Dogon Shrine Ladders

Dogon shrine ladders or spirit ladders for the deceased to climb to reach their ancestors.
Tribe: Dogon

Origin: Mali

Approx Age: Mid 20th Century

Materials: Wood

Dimensions cm: 35, 30, 38 tall

Ref. Number: 1341, 1342, 1343

Three lovely and rare used items, Dogon shrine ladders or also known as spirit ladders. All three items have come from shrines and show evidence of ritual libation, leaving an encrusted patina, they also come with their own base stand.

Provenance: Collected in situ 1970. Ex Lampevelden collection, Netherlands


Binu shrines or sanctuaries are separate structures built in the courtyard of the ginna. Each one contains an altar on which the wooden figures are found, leaning against the wall of the shrine. Small bowls, miniature ladders, iron hooks and bracelets, and L-shaped wooden domolo staffs are also placed in binu shrines. Shrine miniature ladders, these works replicate the form of the full-size versions, yet their purpose is spiritual rather than utilitarian. Along with pottery and figurines, miniature ladders were placed in a bowl on altars, where Dogon thought to have inherited the souls of specific ancestors would pour sacrificial offerings. The Dogon believe the ladders facilitate a spirit’s ability to reach his ancestor. In Dogon sacrificial practice, poured libations created a layered patina over the carved wood. The variety of patinas on these ladders, most likely consisting of mixtures of animal blood, minerals from the surrounding landscape, and millet gruel.

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