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Rituals to Appease the Providence to Send Rain During Drought Periods



By : Dr. Mohammad-Hossein Papoli Yazdi & Abbas Jalali

Akhbar, Daily Newspaper, 

No. 54, Jan. 0th, 0, Page 186 - 210


Abstract: At present, after 7000 years of development in human intelligence on the Iranian Plateau, we do still confront believers in monotheism and science reacting the same way as their ancient ancestors to beg the unseen power to send rain just like those early human beings who believed in magic and worshiped natural phenomena when there are long dry years and the specter of a dangerously long drought period looms large. In this survey, 30 of the most common rituals on the country-wide scale have been looked into. Rituals such as looking for the skull of a donkey in which a seed has naturally taken root and breaking or burning such a skull during the rituals performed to propitiate the providence to send rain, or holding a doll (scarecrow) and moving it around while reciting rain songs, or still, pushing a middle aged woman into water in similar fashion as Kariz bride. In some regions of the country, mass prayers are performed (Esteqsa prayer or prayer for rain) to beg God the Almighty to show mercy and drench the thirsty barren farm lands by covering the blue skies with rain clouds and sending some sort of sustained downpour. The scientific studies which have so far been carried out to find a way out of the plague of drought put to show a diversity of rituals performed in this country at different historic junctures.






Rituals asking for rainfall have been divided into two expanses

Khorasan and the Iranian Plateau
Samples of different rituals performed by the people in Khorasan


Dasjerd Beyarjmand (Semnan Province)
Children and adolescents fashion a cross like skeleton out of wood and dress it like a scarecrow. This effigy is called Talank. Just before the dusk sets in, someone hoists the Talank and the rest begin to follow his footsteps while they recite the following limerick:

Oh Talank, where is the rain, where is the rain
where is the shepherds cane, where is the farmer's spade
While they are going around in their village, some people distribute candy or hardened sugar
among the children. The children look for the skull of a donkey till they find it. Village women paint the skull. Then the children would recite some songs and would throw away the skull in the most remote network of water canal.

Gazin Bojestan
In this rural area, a three part ritual is performed:

1. The adolescent paint a stick of wood in yellow, red, black and white. Then they place the skull of a donkey on top of it and sing the following song:

Oh Mighty lord send the rain, the endless rain Young goats are all dying of thirst, hurry on hurry on.

At this moment they toss the donkey skull into water and throw rocks at it till it breaks. The village people, in the meanwhile, would give the young people, sultana, dates and bread. The adolescent would then share out whatever they have received in this manner.

2. The people would cook a stew like soup in the hope of rainfall. At first, everybody would bring as much wheat as he can afford. They grind the wheat into a coarse flour and mix it with cooking oil and garbanzo beans. When the stew is made, a cleric is summoned to recite the tragic events songs while the rest are busy eating the stew.

3. In former times, a few old men would loop their belt like shawls around their necks and then would pick up still nursing babies to carry them to the countryside and recite the prayers specifically made to ask for rainfall.

Water Well Number One of Janat Abad (Sar Bishe)
Here, the performance of rituals would continue through the month of November during drought periods. When the skies get dark on a cloudy night, they build the Atalo (the scarecrow) and the adolescent and women begin their march in the streets while reciting these songs:

There is rain in Atalo,
An unending rain,
Atalo can deliver,
Our goats are like camels,
The red tulip goats,
Have all died of thirst,
Oh rainfall, Oh rainfall,
Come down in downpour,
So that the livestock owners are satisfied,
So that the wheat owners are green with envy,
The animal skin overcoat has turned into a soggy pleated long skirt, Stitches of the overcoat have come off,
I was sitting restitching it,
I was burned in the desire for rain,
Oh rainfall, Oh rainfall,
Come down in downpour,
So that the livestock owners are satisfied,
So that the wheat owners are green with envy.

