Earth Treasure Vase: Global Healing Project
Linking our world in a practice of planetary protection & renewal.

Mali, on the way to Liberia

Pilgrimage to Mali

Story by Cynthia Jurs

Our guide and friend, Abdoulaye Diallo

Our guide and friend, Abdoulaye Diallo

I arrive in Mali and am greeted by Abdoulaye Diallo, dressed in a long green cloak with a sparkle in his eyes, and instantly know I am in consummate hands. A well-traveled antiquities dealer from Mopti, he has agreed to be our guide to Dogon Country. He is a masterful host and although I speak little French and he little English, we understand each other well. The fabulous music and rhythm of Mali fills my ears immediately as we enter Bamako and accompanies us all the way. Mud walls, dirt streets, and stark beauty. Much to my amazement, I learn that the ancient Kingdom of Mali was the ancestral homeland for all the tribes of West Africa, including those that settled in Liberia, especially the Mandingo. So the dream had guided me to the oldest civilization in West Africa to seek the spiritual blessing for the earth treasure vase from the source.


Ancient cave dwellings of the Tellem people still baffle historians with many questions, including how did these people get up these steep cliffs?

We travel overland following the great Niger River to Segou, an area where the most beautiful mud cloth is found. Here, stories are told in geometric patterns with symbolic meanings drawn onto the handspun cloth with mud. We continue to Djenne – an entire town made of mud and a world heritage site with the largest mud-walled mosque in the world. We drive into the “region of protection” and enter Mopti. Colorful boats called pirogues take us out on the Niger River where I gather some water as a hawk circles overhead, giving thanks for this life-sustaining artery that has flowed through the landscape for centuries. Farther on, a traditional doctor we meet tells us to gather Kunje leaves as an offering for the vase. The first tree of Mali, the Kunje is known to bring protection from all negativity and is commonly used for healing. We stop roadside at sunset to gather handfuls.

The town of Djenne is made entirely of mud

Village in Dogon country

Arriving in Dogon Country I am struck by the beauty of the Bandiagara escarpment – a rocky cliff that stretches for miles and miles at the base of which the Dogon have made their mud and straw villages. High above in the cliffs are ancient cave dwellings. The Tellem people, who were pygmies, are said to have arrived in 2000 BC. How did these people get there? Where did they come from? How did they build their homes? How did they get up these steep cliffs – or down? To this day, the answers to these questions are still a mystery.

The Dogon, who arrived in 1300 AD, are said to have a special relationship to the star Sirius and much astronomical knowledge informs their ceremonies – information they learned long before modern science discovered and confirmed the same facts*. It seems the Dogon live peacefully as they have for thousands of years, cultivating the dry land and keeping up their ancestral ceremonies and rituals. This is a culture that has somehow managed to keep the old ways intact. There is magic in the land — I can feel it in my bones — and the sense of peace pervading the silent landscape is deeply nourishing.

Dogon Country

Dogon Priest, Guimolo Dolo

Dogon Priest, Guimolo Dolo

His name was Guimolo Dolo and we found him waiting for us in his “office” – a dirt wash amidst rocky outcroppings just below his village. The sun was getting low, the light was still intense and so was the heat. He is a Dogon priest, an elder and diviner who had made himself available to us because of the earth treasure vase. Through Abdoulaye, he was informed that I was coming, and agreed to receive us for a divination and grant his blessing for the vase. As we approached, he was quiet, with kindness in his eyes and smiling face. His younger brother, also an elder and diviner, was with him. The two of them prepared the dirt to receive my question and listened while I asked, “What do I need to understand in order to accomplish the practice of the earth treasure vases?” Of course, there was a lot to explain but luckily there were several translators on hand to help move from Dogon to French and French to English.

The Dogon divination begins with an intricate design of sticks and lines drawn in the earth

The Dogon divination begins with an intricate design of sticks and lines drawn in the earth

The two old men laid out small sticks and pebbles on the dirt, and in this way, arranged the question I had posed. Overnight, foxes are said to walk among the sand diagrams. In the morning we are to return for the old men to divine the answer they interpret based on the foxes’ footprints in the sand among the sticks and stones. This is how they receive their messages. A chicken was slaughtered (a custom in most of Africa) as the sun was setting; its throat slit, then bled onto a fetish. The men watched its movement after hurling it on the ground: another divination clue. I sat meditating on Chenrezig, the bodhisattva of compassion, reciting a mantra for the chicken. Strangely, there was a palpable sense of peace all around.

Early the next morning, with even more questions than before, I went back to the Dogon priest. We found him at the appointed hour again in his “office,” sitting on the brown Earth, his skin and bare feet like the surface of the nearby rocks, the fabric of his brownish-grey robes frayed with wear, melding into the landscape of which he was a part. There was very little separation between this elder before me and the land itself. I was reminded of Charok Rinpoche who, after 100 years of meditation in his Himalayan cave, seemed inseparable from his robes and the cushion he sat on, the place he inhabited; so little of ‘him’ left.

