by Vladimir V. Rubtsov
Chairman Research Institute On Anomalous Phenomena (RIAP)
RIAP Bulletin Volume 4 - Number 4
When studying the question of possible ancient visits of alien beings to the
Earth, a researcher sometimes encounters data which cannot be interpreted as
yet in a strictly scientific manner, but which, at the same time, are
interesting enough to be regarded seriously and unbiasedly. Such data can be
found, in particular, in the well-known "mythological astronomy" of
the Dogon, an African people, living mainly in the West African Republic of
The Dogon believe that the Universe is "infinite, but measurable" and is
filled with "spiral stellar worlds" (yalu ulo), one of which contains the
Sun. This world may be seen in the sky as the Milky Way. The majority of
heavenly bodies represent the "external" star system, whose influence on
terrestrial life is, according to the Dogon, relatively small.
however, also the "internal" system, which "participates directly in the
life and development of men on the Earth". It includes Orion, Sirius,
Pleiades and some other stars. These celestial bodies form the "support of
the seat of the world". It is Sirius that occupies the main position among
them, being called the "navel of the world".
Sirius is considered by the Dogon as a triple stellar system, consisting of
the stars Sigi tolo (our Sirius A), Po tolo (Sirius B, a white dwarf) and
Emme ya tolo (the hypothetical Sirius C, yet to be discovered).
similarity between the characteristics of Po tolo and Sirius B (both bodies
are white, small, very heavy, with fifty-year periods of revolution around
the main star) stimulated a lively discussion on the pages of scientific --
and not so scientific -- journals about 20 years ago. Robert Temple, in his
book "The Sirius Mystery"
, and Eric Guerrier in his
"Essai sur La
Cosmogonie des Dogon"
 supposed that these data (as well as other
astronomical information possessed by the Dogon) were brought to the Earth
by cosmic visitors.
However, their reasons could not break through the
"armour of denial" of established science. The hypothesis of a recent
adoption of this knowledge from Europeans appeared convincing for most
It is natural that other components of the Dogon mythology, which have
little in common with modern scientific knowledge, attracted even less
scholarly interest. Yes, this is a real mythology, almost pure and not very
simple. To analyze its content is not an easy task, and the results are not
self-evident. Nonetheless, it is possible that we can derive from such an
analysis some important information. Let us recall very briefly the main
points of this mythology.
The supreme god Amma made the whole Universe within a grain of
po, which is
the Dogon name for fonio, the smallest kind of millet. This grain was
located inside the "egg of the world", it "spun and scattered the particles
of matter in a sonorous and luminous motion", remaining, however, "inaudible
[3, p. l30]. Having opened this 'egg',
Amma let the spiral
stellar worlds out, and it was thus that the Universe was realized. Then the
god created the first living being -- Nommo anagonno.
This being is
described either as a half-man, half-snake having flexible limbs, without
any joints, red eyes and forked tongue, or just as a fish, namely a Silurus, sheat-fish, or cat-fish. This Nommo multiplied, and there appeared four
Nommos: Nommo die, Nommo titiyayne, O Nommo and, at last, Ogo,
As distinct from other Nommos, he is never represented as
a fish. Instead of awaiting patiently the completion of the Amma's work, he
hurriedly made an "ark" and rushed into space, wishing "to look at the
world". Thus, he took disorder into the young world. After several voyages,
Ogo landed on the Earth and turned into the pale fox or fennec, named
Made indignant by Ogo's escapades, Amma took everything he had created and
put it back into the grain of po. To "purify" the Universe, he had to
sacrifice one of the Nommos. After that "by whirling and ... acting as a
spring, the po ... distributed all things in the Universe"
[3, p. 423]. The
empty shell of the grain became the star Po. In "the first year of the life
of man on Earth" this star exploded, and its brightness decreased slowly
during 240 years until it completely faded.