Some of the rural dwellers say their payers in their residences at that time and pray to God to send rain. When the group of the adolescents and women arrive at the door of these people's houses, the residents would present those carrying the scarecrow with such things as flour and cooking oil. Some people spray the Atalo with water and then cook a special local bread in order to roll it down from the top of the nomadic tents. If the bread falls on its back, there will be rain soon, and if it should end face up there won't be any rain in a near future. The people of these villages are of the belief that wheat farmers have suspended a donkey skull by a string or a chain inside a water well in order to prevent rainfall and they can mark up the price of wheat. So they look for a donkey skull and when they find it they burn it. They usually find such a skull in the countryside and early in the evening, they set fire to this donkey skull in the main village square or thoroughfare. The skull must burn and be reduced to ashes. Then the ashes are poured over water to appease unseen mysterious power to send rain. Through these rituals, they are in all probability trying to break the spell of the wheat hoarders and coax rainfall.

Lano, Sar Bishe
During the period of zodiac signs, Scorpion (October-November) or Sagittarius (November-December), there must be some kind of rainfall. If there is no rain in these periods, the village women and children between 10 and 15 convene on a spot in the village on a Friday night or during Friday daylight time. They set a huge pot on fire and everybody would according to his or her resources drop a fistful of rice, lentil or slit peas, etc into the pot. Then they dump half crushed wheat into the pot in order to cook Gholur (kind of local food). Still, they may mix wheat flour and cooking oil to make into a sort of pie called oily Shalpouk. Of course the practice is exercised by middle aged women. When the concoction is cooked, the rural cleric is summoned to recite prayers and they follow the payers with shouts of Amen.

While they are carrying the scarecrow around they recite these limericks:

Taloo what about us Mova,
What about the ram Mova,
Hattalo, Mattalo,
The tulip red goats are gone,
All have died of thirst,
The wheat is under the soil,
It is dying of thirst,
Oh God send us the rainfall,
Oh the unemployed dry farmer,
I have pinned my hopes on,
The powerful God, Oh God,
You send us the rainfall.

While the kids are reciting these limericks, they spray water on one another and the Taloo, on occasions. Other kids come to the front door of their houses and give out a bunch of sugar cubes or sweets and splash water on the tracks of the singing kids. This is done to solicit God's mercy and for him to send rainfall. Looking for a donkey skull and burning it is wide spread. They then pour the ashes into a subterranean water canal.

Nazdasht Afagheneh (Sar Bisheh)
When there was a long period of dry spell, shepherds of Nazdasht used to build a scarecrow (Taloo) and would put a turban on its head. Women, children and the adolescent would start forming a procession and follow it. They would find some flour and cooking oil to make into a kneaded porridge. They would then break it up and then take a piece to roll down at the roof top of a tent so as to let it fall on the back or on the face. They would also cook some Gholur and slaughter a sheep as a sacrifice. They would burn a donkey skull too. Those who were holding the Taloo, would get sprayed with water as they walked past the tents. Children were also sprayed with water. Then they would go to the principle of the village and would sing the following song:

He has got 100 ewes and 100 lambs,
He can afford to buy another hundred too,
They are grazing in the valley,
His wife is looking into every nook and cranny,
His son is in charge of the herd,
What does our Taloo have,
It has got bottom pot oil,
Coming from goat skin bag,
Your pride is getting too hot,
Oh rainfall,
We wish you would begin to come down,
Oh you frugal rainfall,
You have dismembered the rock,
The wheat is under the soil,
The headman is full of sorrow,
I wish you would come down,
Oh rainfall,
How hard the rainfall comes down,
Then its bitter stream would come.


Khorramabad Sabzehvar
During dry years, 30 to 50 days after the Iranian new year (March 21), if there is still no rain, the kid would get together and would proceed to congregate in front of the houses belonging to those who are in need of rainfall, such people as farmers. They would fashion a scarecrow and would carry it with themselves as they would sing in Turkish the following song:

Of God I am a beardless,
I am a beardless,
Oh God I'd like to get off,
Get out of the room all of you,
So that with the will of the Almighty,
I could get off.

Then the person who is begging God to send rain would fetch a bowl of water and would splash it on the beardless person who is holding the scarecrow. The person who gets wet, of course, does not flinch either and doesn't care at all. This translates into the fact that he is feeling the rainfall on his top. The local resident would then dole out flour, wheat, and eggs among those children who are with the beardless individual. The kids would eat the eggs and sell the wheat. They would mix the flour with water and would pour the mixture down a drain pipe of a mosque. As soon as the mixture reaches the ground floor of the yard they would shout praises to Prophet Mohammad and his blessed household. When the rain finally begins to come down, the kids would joyously sing the following song in chorus:

Shower down to the dry farm belonging to my father,
Put an end to the bone dry fire woods of Qoli.


