of man. In prayer to Amma itis said: “Amma’s key with which he opened the door to make the things of the placenta of the world come out, the key is like the germination of the cereal grains. May Amma open his door to give births in the world.”**° Thus will Amma “open his door” to set the world free.
This extension will first manifest itself by the opening of the egg: by the force of Amma’s will, the four clavicles will separate so as to spread open. Thus, “Amma’s work,” while he is spinning on his own axis, will separate and open the four clavicles, in order to determine space and the cardinal directions which they potentially contain. This opening takes place in the north, the direction specifically associated with Amma. It is said: “Amma’s egg of the north contains the east, the west, and the south. In the past, Amma’s egg was stuck in a ball; then it opened.”?*° Also, “Amma’s egg in a ball” (amma talu gunnu) became “Amma’s opened egg” (amma talu ginne). While Amma was spinning, the first egg formed four “pointed eggs”; the four clavicles progressively lowered themselves. “Amma’s clavicle, round, became the four extended cardinal points.”
It divided into four parts, which were visible from the outside, like the closed corolla of the blossom of a water lily, each of the “petals” formed in this way being one of Amma’s clavicles. They were grouped around Amma’s “seat.” Joined together by one of their ends around the “seat,” they unfolded in a horizontal plane, like a flower that opens up, and were then supported by the “axis of the world” that emerged from them. One sums up this work by saying of the egg: “It spun, opened; the remnant was the fork or axis of the world.vTo accomplish the spreading of the clavicles, Amma moved in a spiral, “leaving things, which is to say, rays” in his wake. His works described as follows: Amma was standing at the center, spinning on his own axis, his right arm stretched out horizontally with all fingers extended;
he turned from right to left, first facing west, then north, then east, then south. Ashe spun, Amma progressively lowered his arm, once every two turns. He turned fourteen times and stopped, facing west, his arm completely lowered. With each turn, Amma created “a heaven and an Earth stuck together”; he created, therefore, fourteen heavens and fourteen Earths.
The spiral being conical due to the movement of Amma’s “arm,” the Earths and heavens of the lower portion were not as wide as those at the
top. This procedure of Amma’s is represented by the two movements
involved in the playing of the rhombus; the turn the instrument makes
on its axis, and the spinning of the bearer.2#? Thus “Amma spun (spiraled)
space;”?* spinning and dancing, Amma formed all the spiraling star
worlds of the universe.
Amma’s work and formation of the “fork of space” (ganna dey) is
represented by a ritual object included in the material of totemic
sanctuaries, the binu solumo. The object is made of iron; it is composed
of an axis supporting a circle from which extend four chains, called
“chains of the fork of space,””“° placed as if at the four cardinal directions.
The circle represents the heaven where Amma lives, spinning on his axis
and creating the worlds represented by the chains (fig. 47).24° Of this
figure, one says: “The Milky Way (here meaning all the visible stars) is
placed on the fork of the world; the two ends touch the Earth: the fork
spins; the Milky Way and the Earth spin together. The Milky Way
touches the Earth on the one side, the water on the other. Amma’s egg is
placed on the fork.
mma’s work is also associated with his “word.” Like the first egg,
Amma’s word was also inside “in a ball.” When he “spoke” the clavicles
opened, in order to deter-
mine space and the cardi-
nal directions. It is said: “At
the beginning, Amma was
in the ball of the clavicles,
Amma’s word was in a ball.
The moment Amma spoke
the word, the clavicles
opened. The signs were
there before the words.
Words and signs of Amma’s
clavicle are the same
The opening of the clav-
icles, which determined
space and the cardinal
points, resulted in the shift-
ing of the signs. The signs
were originally, as we have
seen, in a picture placed at
the center, called “Amma’s
seat or center” (amma doy)
or “seat of the inside” (kolo
doy), also described as the
“birth of Amma’s liver.”
This center prefigured the
gaba: “the gaba opened,”
and the 266 signs went to place themselves on the open clavicles. Thus,
just as this labor resulted in the determination of space and the creation
of worlds, Amma simultaneously projected his “word” to the four cardinal
was made from a human victim who had been buried standing up. The “body souls” of the
victim were fixed within the altar during the ritual. An iron stake was planted at the top of
points of the created universe.
The beginning of the un-
folding of the clavicles is rep-
resented by the mask amma
ta, “Amma’s door.” This term.
designating the opening of
the “door” is also a euphe-
mism used to conceal the true
name of the mask, amma
talu, “Arama’s egg,” from the
uninitiated. Figure 48 shows
the ancient mask, worn with
one point covering the face
and the other over the nape
of the neck, fibers hiding the
openings on either side. The
horizontal strokes that dec-
orate it are the 266 pri-
mordial bummo then placed
in the clavicles.*°°
Similarly, the figure called
amma tonu shows a circle
representing the heaven,
inside of which “Amma is
seated,” “separating the four
cardinal points,” formed by
his four clavicles (fig. 49).
He is surrounded by dots
(indeterminate in number),
which are the stars.?5!