It is interesting that there is in the Dogon mythology another image of the
Sirius system. According to it, the main star represents the Ogo's female
twin, Yasigui, whom he chased with some dubious intentions. One of its
satellites is Ogo himself, doomed to revolve eternally around his sister,
remaining at a respectful distance from her.
Of course, this is only an outline of this very complicated genesis story. I
am citing it here just as the basis for further considerations. Can this
story be useful for paleovisitological studies?
Some time ago the present author suggested the idea of astroengineering
interference by a cosmic supercivilization in the evolution of the Sirius
system. This assumption was based on the Indo-European myth of the heavenly
blacksmiths, who are fighting and chaining up the monstrous Dog, dangerous
for the Universe, as well as on some astrophysical data from the history of
It is known in astronomy that a white dwarf arises from a red giant as this
loses its mass. This process is usually accompanied by a slow ejection of a
planetary nebula which eventually dissipates into space. But sometimes the
remaining core of the red giant can retain a mass exceeding the so-called
Chandrasekhar limit (about 1.3 Sun masses). This leads inevitably to
disastrous self-compression of the core and its explosion as a Supernova. As
a result, powerful streams of matter and radiation are ejected into the
If such an event had ever happened in the Sirius system, at a small (on the
cosmic scale) distance from the Solar system, it might have been fatal for
the terrestrial biosphere. My idea was that some highly developed supercivilization could have tried to remove the excess of stellar matter
from Sirius B, thus saving life and civilization on Earth.
Really, the only thing we know for sure about the evolution of the Sirius
system is the fact that Sirius B was once a red giant whose mass exceeded
that of Sirius A (that's why the former evolved more rapidly). The initial
orbit of Sirius B was, most likely, circular; now it is a highly
ellipse. This suggests that the mass loss was accompanied by some
considerable disturbances. Some part of the "lost" matter probably
contaminated the atmosphere of Sirius A (see:
). But the real course of
events is still very unclear. The situation will seem even more in-volved if
we bear in mind the possible presence of the second satellite in this
system, as is asserted by the Dogon and confirmed by recent astrophysical
It would be certainly very helpful to study thoroughly the Sirius system
with modern astronomical equipment (say, by radio interferometers with a
very long baseline). But it appears that relevant (and rather interesting)
information can also be found in those vestiges of the great mythologies of
Europe, Asia and Africa which have survived till now, however odd and
strange they may appear to us.
This information cannot be taken at face
value, for the myth is a very special form of thinking and knowledge, much
different from our modern mentality. We should carefully analyze and
interpret mythological stories and characters to understand their profound
sense and real significance. There are on this road many pitfalls and false
turnings, but there may also be found some road-signs and important hints.
Let us go through some of them.
It is well known that the most common (though not the only) name for Sirius
in the ancient world was "The Dog" (with the variants: the wolf, the fox,
the jackal). The ancient Egyptians called it, in particular, the Starry Dog
and identified the star with Anubis, the jackal -- or dog-headed god of the
dead. The North American Indian Cherokee tribe believed that this Dog
awaited the souls of the dead on the Milky Way; the Blackfeet Indians named
the star "Dog-face". The oldest Hindu name for Sirius was
Sarama, "one of
the Twin Watch-dogs of the Milky Way"
[7, p. 119].
The Chinese knew this
star as the Heavenly Wolf, and the Greeks as the
Dog of Orion, or more
specifically, as the dog Orthrus, a son of the monster Typhon. The Romans
saw in it the Southern Cerberus, a watch-dog of their hell. As for the
fennec Ogo, it is the smallest wild animal in the dog family (which hints
probably at the small size of Sirius B).
What is more, Sirius represented not a decent house dog, but a terrible
beast, monstrous and dangerous for everyone. It was related to death, hell
and disaster. Orphrus' father Typhon was identified with the Egyptian evil
god Seth (who, incidentally, was sometimes portrayed as a dog-headed
creature) and was regarded as one of the monstrous adversaries of Zeus. The
latter fought with Typhon and defeated him with much difficulty. Finally,
Ogo himself is, as we know, a very harmful character in the Dogon mythology.