Dargaz Rural Areas
When there is no rain in spring and dry farms are suffering from lack of water and are dying of thirst, the people fashion a scarecrow from fabric and hoist it on a three meter pole. They call it Kusa. Someone would hold it up and a procession of old timers and young people begin to march. They go to the front door of different people and sing the following song:

Kusa Kusa what do you want?
It is asking God for rainfall,
Kusa's job is butchery,
Even it snows it counts,
Kusa there is no thrill in the business,
He is in hock up to its eyeball,
Oh God please sent the rain,
Please, accept my promise and vow,
Come down in shower oh rain,
Start a flash flood,
Make the orphans' farm wet,
Make the flower bed of the young ones wet,
Pour down on the dry farms.

This procession, while carrying Kusa around and singing the song to beg for rainfall, would stop in front of every house and one of the residents would fill a bowl full of water and would splash it on Kusa while he begs God for rainfall. In some parts of Dargaz, some people would cook a thick soup dedicated to rainfall and dole it out among the needy. They are of the belief that the soup dedicated to the way of the Almighty would bring rainfall.

During a drought, the people would catch a tortoise and dump it in water so that there would be rain.

If there is a long spell of dryness and there are signs of a drought, they make a promise to God and cook a porridge in huge pots. Then they would take out of the town or go to the front of a mosque and pass the porridge around in portions among the people.

Jalambadan on Sabzehvar Mountain
In this country town, when there is little rain, a number of people, specially those engaged in dry farming and are therefore more in need of rain, pick up a stick and wrap an rag around it and then give it some sort of dress. They also put a hat on its top. Then they pick it up and make a procession and march in the village. They call this effigy Choqol. They sing the following song:

Choqol Choqol make the rain,
Make three kilos of bread cheap.

And then by chanting Hossen Hossen they go to the front doors of the people's houses. They receive three to six kilos of flour and fashion a sort of local bread. They then toss this through a rain drain pipe. Later on they would pick the Choqol and dump it into water. They firmly believe rain would come down two or three days later. In this same village and during the acting out of Choqol rituals, if the people know of two people, specially men or children who are twins, they are asked to go with the people so that they would thrown into water later on at the end of the rituals.

In some villages of Sabzehvar, during dry seasons, the people would apply cosmetics to a donkey and a number of children accompanying the grown-ups and the donkey goes to the mountains while they sing the following song:

Send rain oh Holy Qazak,
Spare us three kilos of bread,
The wheats are under the soil,
They are dying of thirst.


Jarf Neyshabour
In this village, if there is no rain in sixes, meaning the 46th, the 56th, and the 66th days after the new Iranian year (beginning March 21), Ataloo, or the same Chooli Qazak (scarecrow) should be built and a procession is to carry it around to the front door of different people's houses to collect flour. The village people are to pour water over the scarecrow and the person who is carrying it, since they believe God will have mercy on them and would send rain. The residents of every household would contribute a little flour or even money. The collected flour would be taken to the village mosque and there they bake some sort of local bread. A loaf of this bread is then rolled over the ground. If the bread loaf falls to the right, there will be rain and if the opposite happens and it falls to the left, there won't be any rain.

Bazeh Hoor Robat Sefid (75 km south of Mashad)
A few young people would build a scarecrow called Chooleh Qazak and they form a procession in the company of the adolescents and children of the village. In order to procure the ingredients of the thick soup called Ash, they call at every house in the village and when the people see Chooleh Qazak, they would give wheat and other ingredients for Ash to the carriers of the scarecrow. They also splash the scarecrow and everybody else accompanying it with water. These people are of course very patient and won't get angry by getting wet. These people usually sing songs and start fun and jokes.

At the end of the ceremony, they cook a large amount of Ash and everybody would have his share of it and then they would pray for rain to fall. When making the Chooleh Qazak, pain is taken to give it the look of an extremely thirsty, bored and dead tired person, who is in need of rain. The people of this village call bored and dispirited people Chooleh Qazak.

