Sirius Mystery

Sirius Mystery

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Sirius is the brightest star in the sky over North Africa, and as such was known and venerated by different ancient nations. In Egypt, for example, it appeared in the dawn sky shortly before the annual flooding of the Nile and was thus seen as a warning. Its appearance marked the beginning of the year in the Egyptian calendar.

In 1972 British author Robert K. G. Temple put forth a most intriguing claim. He asserted that the Dogon people, who reside in the African countries of Mali and Burkina Faso, had been aware for many centuries that the star Sirius was being orbited by a second star. This was a fact discovered by western astronomers only in the nineteenth century. Dogon legends about Sirius were said to have originated long before any astronomer could have figured out the existence of the second star (now called Sirius B), calculated its 50-year orbit, or discerned its status as a small white dwarf. The Dogon reputedly knew all of these facts. The discussion of the Sirius Mystery became an integral part of what was termed the “ancient astronaut” hypothesis, the idea that in ancient times earth was visited by extraterrestrials who seeded it with knowledge and left remnants of their presence in various ancient drawings and artifacts.

The Dogon’s knowledge of Sirius and its dwarf twin was discovered by two French anthropologists, Marcel Griaule and Germaine Dieterlen, who worked among them in the years immediately after World War II. To this data, Temple added his own reflections on a Dogon legend that speaks of an ark descending to the ground amid a great wind. Temple interpreted this to be an old account of a spacecraft landing. The ark brought an amphibious group of beings known as the Nommo. Temple then suggested that the knowledge brought from Sirius some 5,000 years ago was passed on to Egypt and accounted for Egypt’s fixation on Sirius. As consideration of the ancient astronaut theory lost support through the 1990s, the Dogon Sirius story remained a mystery to many and an idea that still inspires speculations about ancient astronauts.

Skeptics of the Sirius Mystery have offered a variety of explanations to counter Temple’s hypothesis. Significantly, they have charged him with significantly misrepresenting Dogon belief. They point out that the Dogon believed that Sirius had two companion stars, not one, and that they understood the two stars symbolically, rather than literally. The two stars, one male and one female, are fertility symbols. Temple, furthermore, presents in his book an expurgated drawing of the Dogon understanding of Sirius that omits the image of the second orbiting star. Investigations of the Sirius Mystery have done much to dispel Temple’s major claims and suggest alternate explanations of those elements that remain as yet unexplained.


Ridpath, Ian. “Investigating the Sirius ‘Mystery.’“ Skeptical Inquirer 3, 1 (Fall 1978). Posted at Accessed March 31, 2007.
Temple, Robert. The Sirius Mystery. Folkstone, Kent, UK: Bailey Brothers & Swinfen, 1972.