The worship of a dangerous dog was widespread in the ancient world, and this
is rather strange: the dog was in fact the "first friend" of ancient man and
played a very important part in his everyday life. Nonetheless, the fact
remains: dogs (as well as wolves and jackals, which seems much more natural)
were regarded as chthonian animals, guardians of the underworld. The "Inmost
Story" of the Mongols contains a motif of monstrous metal dogs who feed on
human flesh. The terrible dog Yarchuk, from Slavic mythology, had a wolf
tooth in his mouth and two vipers under his lower lip. According to a
Russian belief, a Solar eclipse happens when the heavenly wolf swallows the
Sun (this idea was not unfamiliar to many other peoples).
The Ukrainians believed that Ursa Major was a team of horses with harness;
"every night a black dog tries to bite through the harness, in order to
destroy the world, but he does not achieve his disastrous aim: at dawn, when
he runs to drink from a spring, the harness renews itself" [8, p. 168].
Another version of this story states that a dog was chained beside Ursa
Minor; he tries in every way to gnaw through his iron chain, and when this
happens, the world will perish.
According to the famous ancient Greek
philosopher Proclus, who lived in the 5th century A.D., "the fox star
nibbles continuously at the thong of the yoke which holds together heaven
and Earth"; the Germans added that "when the fox succeeds, the world will
come to its end" [9, p.385]. One can find some interesting details of this
future event in the Nordic mythology. It has been called "Ragnaroek", and
the wolf Fenrir, together with the great dog Garm, play leading parts in it.
Having snapped his fetters (which, incidentally, were made of nothing), Fenrir will devour the Sun and the supreme god Odin.
These fetters are of much importance for our subject. As was ascertained by
the Russian philologist Dr. Vyacheslav Ivanov, the motif of the fight
against the dragon in Slavic mythology grew out of an older motif of the
hero-blacksmiths, chaining up a terrible dog. What is still more essential,
"over the whole territory of Eurasia, this mythological complex is
associated both with the Great Bear ..., with a star near it as a dog which
is dangerous for the Universe, and also with blacksmiths ..." [10, p. 210].
One should remember that, although Sirius is far from this constellation in
the firmament, it belongs to the same star-cluster.
Now, let us pay some attention to other Sirius names. There exists in
mythology some kind of "principle of complementarity": you can describe a
complex phenomenon, using a set of quite different, even incompatible,
images. Thus, the first satellite of Sirius is at the same time an empty
husk of a millet grain, and the Pale Fox himself. Just as much, Sirius may
have been represented as the Dog, the Arrow, the Triangle, as well as in
many other ways. This star was either the tip of the arrow (in Mesopotamia
and Persia), or its target (in China, as well as in Ancient Egypt).
Chinese mythical emperor Huang-ti was both a smith and an archer; on an
ancient picture he aims at the celestial jackal, located beside another
star, which represent, probably, the A and B components of this system [9,
ill. between pp. 216 and 217]. I would like to recall in this connection the
hypothesis of the Russian scholar Dr. Igor Lissievich about possible
paleovisits at the early stages of China's history. Huang-ti was the main
character of these hypothetical events (see:
The Iranian mythology personified Sirius as
Tishtrya, the divine archer (the
corresponding character in the Vedic myths was Tishya). The name "Tishtrya"
goes back to the Sanskrit term "three stars" and to an older Indo-European
one of the same meaning. Some scholars prefer to see here a designation of
the Belt of Orion, but it seems to be just an ad hoc conjecture. On the
other hand, the name "three stars" is quite justified in terms of
concept of this stellar system. There is, by the way, a direct relationship
between the word "Tishtrya" and the name of the hellish dog Cerberus.