City of Qaen
In this city, the rituals are in the form of offering prayers to appease the providence to send rain. These rituals are performed in one of the mosques of the city called by the same name. The mosque, called Rain Prayer is located next to the public park of this city. Religious prayers are the most prevalent form of rituals for asking for rain. That is why this old mosque is an indication of the longevity of these rituals.

In the past, when there was little rainfall, the young would build a scarecrow and would form a procession walking along the city streets and calling at the people's houses. These young people would also sing some sort of song too. The residents of the houses, would usually go to the rooftop of their houses and would welcome their guests by dumping a bucket of water over them to make them look like they had been drenched by rainfall. Then the head of the household would come to the door and would give the young such gifts as sugar cubes, wheat or sweets. These gifts would then be portioned out among the members of the procession at the end of the rituals. However, the wheat would be cooked into some kind of porridge and then consumed. In modern days, they do two different things:

1. They ask the farmers to contribute some alms, which would be spent to buy the ingredients needed to cook a porridge at the public mosque of the city. Then they would entertain the local residents by giving them some of this dish while they pray and send greetings to the Prophet and his household members.

2. Another part of the ritual is making a Seyed (a mythical descendent of the Prophet Mohammed) thoroughly wet with water. The ritual starts as they make a Seyed to sit facing the Mecca and then the people turn on the water tap of a hose to splash the man or they would get pail full of water to dump water over his head, while they pray for rainfall. Then they would ask everyone in the crowd watching the rituals to pitch in and contribute some money to be given to the Seyed.

Bozjani Sangbast (Fariman)
During dry spells the same rituals of wetting a Seyed is performed. The only difference is that in this village, women and children would drench a woman Seyed and ask her to pray for rainfall. Then they present her with gifts.

Roodbal Sepidan Fars
Similar to many other villages in this area, flour is collected from different households, then they would place a few gravels in the dough made from the flour and bake some bread. They call this ceremony Hadresseh. There are other strange practices in Roodbal besides this. One is finding a bald person and they beat him so much until it starts to rain. The poor bald man would promise there would rain for three consecutive days in order to escape further punishment.

Villages of Kermanshah
1. During droughts, there is some violent and peculiar ritual in Gabruwa, which is more like taking hostages. The ritual starts by plundering a neighboring village and the plunderers take as many cows, sheep and chicken... as they can carry with them. They hold their prize in hostage. Then there would be a big commotion and neighboring villages would start a war to recapture their looted possessions by beating each other while wielding clubs and sticks. They are of the belief that by the end of this violent event and on the very next day there would be rain. If the rainfall takes place, they would return the loots, otherwise they hold onto them as hostage until there is rain.

2. A more peaceful ritual during dry periods is observed. The ritual provides for a few people to fill a bowl or a pot with water and then they would place it on their heads while they march through the streets. The local residents would then beg these people to spare them some water. The water carriers of course would proudly condescend to give everyone a ladle full of water. In this manner they try to put to show the need for water to the providence and make it feel ashamed.

Villages of Lorestan
The same violent ritual, however in much milder manner and called cow rustling is performed among the Lors (residents of the province of Lorestan call themselves Lors). When there is acute shortage of rainfall and there are fears for the farms to be destroyed, a few village women would take their head wraps and wrap them around their waists and then go to the countryside to stop the cows of the neighboring village from grazing and drive them toward their own homes. However, the women in the neighboring village are well into the conspiracy. They would go to the same area of the countryside while wielding sticks. There is a not so violent tug of war between the two groups. Of course, there are times when someone gets a little hurt. In the end someone would intercede on the conditions that the cows are returned to their owners and there would be rain afterward.

