Rain Dancing

Cultures all over the world have rituals for the breaking of drought conditions and the calling up of the Gods to provide rain for precipitation starved crops.

The North American Indians had a rain dance, although some suggest that this was just a way of getting around the laws preventing them from performing the sun dance ritual. They were after all at the time somewhat under the colonial boot and rather restricted in their movements. Actually the Osage and Quapaw tribes made rather a business out of rain dancing, with local knowledge of meteorological events they offered to perform rain dances for settlers in exchange for tradable goods. Their descendents are now working for CNN on the weather channel.

Bulgarians have the Paparuda, where a girl (There seem to be a lot of girls involved in this rain making business, in fact they seem to have pretty much cornered the market), dances through the village in a newly fashioned skirt of fresh knitted vines and is splashed with water at each household. A curiously wasteful process if you are in the midst of drought one would think,  the Romanians have a similar ceremony the Caloian,  whilst the Albanians have the Dudule.

The aboriginal peoples of the Kimberly region of Western Australia pray to Wandjina spirits who apparently control the coming of the rainy season and laying down various laws for the people. These spirits however obviously have limited geographical powers because apparently as you travel east fiddling about with the weather becomes the prerogative of the Yagjagbula and Jabirringgi. Amongst the pastoral Karimojong  people of Uganda the calling up of rain is called the akirriket a ceremony mostly involving the killing of a bull of specified colouration, generally black (an apparent link to the dark rain clouds that were sought after), slaughtering bulls seems to be almost as prevalent as deflowering when it comes to calling up the gods..

The Balobedu people of Limpopo province have their very own Rain Queen Modjadji. Apparently the rain making skills were originally gained via some rather dubious incestuous impregnation of the king’s daughter Dzugundini ,precise information on whether her father or brother were responsible seems to be a little cloudy (if you will pardon the pun)  Apparently there is something to her skills if not meteorologically at least horticulturally speaking. Her powers are reinforced by the presence of a rather luxurious garden surrounding her home and for good measure she has a cycad named after her Modjadji cycad

It seems to me that a lot of people are having a good deal of fun with this little rain making business, deflowering of maidens, incestuous liaisons and the ritual killing of bulls would appear pretty darned entertaining compared to our locally reliable but never the less rather stayed rain making processes.

Down here in the South we have a far less troublesome means of calling upon the meteorologically inclined deities. It doesn’t require any particular amount of dancing, no sacrificing of bulls or deflowering of maidens. It is called the “opening of the trout season ceremony” and is performed each year in spring by the Piscatorial peoples of the Cape Province, a loose band of hunter gatherers centered around the Limietberg of the Western Cape and descended from ancient angler tribes made up from the amalgamation of the Strandlopers and the famous dry fly fisherman Jan Van Riebeeck..

All that is required is for the designated day for the commencement of piscatorial activities on the local streams to be defined That being September the 1st and the notional commencement of spring. We can go for months without the normal degree of wet weather but come September 1st, rods in hand, newly tied flies sparkling in neatly laid out rows the heavens will open with a vengeance.

As the day approaches the gods lull the believers into a false sense of security with fair weather and warm breezes, thoughts of sacrifice and maiden deflowering are put to the back of the tribal minds as preparations are made for the great day.

Tribal elders are consulted as to the best patterns and equipment and local sages are visited to obtain permission from the ancestors to be allowed to practice the fine art of angling and for the payment of dues for the royal privilege. Artificial flies are manufactured from the skins and feathers of animals and birds collected during the winter months and the piscators parade the fields , their clothing adorned in multi-coloured decorations of imitative insects. The crowning piece being known as “the fishing hat” offers signs of importance based on the numbers and exuberance of the decorative pieces. New acolytes are required to wear clean breast coverings “fishing vests” similarly bedecked with various shiny gadgetry whilst the elders having earned their colours on previous hunts are granted permission to daub their attire with blood and fish scales as signs of their seniority.

Preparations start in earnest on the eve of the opening ceremony, much fuss is made over the selection of gear and the previous mentioned adornments and then if the Gods are pleased the wind starts to whip the treetops. Dark clouds gather on the horizon, (much the same colour as the slaughtered bulls of the inland tribes) and the heavens open. Water descends from the skies in sheets as the laughing of the ancestors can be heard over the roar or the wind (some people think that this is just thunder).

Eventually the tribal council declares that the opening day is a complete bust for yet another year and the piscators return to a life of bull slaughtering and maiden deflowering as the rivers flood once more.

In time the deities will tire of their little game and fishing will be possible, but right now it is time to further adorn my fishing hat, perhaps if I can cram a few more feathers on there next year we will actually get to go fishing.Failing that and being a confirmed vegetarian there is only maiden deflowering left as a form of entertainment at least until the World Cup Rugby starts in a weeks time. Or of course I could waste another morning writing a nonsensical blog post if things become really tiresome and the maidens don’t pitch up.

If you are similarly frustrated take a look at my latest eBook Essential Fly Tying Skills available on line from www.inkwaziflyfishing.co.za or Netbooks, (www.netbooks.co.za), or over the counter at Netbooks in Milnerton,  Wild Fly in Nottingham Road, Fly Talk at Eikendal Somerset West,  Mavungana in Dullstroom and Johannesburg and Frontier Fly Fishing in Johannesburg.
If nothing else the skills demonstrated should mean that your fishing hat can be better festooned and the wrath of the Gods avoided if we are lucky.
You can also check out the promotional video about the book on You Tube at Essential Fly Tying Techniques

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2 Responses to “Rain Dancing”

  1. Craig Says:

    Brilliant, so if we are in the throes of a drought, we can have a stream of open days…

  2. August 28th 2014 | The Cape Town Fly Fishing Report Says:

    […] Further back in 2011 I was equally contemplating the apparent unfairness that the opening of the season seems to regularly coincide with fresh downpours and flooded streams in “Raindancing”. https://paracaddis.wordpress.com/2011/09/03/rain-dancing/ […]

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