Thus, there are in various parts of the world some traces of an ancient --
and rather clear -- concept of Sirius as a dangerous stellar system,
consisting of three stars. Its transformation has been described, first, as
the transition from Typhon (a fiery monster in rage, that is a red giant
before its change into a Supernova) to Orphrus (a dangerous but suppressed
beast, that is the core of the red giant in the process of its "calm"
turning into a white dwarf). Second, the Dog is usually chained up by sacred
blacksmiths, which can be interpreted as a description of astroengineering
activity by a supercivilization.
Nommos are also considered as heavenly
blacksmiths, but they do not chain up the Fox; they simply circumcise him.
This rather unexpected metaphor expresses very clearly the main point: it
was necessary to remove the excess of stellar matter from Sirius B. The 240
years of increased brightness of the star looks like a slow explosion of
this "cosmic bomb".
When did all this happen? Astrophysical data suggest that the lifetime of
Sirius B as a white dwarf has been 30 to 100 million years. However, some
classical authors, such as Ptolemy and Seneca, described Sirius as red,
which is very different from its present white-bluish appearance. For
instance, Seneca wrote:
"... The redness of the Dog star is deeper, that of
Mars milder, that of Jupiter nothing at all."
This enigma has been discussed
by astronomers since the 18th century up to now, and it remains still
unsolved. It is astrophysically very unlikely that Sirius B could have been
a red giant as recently as 2000 years ago; but we cannot rule out entirely
the possibility of lasting astroengineering works in this system. In any
case, attempts to explain the red color of Sirius by some atmospheric causes
are not very convincing. There is some evidence that the epithet "red" was
not unusual for Sirius in the past. Thus, Tistrya was called "aurusha", what
can be translated either as "white", or as "red".
In Egyptian hieroglyphic
writing, Sirius was depicted as a red triangle with a small semicircle and a
five-pointed star near it (see Ref.
12). The Babylonians referenced to the
star as "shining like copper". Finally, the Dogon represent
Po tolo by a red
stone (let us note it is precisely Po tolo, not Sigi tolo or Emme ya tolo,
which is represented in such a way!).
In a recent work
 R. Ceragioli has made an attempt to solve the riddle
of Sirius' redness in the context of classical philology: the color red was
in antiquity a token of danger. The most typical cultural pattern for Sirius
connected it with fire, fever, rage, bloodshed, heat and other perils; that
is why it may have been called red even in spite of evidence.
questionable, however, if Ptolemy and Seneca were so much devoted to the
cultural tradition that they did not trust their own eyes and took a color
of Sirius' scintillations for the intrinsic color of the star. It seems more
appropriate to assume that they did in fact see Sirius as red, even though
this can have been just a temporary reddening related to some physical (or astroengineering?) processes in this stellar system (cf.
What is even more important, the solution suggested by R. Ceragioli does not
provide the answer to the main question: why the ancients attached so great
"negative" importance to Sirius? Egyptian priests watched this star closely
at its heliacal risings, believing that its bright and white color presaged
abundance, and its redness betokened war. The inhabitants of the Greek
island of Ceos, when expecting Sirius' rising "prayed for the north winds to
cool the 'Dog's' heat, which in their myths had once threatened to burn the
world" [13, p. 615].
All that fits well with the
hypothesis", raising at the same time some doubts: was "the cosmic bomb"
discharged completely? Let us remember that the myth of the Dogon tells us
that the blacksmiths only chained up the Dog, but it does not mean they
rendered it quite harmless.
Therefore, we can suppose that alien astroengineering activities
Sirius system were finished only recently (if at all). Yet, they could have
started in a much earlier epoch, even a few millions of years ago. However
strange this may sound, we have another evidence of a fantastically deep
historical memory of the Dogon: they know quite well that the
in Ghana was formed when a giant meteorite fell on the Earth [2, p. 1961].
According to the results of a special investigation, this infall happened
not later than 1.3, or even 1.6, million years ago.