Expanse of Research
The rituals to ask for rainfall have been studied in more than 30 villages or regions. Most of the research was conducted in the province of Khorasan. These research works have been conducted solely on the field, except for those instances that have be mentioned to be otherwise and their sources recited. Villages and areas studied in this survey are respectively from the north to the south:

Doroongar (Dargaz), Fillab (Qoochan), Neqab and Dazq (Chenaran), Farizi (Chenaran), Lower Jar Khoshk (Sarakhs Mashad Road), the city of Mashad Sangbast (Fariman), Bazeh Hoor (Robar Sefid, Mashad, Esfarayen, Khoramabad (Sabzehvar), Jalambadan (Bar Kooh Sabzevar), Biyarjmand (Shahrood), Bab-ol- Hokm (Kashmar), Kashmar Gozin (Bojestan) Kakhak (Gonabad)/ the city of Qaen, Shahrokht, Gazakht, Cheshmeh Beed (Zir Kooh Qaen), Ostanest (Mod, Birjand) and Sar Khong (Dar Mian- Birjand), Tabas and Kermanshah.

Library reference for other sites:
Lorestan, Raeni tribe (Sirjan and Baft), the tribes of Lor Mirza Hassani and Sarabi (Sirjan), Bakhtiari, Boyr Ahamad, Dashti, (Dashtestan Fars), Kord tribe (Mamassani), Kooh Mareh Noodan, Joroq and Sorkhi, Roodbal, Sepidan (Fars), Qashqai tribe, the Turkmen and Gilan.

In Search of the Roots for the Rituals
At the first glance at the samples of rituals to ask for rainfall in the foregoing examples, we can see that the outer crust for these rituals are very different and varied from one another. These motley rituals can bring hesitations to investigations into the similarity of roots for such rituals. However, a deeper scrutiny would bring to light a new outlook that can give similar structures in these rituals and their having sprung up from the same roots all over the Iranian Plateau, which puts to show how the phenomenon of drought, which may break out every once in a while in these places can leave a lasting impression on the life style, thoughts and cultures of the people under such locally induced climatic circumstances.

On the other hand, as we get further away from the urban areas and move toward off the beaten track and virginal territories, the true and ancient veins of these rituals become more striking. In some rural areas, if there are long term research conducted and the confidence of those who are questioned are won over, small and minute details, which are, however, of great significance, will come to light. As a matter of fact, while in Sar Khong village, we came across the issue of boisterous dancing of seven girls or women, all named Fatomeh during these rituals. This very fact, that is the number 7 and the noisy dancing of girls would point to the ancient rituals going back to offering prayers to the rain goddess and angels prior the advent of the spread of Islam in Iran. However, these ancient rituals have been given a religious cover and are performed under the same.

History of Rituals to Ask for Rain
These rituals have their roots in the far away past and during the history of human mythology. As the investigations into the veins of very ancient Iranian mythological beliefs are revealed in them, the rituals through the passage of time have combined and merged with the more up to date religious beliefs of every historical era and have taken up newer features.

At least, some things have been added to them. The chain links of these varied alterations can be filled in a chart through a deeper examination while we are in possession of some samples. The rituals to ask for rainfall in the villages of Fariman and splashing the people with water or still making some person such as a woman wet, may be a faded feature of the phenomenon for coaxing the rain goddess to send rain after the advent of the Islamic conquest of Iran. By this very same token, because of urban culture and distances among families a male Seyed may have taken the place of what used to be the originally intended personality. While making this man sit facing the Mecca and asking him to pray to God to send rain is an effort to give reinforcements to the religious aspect of the ancient rituals.

In the same breath, the making of a scarecrow (Chooleh Qazeh) in the city of Fariman has been relegated to history, or still, a collective contribution in helping out to cook a porridge like soup, which used to be practiced in rural areas, has changed form and has taken the newer feature of collection of alms from farmers and feeding the public who have congregated in the local mosque.

These fast changing events demonstrate the fact that getting to the roots of the ancient practices of these rituals would prove to be highly difficult as there is no written records of these rituals in existence. Similar to many other cultural aspects of this land, these rituals have only been verbally passed on from an older generation to a newer one. That is why many changes have been effected on these rituals and practices through the passage of time. Every ethnic group and nation, which has come in close contact with these rituals has also diluted the practices a little with his own approaches to the same purpose. Villagers and farmers of this land in times of drought and dry spells, would go about performing some sort of rituals. For instance, the outbreak of a severe drought during 1984-5 in Iran, since the plague was much more severe in the southern areas, forced the rural dwellers and nomadic tribes of Fars and Kerman to hold such rituals. If we were privileged with field facilities, we could have eyewitnessed the rituals performed in the outbreak of recent drought in 2000 in many different places and put them in documentation for later references.