The Dogon diviner inspects and interprets fox tracks across the designs he made in the sand the night before

The Dogon diviner inspects and interprets fox tracks across the designs he made in the sand the night before

The priest poked at the sticks and pointed out the tracks the fox had made. Looking closely, conferring amongst each other, finally he spoke. “The way is open and clear, there are no obstacles to your path. You are blessed and supported in this work. The spirit is with you and it is a good spirit.” Then he told me, “There are three countries in Africa that you will go to with the vase.” (He did not know that three vases had been designated for Africa, nor did he know that on this pilgrimage we were visiting three countries in Africa – Mali, Ghana and Liberia). He added, “and there are four countries where the support to accomplish the vases will come from in addition to the United States.”

Cynthia Jurs receives Guimolo Dolo's interpretations and asks a few more questions

Cynthia receives answers to her questions from the Dogon elder

I kept asking for him to elaborate, to say more, but he repeated the same simple response: “You are blessed. You are supported. The way is clear. There is a good spirit here. There are no obstacles.” As I questioned him with the help of my friend and translator, Oury, I came to see my lack of faith and disbelief that indeed this practice is utterly blessed and I am supported.

He invited us to bring the vase to his home in a village on the outskirts of Sangha* for the blessing ceremony. We made our way through the central courtyard where goats and chickens and dogs scampered, children played, and the women of the household, like all the women in all the Dogon villages at that season, were pounding the recently harvested millet that was piled on all the rooftops. We were ushered to a back “room” of mud walls, straw on the ground and only partial walls, more like a stall, where we sat down and brought out the vase. Next to where the old man sat was a small carved wooden door that he opened. He brought out his fetish. I was given some small sticks to hold and was instructed to concentrate on putting everything I sought a blessing for into the sticks. He insisted that I should not leave anything out. I concentrated with all my heart on every aspect of the earth treasure vases, the journey ahead to Liberia to bury the vase we had brought with us, this incredible healing prayer for the Earth that I was given so long ago, my dwindling resources with seven vases still left to bury and the big Earth changes upon us …

The old man pulls out his "fetish", a mysterious ceremonial object

Dogon priest and his fetish

I prayed for the blessings, support, protection, guidance, and accomplishment of the earth treasure vases in all the ways that not just I, but many of us are now imagining, reaching out around the world with my heart and mind to connect with the young people, elders, activists, artists, practitioners, friends and members of this growing global community to include them in the blessing and protection that was being offered.

A mysterious liquid is applied inside the neck of the earth treasure vase

Rubbing blessing substance inside the vase

When at last I felt complete, I gave the sticks back to him. He inserted them into the fetish, an oblong egg-shaped mass of dark-colored, mysterious stuff about twelve inches long and six inches wide, and returned the fetish to its sanctuary on the other side of the small door. Then he asked for the vase. He brought out a bottle of brown liquid and poured some onto a flat stone he held in his lap. While he tenderly held the vase, he wiped the liquid around the inside neck of the vase with his finger. He gave the vase back to me to seal with the cork, silks and ties. We passed it around our small gathering and for one last time he took it, placing it gently inside the little door of his sacred sanctuary, touching it to the threshold three times while praying. At last he turned to me and said, “It’s done.”

I must have looked perplexed because he asked if I had any questions! This began a long and awkward attempt to ask him about his tradition, about the times we are living in, and his guidance for the practice of bringing healing and protection to the Earth. He listened patiently and then spoke. He told me again that the vase was blessed and that I will be able to do it all. He said, “In three years time you should return to thank me!” (Again not knowing that our impossible wish has been to accomplish the last seven vases by the year 2012). The old man suggested I pray to a “certain bright star in the sky” which I took to be Sirius, a star the Dogon have a special relationship to, and pray to the rising and setting sun every day. And he told me that I could bless people now. He told me to remember the fetish whenever I need a direct link to the prayers and blessings that were made and went on to say that I should pay attention to the signs and omens. Most importantly, he told me to trust my own guidance now — that I will be protected. “Your intentions are pure. Make offerings regularly to keep the prayers alive…and always remember that helping others is an offering.”

Cynthia Jurs and the Dogon elder share their prayers and blessings for the earth treasure vase

The blessing of the earth treasure vase

Struggling to take it all in, I asked him about the sense of urgency I feel, and the pressure to get the job done before it’s too late. He looked into me then with his kind heart and calm eyes and said, “Time is not really an issue. We have no sense of urgency here like you do in the place you come from.” I understood that they are simply not conditioned by time in Dogon Country the way we are. “You need to trust that all will be taken care of.” He was quiet and thoughtful, then added, “This work to maintain balance and harmony is what we have been doing all along. It has been kept secret and has not been shared, but it is what we devote ourselves to all of the time. We have done this forever and we will continue.” I felt myself relax inside with the sense of timelessness that he was pointing to.