It is rather doubtful
that somebody, living then on our planet (it was the epoch of Homo habilis
and maybe of the early Pithecanthropus), could have retained this
information and conveyed it to the future Homo sapiens. This knowledge may
also be of paleovisit origin. Of course, we should not understand the Dogon
mention of the "first year of the life of man on Earth", when, as they
believe, Sirius B exploded, too literally, but it would be a mistake to
reject these data a priori.
Now, what can we conclude from all that has been said above? The
astro-engineering hypothesis seems to be worthy of further investigation. It
can hardly be proved just on the basis of mythological studies, but such
studies can lead us to a preliminary outline of those distant (in time, as
well as in space) events. Mythology may be regarded as a special language,
which has preserved for us fragmentary data from the dawn of the world. I
mean here by the "world" not only the Earth, but rather all our region of
the cosmos -- which has been called by the Dogon the "internal system of the
Events, that once took place in various parts of this region, were
"projected" onto the firmament with its visible luminaries, becoming
subsequently the subjects of mythological stories. These stories have
interacted and become partly confused, so that it is now almost impossible
to go this way back and reach the initial point. It only remains to rely on
human imagination as another instrument of knowledge.
At the same time, we
should be very careful when trying to prove our assumptions. Usually they
are more temporary tools than faithful models of reality. Thus, the concept
of paleovisits as arrivals of extraterrestrial starships whose crews taught
our ancestors to the fundamentals of civilized life and science, may prove
to be uncritical adoption from science fiction stories, whereas the real
situation was much more complicated.
There can have been some events in the history of the "internal star
system", which we can neither understand as yet, nor even assume. There are,
for example, in the Dogon mythology some hints at the multidimensional
structure of the Universe.
Moreover, Nommos seem to be not a "simple"
supercivilization whose origin is similar to that of our civilization, only
the level of development being much higher, but rather an independent branch
of evolution of cosmic intelligent beings, very different from such
planetary offspring as we humans are. It is very important to go from
questions to reliable facts and convincing answers, but it may be still more
important to go from answers to new questions.
1. R.K.G. Temple. The Sirius Mystery. London: Sidgwick & Jackson, 1976.
2. E. Guerrier. Essai sur La Cosmogonie des Dogon: L 'Arche du Nommo. Paris:
Robert Laffont, 1975.
3. M. Griaule, G. Dieterlen. The Pale Fox. Chino Valley: Continuum
4. V. Rubtsov. Beyond the Sirius Lore. Ancient Skies, 1985, Vol. 12, No.4.
5. F. D'Antona. The Binary System Sirius in the Context of Stellar
Evolution. Astronomy and Astrophysics, 1982, Vol. 114, No.2.
6. V.N. Arskiy. The Address of a Civilization? Zemlya i Vselennaya, 1989,
No.5 (in Russian).
7. R.H. Allen. Star-Names and Their Meaning. N.Y., 1899.
8. A.N. Afanasyev. The Life Tree. Moscow: Sovre-mennik, 1983 (in Russian).
9. G. de Santillana, H. von Dechend.
Hamlet's Mill. Boston:D.R.Godine, 1983.
10. V.V. Ivanov. The ancient Balkan and all-Indo-European text of the myth
of the hero-killer of the Dog and some Eurasian parallels. Slavyanskoye I
Balkanskoye Yazykoznaniye. Moscow:Nauka, 1977 (in Russian).
11. I.S. Lissevich. Le vol interstellaire dans les légendes et les myths
anciens. J. Bergier, G.H. Gallet (Eds.) Le Livre des Anciens Astronautes.
Paris: Albin Michel, 1977.
12. A. Stentzel. Aegyptische Zeugnisse fuer die Farbe des Sirius im
Altertum. Astronomische Nachrichten, 1927, Bd. 231, Nr. 5542.
13. R. Ceragioli. Behind the "Red Sirius" Myth. Sky and Telescope, 1992,
14. F. D'Antona, I. Mazzitelli. Constraints on the corona model for Sirius
B. Nature, 1978, Vol.275, No. 5682.