Time for the Performance of the Rituals
The time of performing these rituals has more or less to do with the usual time for rainfall in every locality. In northern Khorasan, since there is a long winter season and the arrival of spring time is delayed, these rituals are performed in mid-spring. However, as we move further south, since the warmer seasons are more protracted, these rituals are performed much earlier. As a matter of fact, rainy season begins in mid-October in the southeast of Sar Bisheh. When rainfall is scanty or delayed for more than a month, the rituals are initiated. That is to say in mid December and at the peak of equinox they coincide with zodiacally called months of Scorpion and Sagittarius.

Main Structural Forms of the Rituals
If we should take a varied view of these rituals, which by themselves are indicative of bipolar cultural and geographic effects of every residential locality, the main framework of the main structural forms of the same will come to light.

What must be kept in mind though is the fact that the research into these rituals and the field studies carried out in every locality would certainly shed more light on newer hidden facts. Many a cultural feature, such as collective participation staged during these rituals is all by itself an indication of personal and collective participation to ask the providence for rainfall are among the ongoing beliefs still prevalent among the rural dwellers and nomadic tribes. In some cases, these participations would get out of the limits of interest groups and would encompass the whole community except for the wheat hoarders.

At this point, we would like to get into the principle framework and the ingredients of rituals for effecting rainfall, so that the similarity of their points of origin to the aspects of climatic dependence can be given a better coverage.

A. A doll/scarecrow which is fashioned out of a cross like wood sticks, or even out of a huge ladle and the way this skeletal frame is dressed by pieces of fabrics. This effigy can be a figurative invocation of an ancient statue made for the rain goddess. This statue would assume different nomenclatures in different places.

1. The Turkish speaking people and the northern tribes of Khorasan in cities and villages such as Qoochan, Filab, Qaleh, Gonabad (Chenaran) and Khoramabad (Sabzehvar) would call it by the name of Chooli Qazak.

2. The Persian speaking villages, such as those on the outskirts of the city of Mashad, who are still deeply affected by the Turkish speaking people, would call the effigy Chooro Choqol and in the city of Ferdos, Neqab and Dazaq (Chenaran) and Bab-ol-Hokm it is referred to as Chooleh Qazak.

3. In Persian speaking villages and among the nomadic tribes outside of Khorasan province, there are diversified attributes, such as Tahaloo (Gazin and Bojestan), Taloo (Kakhak-Gonabad), Kolaloo (Shahrokht), Talanak (Biarjmand), Ataloo (Janat Abad Sar Bisheh), Talooy (Birjand), Haloonak (Bakhtiari), Gol and Gashniz (Sirjan and Baft, Atloo (Birjand).

B. In some rural areas, a man who is made up by a huge false beard on his face and in some other villages, specially among the Turkish speaking villagers and tribes, a beardless man is asked to carry the Chooli Qazak effigy.

1. The Turkish speaking people of Dargaz call this beardless man Kusa, the Turks and Kurds in Qoochan call him Kusan, the Turks of Khorramabad Sabzehvar refer to him as Kusam and the Qashqai Turkish speaking people call him Kuseh Gelin.

2. The Persian speaking ritual performers employ a person called Geli. They pick out a man and cover him up with tree leaves, specially date palm fronds. They sing their songs for both of these two individuals.

The beardless is run down by the limericks and children and women sing in chorus. The beardless can be a figurative indication of drought and dryness and Geli can be a symbolic form of growth and the need for water in spring time.


C. There is a piece of poetry common in all entrustments bestowed on God Almighty asking him to be blessed with rainfall. This piece gets ever more serious and fuller in beseeched as we move further south toward the drier regions.

Among the Turkish speaking residents of the northern parts of Khorasan, droughts do not break out regularly. These dry spells are few and far in between. They recite this song to ridicule and disparage the beardless in order to keep him at bay. Among the Persian speaking residents of central Khorasan province, the song sung for Chooli Qazak takes the form of seriousness and taking oath, but the song that is sung in the south and on the edge of the great desert takes the form of inspiring pity and mercy to be spared.

