To the Dogon
, the nyama is the life force within all humans. The nyama was harnessed long ago by the first Dogon, and it is the magik
they call upon to smelt
iron, cast spells, and use for mystical celebrations.
Everyone is born with a certain amount of nyama, which ebbs and flows through his or her lifetime. When a Dogon tribesman is about to die, more and more of the nyama escapes from him. This uncontained spiritual force is extremely dangerous, and can menace a village. Thus, when bad things happen unexplicably in a Dogon village, it can be attributed to someone’s impending death.