visit the store The Old Granary
by Philip Coppens “The New Pyramid Age” established that across the world, the pyramid shape came with its specific pyramid mythology, which in the book was linked with a “new age”, in which the fires of the previous era were put out, and new fires lit. This “new fire” ceremony normally involved the king or tribal leader performing various rituals that united this world with the “afterworld”, as well as proving his fitness to rule. Ogotemmeli It was outside the scope of the book to query where this “pyramid template” developed from, though we did note that because of its worldwide nature, it would likely date back to the earliest origins of Mankind.
Despite not including it in the book, there are clear indications that the “pyramid template” developed from tribal shamanic lore. And for that, we turn to the Dogon and their creation mythology. Anthropologists Marcel Griaule’s visits and experiences with the Dogon were at the basis of Robert Temple’s “The Sirius Mystery” and its speculation that the Dogon possessed knowledge that was outside the “normal realm” of this Mali tribe, specifically focusing on the existence of a companion star to Sirius, namely Sirius B. But amidst all this – often unfounded – speculation, perhaps a more important lesson from the Dogon was missed: a likely explanation of how the concept of the pyramid was born, and what it represented. In Griaule’s “Conversations with Ogotemmeli”, Griaule recounts his discussions with this Dogon elder, who was selected to explain to the anthropologist the world view of the Dogon. During a series of discussions, Ogotemmeli tackled the tribe’s creation myth, stating that the unformed universe was the Creator God Amma’s egg, and had known two creations: one visible, one invisible. As with the Egyptian creator deity Atum, the initial act was one of self-creation, with Amma forming a perfect twin, which the Dogon call the Nummo or Nommo.
As the complex story of creation unfolds, eight ancestors, who lived eternally, are introduced into the narrative. At one point, these ancestor deities saw the Earth, whereby Nummo decided he would try to redeem Mankind. All were concerned about the effect of contact between spiritual beings and ordinary beings; the consequences, it seems, were hard if not impossible to predict. Hence, the eight ancestors were taken to heaven with the Nummo to learn the skills of civilisation. Later, each was given one of the eight grains of heaven, with which they returned to live with men, civilising them. They thus became the “civilising deities”, the Dogon equivalent of the Apkallu, or Seven Sages.
Indeed, this legend has the same ingredients as many other legends – whether in surrounding African cultures, or further afield. And the story of the civilising deities that descended from heaven was, of course, the primary breeding ground for the Dogon ancient astronaut theory, which was argued in “The Sirius Mystery”. Rather than speak of extraterrestrial beings amongst men, Ogotemmeli’s narration of Amma’s cult provided an insight into a shamanic, tribal expression of “the pyramid template”. One aspect of this creation myth speaks of “the granary”, a term that also lay at the foundation of another classic on ancient mythology, Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Dechend’s “Hamlet’s Mill”.
“When the first ancestor came down from heaven, he was standing on a square piece of heaven shaped like the first granary. The first granary was shaped like a woven basket turned upside down. It was round at the bottom, square and flat at the top, with stairways with ten steps up the middle of each of the four sides, which faced the cardinal points. The door of the granary was a sixth step of the north side.”
Inside, there were eight chambers, divided over two levels of four chambers each. The compartments met in a cup-shaped depression in the earth, large enough to hold a round jar, which was seen as the centre of the whole construction. It was said that the granary, like the Earth, represented a woman lying on her back with her arms and legs spread – the jar symbolised her womb. There are clear references to a pyramid here, whereby the ground plan is not yet square, but circular. Despite this non-conformance to the eventual “pyramid template”, all the ingredients of this template are nevertheless present.
Furthermore, in the Dogon mythology, the granary (or proto-pyramid) was already linked to astronomy. Ogotemmeli explained how the round base represented the sun. The square roof represented the sky. A circle in the centre of the roof represented the moon. The rise of each step was male; the tread was female. The combined total of forty steps represented the eighty offspring of the eight ancestors. Furthermore, the northern staircase, was linked with the Pleiades, men and fish; the southern staircase with Orion’s Belt, and domesticated animals; the eastern, with Venus and birds; the western, with the long-tailed star and animals, vegetables and insects. The reference to the pyramid as a granary should also shed new light on what is related in the popular biblical story of Joseph, in which the pyramids are sometimes taken to be the granaries he built. The man responsible for launching this “theory” was Benjamin of Toledo, who was of the opinion that the Pharaoh had stored a great quantity of wheat inside, in case of famine. Though he was wrong in the literal sense, mythologically speaking, he may not have been far off the mark – and more on the mark than some more “scientific” theories. The Dogon granary thus represented the new system of the world, the symbol of a new age. This concept of a “new age” is also at the core of the “pyramid template”. And it is where the connection with the pyramid template is confirmed, for with the Dogon, there are also specific references to “the New Fire Ceremony”.
Assembled on the flat roof of the granary were the tools of a forge: the hammer, the anvil, etc. It was said that there would be no grain to store without the fire of the smithy. Hence, we can wonder whether the Greek name “pyramid”, and its specific reference to fire, is another reminder of the symbolic meaning of the pyramid. Some of the early “pyramid experts” may have, by labelling them Houses of Fire or Granaries, known more than we would assume. And rather than be “historically wrong”, they may have been “mythologically right”. The specific creation myth that Ogotemmeli related was the creation of the Third World – ours. It spoke of a celestial society that was heading for disorder (similar to the biblical Fall). The new generation of Nummo proceeded to break the paradigm and thereby overthrew their destiny.
God had given the eight ancestors a collection of eight different grains intended for their food. Of the eight, the last grain was Digitaria, which had been publicly rejected by the fist ancestor when it was given to him, on the pretext that it was so small and so difficult to prepare. There came, however, a period when all the grains had been nearly exhausted except the last. (Should we see references here to a great famine, such as those involving the biblical Joseph?) When they ate that food, despite having taken oaths not to, it was the confirmation of the breach of the order – similar to the eating of the apple of the biblical story of the Garden of Eden. The two ancestors became unclean – Adam and Eve fell.
They therefore had to quit the heavenly region, as they were unclean, and the other ancestors decided to join them. The first ancestor too began to make preparations for his own departure – perhaps references to that biblical archangel Lucifer? Some anthropologists have argued that sections of the Dogon mythology are a collection of various mythologies, and that some aspects were influenced by Griaule himself. Which specific details stem from where, is hard to identify, more than half a century after they were recorded. Furthermore, mythology constantly evolves, and adapts. But at its core, it retains a basic message, which is universal and everlasting; it is why the story of Jesus overlaps with that of Osiris and Odin, and other deities, as well as modern oeuvres such as the character Neo in the film The Matrix, or Luke Skywalker in Star Wars. What the “pyramid template” is able to offer, is a common framework that explains why pyramids were constructed and for what they were used. What the Dogon creation myth is able to show, is that this pyramid template did not develop out of nothing, but was itself a “new phase” in an older design, which nevertheless contained the same basic ingredients. The “old granary” was a pyramid for those cultures who had not yet, or would never make, the step into a Pyramid Age.