1. The followings are two samples, one disparaging in Turkish language:

Kesan, Kesan Yaalla
Kesan gotina birqonda,
Yaqis Yagar har gunda.

2. The sample of song sung in Ferdos is:

Oh God send the rain,
Send us the endless rain,
Make the rain fall on the shepherds' sticks,
Make the rain fall on the spade of the farmers.
Make the rain fall on the horn of the sheep,
Either make the rain fall or we won't go away,
And spread the skin to sit on it in wait.

This piece of poetry is more or less sung by the children and the adolescent. Sometimes women join in chorus too. Perhaps one of the reasons for their choice of children to sing the song is their purity and innocence as well as the unadulterated emotions of the adolescent. In some places, where drought would be tantamount to fatalities, such as Gazin, in order to make the providence have mercy, bare headed men (they take off their head wraps and hats) would hold tight on still suckling babies and would go to the countryside to pray for rainfall.

D. Among the most interesting parts of these rituals is the splashing water on the scarecrow (effigy), the beardless or on one another. In some other areas, they shove each other into water, or take one of two identical twins and toss him into water. The most ancient and more interesting one is the one that they pick out a middle aged woman as a sign of fertility and creation and rainfall by dumping her into water. This ritual brings to mind the `Bride of Kariz' (subterranean water canal)

What is a highly strange and at first glance hilarious symbol used in these rituals is the finding of a donkey skull (dried out one) specially when some sort of botanical growth is grown in it. This skull is painted in some places and then dumped into water (Dasjerd Biarmand). In may other places the skull is cremated and the ashes are poured into water canals or rivers to make them swell with water (Shahrokht/ Gazin/ Qaleh Gonabad/ Jalambadan/ Kashmar/ Ferdos/ Well number one Janat Abad/ Lano/ Sar Bishe/ Nazdasht/ Sar khong).

By taking a look at the wide dispersions of these villages, one can easily find out the diversity of these symbolic manifestations. This spread of diversity is mostly found in the driest areas. By the same token, most of the villagers are Persian speaking and their rooting very ancient. While at the same time, the villages and northern rural areas of Khorasan (Turkish and Kurdish speaking residents) do not have these parts of the rituals on their own. This very distinction is a good reason for the symbolic practices having taken their roots in the very far away past. Naturally, they need to be studied differently by making a thorough research in the roots of the ancient Iranian mythological symbols.

Donkey Skull, a Symbol of the Myth for the Three Legged Donkey

Where does the story regarding the donkey skull, its painting or cremating or still dumping into water, take its roots? So we read in Avesta (the holy book of the Zoroastrians):

"We admire the kind ways and the thinking of the Ashoonan. We admire a clean donkey, standing in the middle of Frakh-Kert."

The fact is that in the Persian mythology Tishteri, or Tishterieh or Tishter is the water goddess and Ap Oosh is the water antagonist. Ap Oosh imprisons the waters and therefore there is an outbreak of drought and Tishter (Tashtar) in the form of an extremely beautiful white stallion, would go to fight against the Ap Oosh. (Tashtar would not only come to life in the form of a white stallion but in the form of a bull as well).

In this battle, there is a donkey, better known as the three legged donkey, which is helping out the water angel, Tashtar. The story about this donkey has it that a mythological and highly strange looking creature called the three legged donkey comes to the assistance of Tashtar in dividing and collecting the waters of Frakh-Kert Sea. The donkey is firmly standing in the middle of this huge expanse of ocean. It has three legs, six eyes, nine mouths, two ears, a horn and is colored white all over. The three legged donkey flourishes on spiritualities and is in love with love and integrity. Two of its eyes are normally placed where they should be on the two sides of its forehead, and two other eyes are on the top of its head and the remaining two are in its bladder. The three legged donkey will prevail over its enemies by its six sharp eyes and send them to their dooms. It has nine mouths, three of which are placed in the head, three others in the bladder and the remaining three in the inside of the lateral sections of its body. Each of its mouths is as large as a villagers house and this house is as large as the Alvand mountain (11,000 feet above the sea level). When the three legged donkey dips its head into the ocean, its ears inspire extreme awe and the waters of Frakh-Kert become rough. And when the donkey urinates in the sea, the urine purifies all the water of the sea. Otherwise, the sea water would be polluted by the venoms of the evil creatures that had contaminated the waters. The sacred 7000 year old three legged donkey, which renders assistance to the water angel in its combat against the drought monster, is considered a highly purified donkey and oaths are taken in its name. In 1990's in far away rural areas of Khorasan this sacred donkey changes into a donkey skull. In fact, the people residing on the edges and peripheral regions of the country are seeking help from the mythological three legged donkey in the war between the water angel and drought monster. They are alienated with meteorological statistics of the meteorological organization of the country and scientific forecasts of the national meteorological centers.

