Unlike other Dogon figures, the dege dal nda (meaning 'sculptures of the terrace') are not believed to contain ancestor spirits. They are instead used for purely decorative purposes during the funeral of rich men. Cleaned and polished with shea butter, tree sap, soot and oil before display, once prepared the figure is positioned on the roof terrace of the deceased man's home.
Some sources1 point to dege dal nda figures as female ancestor figures (i.e. containing the spirits of deceased female ancestors) used for protection against infertility. Owned by women, it is suggested that the figures are brought out during births to ensure a safe delivery.
When not in use, the figures are stored in the home of the the town hogon (chief priest responsible for religious ceremonies and rituals).