His kindness was a blessing

The kindness of this man was a great blessing

We said goodbye. In my heart I prayed to return in three years and thank him as he had requested. Back in my room, the tears finally came — tears of gratitude, tears of relief and tears of great humility to feel so seen and supported by this humble Dogon priest living in another world, another time. In all the years of teachings and empowerments from beloved Tibetan lamas, I had never received a blessing like this. I wanted to let it in completely; let his words take root. All I could do was cry.

I will never forget how, when I thanked him, he gave me such a look of loving kindness, blessing, appreciation, support and recognition. I felt this old man of the land, of this Earth, of this ancient and mysterious culture, somehow also thanking me. What calm, what serenity, and what great kindness he showed to me, pouring out of his eyes and into my heart. In the end, I reached out my open hands. He took them and spit in each one in what seemed like a final act of generosity. I stood and bowed as he sat unmoving on the ground radiating peace.

We drove like the wind across the sands to visit other villages before leaving Dogon Country. Our distinguished guide Abdoulaye brought us to many beautiful villages, including Yougapiri where the Tellem caves are accessible high above and some still inhabited. I hiked up to the cliffs where I could feel the land and ancient culture more closely. Looking out over the vastness of that place, feeling the ancient wisdom still alive in the rocks, I contemplated the land and the amazing people I had met. We made our way over rolling hills along the Bandiagara escarpment to Ende. The road on the desert sand became a track, then only a mere trace with the ancient Tellem caves bearing witness from above — the mystery of their long ago wisdom kept alive through ceremonies and rituals the Dogon continue to uphold. I felt a palpable sense of peace all around me and realized it is truly one of the most beautiful places on Earth I have ever visited – one of the most intact, old peaceful cultures to have survived. In fact, I think it could be a beyul*.

Guimolo Dolo had blessed the vase and it was now empowered by the Dogon

Guimolo Dolo had blessed the vase and it was now empowered by the Dogon

Just as we were departing Mali to take the earth treasure vase on to Liberia, I received word that there was unrest and possible violence in Voinjama where we were headed. The situation in neighboring Guinea was tense because of the attempted assassination of the president there, and ex-rebels in Liberia were being recruited to fight. The hard-won peace seemed suddenly very vulnerable. I was tempted to return to Dogon Country and bury the vase there where it could settle effortlessly into the Earth and do its job. But I remembered the prayers the vase contained and knew I had to go as planned to bury it where it was so needed. The vase was empowered now with the timeless peace from Dogon country and the blessings of Guimolo Dolo. I needed to take this peace and all the blessings I had received on to the everyday gandhis in Voinjama and deliver it as best I could. A pathway to peace had been initiated and I prayed I could carry the thread into the war-torn land that lay ahead.

To continue reading about the earth treasure vase pilgrimage in Liberia, CLICK HERE.


The Dogon of Mali are a mysterious ancient tribe, remarkable for their knowledge of astronomy. Some say that they were once visited by intelligent beings from the star system Sirius who imparted the knowledge and wisdom that informs their culture. Many of these claims have been the focus of sharp disagreement. Of particular contention is the fact that the Dogon knew of a white dwarf companion star to Sirius long before its presence was detected by conventional astronomy. Critics say it is impossible to verify these claims and that any special knowledge the Dogon might possess could have been passed on to them from sources much closer to home. From 1931 to 1956, the Dogon were subject to investigation by a pair of French anthropologists, Marcel Griaule and Germaine Dieterlen, who spent much time with the Dogon, finally winning their confidence and learning many of the tribe’s innermost secrets. Their books, Conversations with Ogotemmeli: An Introduction to Dogon Religious Ideas and The Pale Fox, both published in 1965, left little doubt that the Dogon were privy to astronomical knowledge that was hard to explain but neither Griaule nor Dieterlen ever made any claims about an esoteric source for the Dogon’s knowledge.

Sangha is the name of one of the larger Dogon villages, not too far from the old man’s “office.” I found it interesting because “Sangha” for a Buddhist means the “community that practices harmony and awareness” and is one of the Three Jewels (along with the Buddha and the Dharma) that one ‘takes refuge’ in when following the path of awakening.

Beyul: secret or hidden land; a paradisiacal realm in remote parts of Tibet and the Himalayas (the world?) described by the Himalayan Buddhist elders in sacred texts. These havens are places where peace, prosperity, and spiritual progress are facilitated. They often transcend political boundaries and the exact geographical locations of beyul are often debated because their locations are also spiritual. A person might follow instructions from the ancient texts but not be able to see or experience the beyul if they are not