Roots of Cow Rustling Rituals in Mythology
Cow rustling in the western parts of the country must also go back to this fact that Tishtar, sometimes appeared in the shape of a bull. So the hostage taking of a cow would translate into hostage taking of the water angel. The fact that cow rustling ritual is mostly prevalent in the western parts of the country and not donkey skull aspect can be reckoned to have originated from this fact that one of the main areas for domestication of cows was the western part of Iran. Cows were domesticated in this western part of Iran about 7500 years ago.

Furthermore, agricultural activities were more in fashion in the western parts of Iran that what was practiced in the east. Therefore, a farmer character would naturally be more inclined to a cow symbolic figure. The probability may be that the practice may have taken its roots from sacrificial offerings of slaughtering cows in the rituals practiced in Mithraism.

The figurative symbol of donkey skull in the rituals for begging for rainfall can be indicative of some other feature in modern days. This is a reminder of another ancient war. The war was fought between livestock owners and farmers or between the wheat hoarders and those in need of wheat during rainless years. The livestock owners would try to find a donkey skull so that they could hang it down a water well shaft or a subterranean water canal by a string or chain. This was believed to make the year less prone to showers of rain and therefore the price of wheat would go up and the wheat hoarders could sell their silos full of wheat at very exorbitant prices to those in need of such commodity. The livestock owners, in turn would make every effort to find this donkey skull and set it on fire to break the spell. They would then pour the ashes of the cremated donkey skull over the water in order to bamboozle the rain angel.

In these dry and relatively rainless lands, as we move further and closer to off the beaten track villages, in which semi-nomadic livestock owners control them, the profanity employed in the songs for these rituals gets more insulting, such as what is seen Dasht-e Hossein Abad Qinab (Janat Abad Well Number 1):

Oh you rain,
Oh you rain,
Shower straight down,
So that the livestock owners are drenched,
And the eyes of the wheat owners are blinded in envy.

E. Wherever the survey was carried out, all those, whether the beardless or the persons accompanying the scarecrow or the singing children, would bring along the food ingredients to be cooked by women and be enough for a mass feast. This dish, except for three or four cases, in which places other forms of dishes are prepared such as Porridge in Tabas, Sweet fudge like dish in Bakhtiari, gravel mixed pie by Qashqais and yeastless bread in Kadan and Jarf of Khorasan ingredients are collected from every tent and house are used to make into a thick stew like soup called Ash.

In some places, such as the villages of northern Sabzehvar, water and flour are mixed and poured down the rain drain pipe of a mosque. As the mixture reaches the ground, they chant praises to the Prophet and his household in chorus. In some other parts of Khorasan, especially in the south, people perform rain prayers (Esteqsa prayer) and two rounds of prayers to ask God to give them their needs. Sometimes this prayer is performed in the presence of the prayer leader and en mass. These rituals are indicative of those rituals that have come about after the advent of the Islamic conquest of the country or the substantial changes taken place in the old rituals.

Brief Comparison Between Rituals for Beseeching Rainfall and Those For Wet Years
These two rituals are completely different from each other. However, their places of origin are both in the dry climate dominated areas. The common factor between them is water, which is the main mental preoccupation of man in these areas. The main difference between the two rituals is:

The rituals for wet years are performed after timely and plentiful atmospheric precipitations. These rituals are usually full of boisterous happy activities; while the other is performed under dry conditions and is replete with apprehensive thoughts.




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