In the mythology of the Dogon people of West Africa, the god Amma, the supreme deity, created eight ancestors and eight families and organized human existence on earth. Lebe was the eighth ancestor and the first one to die. At the time, death had not yet come to humans.
deity god or goddess
ritual ceremony that follows a set pattern
Lebe, an old man, was instructed to die (or at least appear to die) and to allow himself to be buried. After Lebe did this, the seventh ancestor took the form of a snake, swallowed Lebe, and then vomited his bones. These were transformed into colored stones that fell to earth and formed the shape of a body. The pattern and arrangement of the stones helped determine the nature of social relationships, particularly marriages. After Lebe was swallowed, all that was pure and good in the ancestors went into the stones, while everything impure was cast away. The stones also symbolized the life force of the ancestors, and Lebe's death allowed this life force to be passed on to all human beings. Each year the Dogon people perform a special ritual in honor of Lebe's sacrifice.
See also African Mythology .