The following step, representing the whole of Amma’s work and the open clavicles resting on the fork of the world, is represented by a figure, called “seat of Amma making space turn around, ”Distributed according to the collateral directions, the four clavicles,opening in a horizontal plane, are compared to the blossom of a waterlily. It is said: “In the sky, Amma’s clavicles, in the water below, the water lily is seated like Amma’s seat.”**? For it is said of the water lily that it is the “eye of the pond,” that is, of the water and of him who resides there, o nommo, crea-
ture of Amma and begetter of humanity. The central drawing is surrounded by two
circles representing the two motions Amma made, which are compared to the spinning of the rhombus. The axis, or “fork,” is shown vertically and oriented from
north to south. In the clavicle positioned to the northae east is the spiraling po.
ELABORATION OF THE
It is said, “The world is the toy of Amma’s tonu.” “When he was ina
ball,” Amma himself remained a tonu; when he opened up, this became
atoy. This commentary regarding the progression of the graphic repre-
sentations conveys well the idea of completion, which is shown in an even
more realistic manner and denotes the most advanced stage of creation
when expressed in terms relating to gestation. It is said: “Amma’s seat
was like the womb of a woman. All things came from the inside of Amma’s
placenta.” >> This placenta surrounds the spiraling po in the “womb.”
The following step will consist of the ejection of the universe from the
The following step will consist of the ejection of the universe from the
four superposed worlds.”5 The fourth world of stars is the one in which
eventually the stages of the life of man will unfold. The lines decorating
the heavens and Earths mark the development of the universe and of
life. At the bottom of the figure a semi-circle is drawn, which is “Amma’s
seat.” Thus, all the worlds are held in place by Amma’s “head” and
This explanatory drawing describes one of the forms of the sirige
mask, also called “storied house.”?°? The mask, carved from a single tree
trunk, has a rectangular face with a very high mast on top, with a tip that
is usually carved into a point: it is divided into elements forming a
rectangular grid, alternating with elements that are solid wood. The
very top here represents “Amma’s seat”; a cluster of sene fibers, dyed
red and hooked on top of the mast, recalls the first world created and
then abandoned by Amma.
The wearer of the mask dances the bimmili galu rhythm, holding the
mast horizontally; his spinning around signifies the spinning of Amma
creating the world. If the bunch of fibers drops off during the dance, it is
a remembrance of the isolated “descent” of the sene.
Similarly, the calabash sistrums of the circumcised represent Amma’s
superposed worlds: according to custom, they should have seven pairs of
notched rings under the gourd. From this perspective, the object must
be looked at upside down.
When one invokes Amma during ceremonies performed on the family
altar consecrated to him, one says: “Amma, seven above, seven below,
he spun fourteen worlds.”?°°
The number 14, attributed to the spiral stellar worlds produced by Amma, implies the concept of potential reproduction and multiplication:
seven is the sum of three, the masculine number, and four, the feminine
number. Here it designates the seven Earths and seven heavens. Amma
creates 7x2, that is to say, an infinity of worlds. The superposition of
worlds and the concept of the infinite multiplication of stellar universes
are indicated by the fact that the number 28 is attributed to Amma as
well; it is called “Amma’s number” (amma lugu), because one also says:
“Amma fourteen above, fourteen below, etc. . . .”
The spiral worlds of stars were populated universes; because,
simultaneously with things, Amma, having given form and movement
to the world, created all living beings. Just as on our own planet, living
beings will live on those other “Earths,”**! but in this whole universe
there will be only one Ogo who will become the Fox.
Having completed his work, “Amma pressed his right hand on the top
and his left hand at the bottom.” The final act of creation, originating
from Amma’s own movement, is shown by the figure of the axis in a
fixed position, called “drawing of the end of creation by Amma”* (fig. 52),
or “Amma’s hand,” amma numa. While drawing it and before erecting
the altar to Amma on the figure, one says: “May Amma sit on the
drawing of Amma creating the world and may he plant the world.”
This image reproduces the first and most ancient form of the mask
kanaga. Here Amma is shown in a standing position, pointing to the sky
with his right arm and to the Earth with his left arm. The headpiece of
the mask was made of a grid of four bars which concealed the face of
its wearer, yet allowed him, like Amma, to see without being seen. The
spinning during one of the steps of the dance of the mask is “Amma
letting his hands drop when he is tired.” The “trembling of the stretched-
out arms of the wearer” (numo woderun soy gay) is the movement of
Amma's hands creating the world.?**
One of the current forms of the kanaga mask (fig. 53) also portrays
Amma’s work: the statuettes on top are the nommo die, twins in the
invisible heaven (1 and 2); the central axis is the axis of the world; the
two upper arms (4 and 5) are the sacrificed nommo and his female twin
in the visible heaven; the two lower arms (7 and 8) are Ogo and his female twin Yasigui on Earth.2°
When Amma’s work was finished and the open clavicles were placed
in the cardinal directions, the po was coiled up in the northern clavicle.In
addition, Amma placed the nommo anagonno in the clavicles in the
the nommo die to the north;
the nommo semi to the east;
the nommo titiyayne, to the west,
the nommo anagonno, called Ogo, who will become the Fox,
to the south.?
Amma then proceeded to produce the female twins of the four nommo
anagonno; but this work will immediately be disrupted by Ogo’s deeds.