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The Golden Bough A study of magic and religion

Page: 57

Animals, again, often play an important part in these weather-charms. The Anula tribe of Northern Australia associate the dollar-bird with rain, and call it the rain-bird. A man who has the bird for his totem can make rain at a certain pool. He catches a snake, puts it alive into the pool, and after holding it under water for a time takes it out, kills it, and lays it down by the side of the creek. Then he makes an arched bundle of grass stalks in imitation of a rainbow, and sets it up over the snake. After that all he does is to sing over the snake and the mimic rainbow; sooner or later the rain will fall. They explain this procedure by saying that long ago the dollar-bird had as a mate at this spot a snake, who lived in the pool and used to make rain by spitting up into the sky till a rainbow and clouds appeared and rain fell. A common way of making rain in many parts of Java is to bathe a cat or two cats, a male and a female; sometimes the animals are carried in procession with music. Even in Batavia you may from time to time see children going about with a cat for this purpose; when they have ducked it in a pool, they let it go.

Among the Wambugwe of East Africa, when the sorcerer desires to make rain, he takes a black sheep and a black calf in bright sunshine, and has them placed on the roof of the common hut in which the people live together. Then he slits the stomachs of the animals and scatters their contents in all directions. After that he pours water and medicine into a vessel; if the charm has succeeded, the water boils up and rain follows. On the other hand, if the sorcerer wishes to prevent rain from falling, he withdraws into the interior of the hut, and there heats a rock-crystal in a calabash. In order to procure rain the Wagogo sacrifice black fowls, black sheep, and black cattle at the graves of dead ancestors, and the rain-maker wears black clothes during the rainy season. Among the Matabele the rain-charm employed by sorcerers was made from the blood and gall of a black ox. In a district of Sumatra, in order to procure rain, all the women of the village, scantily clad, go to the river, wade into it, and splash each other with the water. A black cat is thrown into the stream and made to swim about for a while, then allowed to escape to the bank, pursued by the splashing of the women. The Garos of Assam offer a black goat on the top of a very high mountain in time of drought. In all these cases the colour of the animal is part of the charm; being black, it will darken the sky with rain-clouds. So the Bechuanas burn the stomach of an ox at evening, because they say, “The black smoke will gather the clouds and cause the rain to come.” The Timorese sacrifice a black pig to the Earth-goddess for rain, a white or red one to the Sun-god for sunshine. The Angoni sacrifice a black ox for rain and a white one for fine weather. Among the high mountains of Japan there is a district in which, if rain has not fallen for a long time, a party of villagers goes in procession to the bed of a mountain torrent, headed by a priest, who leads a black dog. At the chosen spot they tether the beast to a stone, and make it a target for their bullets and arrows. When its life-blood bespatters the rocks, the peasants throw down their weapons and lift up their voices in supplication to the dragon divinity of the stream, exhorting him to send down forthwith a shower to cleanse the spot from its defilement. Custom has prescribed that on these occasions the colour of the victim shall be black, as an emblem of the wished-for rain-clouds. But if fine weather is wanted, the victim must be white, without a spot.


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