Rainmaking Around the World

Rainmaking ceremonies are an important cultural tradition for Indigenous people around the world. This tradition is steeped in bringing life-giving water to the earth, from the canyons of the Americas, to the deserts of Africa and the plains of Australia. Today, we look at several Indigenous groups who practice rainmaking, their beliefs in the ceremonies and why water is considered a sacred element.

For many cultures, a dance to encourage rain is a common practice that stems from age-old  Indigenous history. According to one Sioux Legend,  there was a time when drought had swept the land, impacting people, plants and animals. As Tribes waited for rain, ‘Fear’ crept up. This Fear grew quickly, and children asked their Elders if Fear had forgotten how to play. So, they sang and danced in hopes that Fear would remember. Finally, Fear shed a tear and soon those tears washed over the land to restore rivers, lakes and life.

Even on Native American reservations throughout the U.S., where water can be hard to come by, people gather to honor the Earth with rainmaking ceremonies. Many Tribes continue to practice rainmaking. For example, the Ohlone, Lakota and Cherokee, all practice a rain dance to bring life to the earth. Other times, the dance is done to bring cleansing and renew peoples’ connection to the earth.

Today, these dances continue to serve as a form of prayer – an invitation or a request for life-giving rain to come back to the land, especially in areas where droughts are common. Water is life, and without it the people would not be nourished, the plants would not grow and the animals would not thrive.

For the Ba-Lovedu Tribe of South Africa, it’s customary to elect Rain Queens who are believed to be able to invoke the rain and give birth to daughters to pass down their rain powers. According to the tradition, when the time of one Rain Queen is over, their eldest daughter steps in to continue the tradition. Different ceremonies are held, depending on the severity of a drought, and the community gathers beforehand to discuss which ceremonies are appropriate.

It can be easy to forget how much of a blessing water is until you don’t have it. These Indigenous traditions help us to remember that water is indeed a precious resource. As aboriginal shaman Putuparri has said, “If you take care of [your] country, it will take care of you.”

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