Today, as they always have been, the Dogon people are predominantly farmers, and religion and ritual factor heavily into their lives. This simple lifestyle contrasts most unusually with the Dogon's amazing yet obscure astronomical knowledge, much of which is integrated into their mythology.
The ‘diviner', one of the Dogon priests, traces a complex pattern in the sand near the base of the Bandiagara cliffs one evening once per year.
These patterns are supposed to attract the sacred fox to come and bestow a prophecy on the village (which is seen as a blessing). The fox's footprints indicate the fortunes of the next year .
Mask Dances -
Dogon masks are respected throughout the world as some of the finest and most abstract tribal art. The cubist movement based much of its technique on Dogon mask making.
The Sirige mask is the most important.
It symbolically binds the Dogon people to the celestial world of heaven and the Earth, which provides food, shelter and life.
The dance that is associated with this mask is the most difficult. The dancers use their teeth to balance the 20-foot (6-meter) high mask, which is carved from a tree limb. Dancers swing the mask in an arc to represent the sun.
The Dama dance is another major ritual. This dance is a mourning ritual for the passing of a respected elder. The ceremony may last for three days and involve dozens of dancers. After the dance, the bones of the elder are placed high up on the cliffs in the sacred caves of the dead, where they symbolically watch over the tribe.