Dogon Shrine/Altar Object

Dogon shrine objects were used on altars/shrines of the Hogon or Binu priest and libated during sacred ceremonies.

Dogon Altar Ladder

Tribe: Dogon

Origin: Mali

Approx Age: 19th-very early 20th Century latest

Materials: Wood

Dimensions cm: 31 tall

Ref. Number: 1346



A 19th-very early 20th-century Dogon shrine object with visible signs of age and use with a ceremonial encrusted patina. These are used on altars in a similar way to the spirit ladders we believe, very little is known about the precise use and meaning.

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




Apparently, photographs and drawings of Vague altars show rather simplified, even cylindrical, stick-like figures leaning against the wall of the shrine. Along with the figures, one also sees pottery bowls and small cups in which sacrificial liquids are offered to the ancestors and small notched ladders so the spirits can climb to the rooftop altar; iron hooks (gobo), cylinders of red ocher, iron ornaments, and pots with roots soaking in water are kept there also and are used in healing. Sacrifices are performed collectively on all these objects at planting and harvest times, as well as by individuals who have inherited the souls of particular ancestors. The altars are kept in the Ginna, or lineage head’s house, of which there are several in each village. An altar can be found on the upper story of the house, in a corner of the living quarters, in the granary, in the courtyard, or even in a separate structure nearby.

Bijago Pectoral

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