The Zulu say:
He who brings rain, brings life.
The ancient art of rainmaking was once practiced all around the world. It represented the sacred relationship between humans and the Divine. The deep connection between Earth and cosmos, an innate and intimate understanding of the elements, and the essential nature of the universe.
It wasn’t something extraordinary to be able to communicate with the cosmic force and command the elements. It was natural. This relationship kept the Earth in balance and through sacredness and respect for the Earth and the Divine force, maintained harmony and the right order of nature.
Connection to the Elements
To understand these sacred traditions is to understand the extraordinary sacred connection Indigenous people have with the land. That intuitive understanding and knowing about life, which gives them knowledge of where water is, weather patterns, animal behavior, and the messages nature is giving them. Having lived in cities for so long, many of us have lost this understanding and connection to the natural world.
Shamanic rainmaking ceremonies are thousands of years old and were once practiced all around the world. A man or woman who had a gift or predisposition to rainmaking would be trained for many years, developing skills and a deep relationship with the elements and weather. Rainmakers were taught the practice from a young age and it was often seen as a calling, much like a medicine woman or seer.
What can we learn from these rainmakers and is it possible we can all become one, in some way?
In Africa, the rainmakers were considered to be rainmaking priests and priestesses, and some African tribes even had rainmaking clans.
A ‘rainmaking’ center, where African shamans would call on the gods to send rain, was discovered in Southern Africa by archaeologists in 2013 while investigating rock art. Researchers confirmed the hilltop sacred site of Ratho Kroonkop was full of evidence of rain control fauna. It is believed that the San people used this site to conduct rituals for rain and that when farmers came to the area they would hire the San shamans to call on the skies to open up. Researchers say the shamans would have climbed up the hill through the fissures in the rock, and then lit fires to offer animal remains to the gods as part of their ceremonies.
Maurice Iwu, Nigerian professor of pharmacognosy (the study of medicinal plants) in his Handbook of African Medicinal Plants, says that the process of rainmaking is complicated and differs enormously from place to place.
The Igbo people burn sacred herbs and call on the rain god with broomsticks: the Koma rainmakers live in caves and restrict their drinks to milk, and only drink water publicly to initiate rainmaking ceremonies.
He says rain falls when the ancestors and gods are pleased.
Rain is viewed as a sacred and phenomenal gift from God, the most explicit expression of God’s goodness, providence and love. This important herald of creation serves as a first sign (droughts and flood) of the anger of the creator. Rainmakers represent the people’s contact with the blessings of time and eternity, a link between humans and the Divine. The rainmakers do not rely exclusively on their spiritual powers; they are well versed in weather and environmental matters and may spend long periods of apprenticeship acquiring their knowledge.
Indigenous Australian Rainmaking
In the moving and beautiful movie Putuparri and the Rainmakers, the rainmaking tradition of the desert dwellers of the Great Sandy Desert – some of the most arid country on the entire planet – documents the ancient rainmaking practices of the Australian Aboriginal people.
We are shown a small wet spot, which was once the waterhole cared for and inhabited by the inland tribes before they were forced off their land by the white cattle station owners.
When a rainmaker, Spider, comes to the spot forty years after he left his birthplace, calling to the spirit of the waterhole, Kurtal, and cleans out the spot, the clean fresh water bursts straight up, filling the waterhole once more. He does a rain dance, communicating with the spirits of the land, and then tells everyone to clear off fast. They drive away and an enormous lightning storm quickly approaches, drenching the parched red desert earth.
Anthropologist Daniel Vachon, who joined one of the expeditions to their desert homeland in the Great Sandy Desert, shared his experience:
They had literally made rain in one of the driest parts of Australia and they were known as the rainmakers.
Indigenous Australians cared for the land in ways we can only imagine today. They understood how to live in deep harmony with nature and to care for country so it flourished, and rainmaking was part of this.
Later in the movie, on finding his grandfather’s home country’s waterhole polluted, Putuparri says that country is like a lost soul with nobody to look after it. This moving statement could be applied to the whole planet right now. We are not taking enough care of the Earth and everything is out of balance. We need to return to the old ways and listen to our Indigenous brothers and sisters who know the right way.
Native American Rainmaking
Among the best-known examples of weather modification rituals are North American rain dances, which were performed by many Native American tribes, particularly in the South West area of the country.
It is believed that the Native Americans often tracked and followed known weather patterns, and also offered to perform rain dances for settlers in return for trade items. In particular, the feathered masked rain dance of the Zuni people of New Mexico has been well documented. These dances were passed down by an oral tradition. While these indigenous dances may look like ornate ceremonial practices, they were performed as potent rituals. The rain dance is performed to bring rain and growth to the land and the crops. When the land is dry and rain is needed for the plants, they dance and play instruments so they can wake up Kokopelli, the God of fertility and rain.
Wu Shamans in ancient China performed sacrificial rain dance ceremonies in times of drought. They also acted as intermediaries with nature spirits who were believed to control rainfall and flooding.
In Thailand, there is a curious tradition of the cat parade, a ritual used when rain hasn’t come for the rainy season, where Thai farmers bring a female cat in a basket and join a parade through the village. Water is splashed on the cat when the parade goes through someone’s house. It is believed the cat’s meow, when it gets wet, will bring rain.
Beyond the Legend
So is rainmaking only the stuff of legends and shamans? Or can we all learn to harness our own energy and positively influence the planet around us? In the world of modern materialistic science, nobody is supposed to be able to make rain. And yet people are. Even non-shamans are making rain.
American Matt Ryan, coined ‘the rainmaker’, claims to be able to bring rain. He has been hired over the years by farmers to bring rain.
I know how to go about making rain. The first is the shamanic or spiritual way. It uses intention, prayers, medicine objects, ceremony to help an individual connect with an unseen force of nature that produces clouds, rain, thunder and lightning, winds and other weather phenomena.
Matt Ryan learned from Sun Bear, who he reveres as a rain man of the first degree.
The weather seemed to follow him where he went, and there were many, many instances as he traveled the country for years. Not that it was grey and rainy wherever he was, but that if rain was needed, it would come. He broke many droughts just by arriving. Other aspects of the weather, such as the wind, gentle breezes or strong blows, seemed to mirror his needs. And there were a few thunder and lightning shows I was very lucky to see.
Sun Bear said that he worked with ‘the Grandfathers’ – an invisible, spiritual consciousness, a being of sorts; one that worked with humans and the weather. He said they’d been doing it for thousands and thousands of years.
You Are a Rainmaker
The art of rainmaking is still practiced today in a few places in Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and wherever some knowledge of the old way remains.
While these indigenous rainmakers were all trained and had a talent for rainmaking, we can all affect the weather. I remember hearing my teacher Amma, the hugging saint, speak at a retreat some years ago. She emphasized the need for us all to deal with our anger and fear, and to remain peaceful as much as possible, as she warned she could see dark clouds of anger and fear around the planet; causing disharmony and disruptions in the natural world. She told us that excessive anger from humans was causing natural calamities, like earthquakes and floods.
So, in a sense, you and I are rainmakers too and we have a responsibility to our planet to live in a peaceful way, in harmony with ourselves and others. This is one of the best ways we can each contribute to the health of our planet and its future. Make sure your words, actions and thoughts bring peace to all you meet and you will be supporting peace in the world.