Saturday, April 23, 2016

Carpe Diem #961 prayers for rain

Dear Haijin, visitors and travelers,

As I was preparing the prompt-list for April, I ran into a nice prompt which needs some explanation. Today we have prayers for rain as prompt and you all know that praying for rain isn't very real, but ages back there were cultures who used to pray for rain through, for example a so called "rain-dance" as (for example) did the American Natives, Indians.
Praying for rain was also seen in the Japanese culture and there are several haiku about praying for rain and rain dances which I love to share here later. First I love to share a few haiku about this prompt by Jane Reichhold.

from his face drops
beads of sweat

with water
begging the soil soon
for lettuce

Haiga on "prayers for rain" by Sakuo

For a rice planting culture like Japan, the seasonal rain is very important, it is a question of life and death! If the rain does not fall enough during the rainy season we have a "Dry Rainy Season" (kara tsuyu).

the gods of rain
swaying here and there -
floods versus droughts

© anonymous

This is the time when farmers turn to the Gods and Buddhas (kami hotoke) for prayer. The prayers and rituals for rain take many forms in Japan. Some are accompanied by special dances, some by a lion dance (shishimai), fires are lit on the tops of mountains and sutras are chanted.
Some Rain Dances and Lion Dances are part of regional festivals held every year in spring or early summer and are quite pleasant events for the population, but the real Rain Rituals take place during the end of summer, when the weather situation calls for it and the farmers are desperate. They have a quite different severe atmosphere.

In the following, I will try and introduce some of these rituals.

In some areas, large boulders are inscribed with the characters for "Jizo", but people came to call them "Jizo who loved Rain" ama koi Jizo and used them for rain rituals.

In the earliest record of court-sponsored rainmaking, Nihon Shoki includes an entry on praying to the "all kami " and "all shrines" as well as to "famous mountains and large rivers," mentioning in particular that Empress Kōgyoku personally prayed for rain. In Shoku Nihongi, Emperor Monmu (683-707) offered a horse to the Mikumari kami and prayed for rain in the 4th month of the 2nd year of his reign (699), indicating that rainmaking festivals gradually became performed to worship specific deities.

The practice of attaching the rainmaking function to a specific kami became conspicuous from the reigns of Emperor Shōtoku to Emperor Kōnin (the second half of the eighth century), and Niukawakamisha shrine (now, Niukawakami jinja nakasha) was perceived as the rainmaking deity and named Amashigami.

In the Heian period, Niukawakami Shrine remained the center of rainmaking festivals until the reigns of Emperors Kanmu and Heizei (781-809). In the subsequent reign of Emperor Saga (809-23), Kifunesha shrine (now Kibune jinja) located close to the Heian capital (present-day Kyoto), however, also became a rainmaking deity alongside Niukawakami Shrine.

Praying for rain (amagoi)

From around the time of Emperor Saga, rain-halting festivals to pray for the cessation of rain and the control of wind and rain became popular. In rainmaking and rain-halting festivals from the mid-Heian period onward, offerings were being made to eighty-five rainmaking kami, centering around Niukawakami and Kifune Shrines; to these two shrines, black horses were offered at rainmaking festivals and white horses were offered at rain-halting festivals. Thereafter, both types of festivals came to be widely held at non-imperial shrines.

On the other hand, there are numerous examples of rainmaking rituals among the populace, including temporary seclusion in a shrine, rainmaking dances, angering the "Water kami " (suijin) to induce rain, invoking rain by sprinkling around holy water, and summoning rain clouds by sending up smoke from a mountaintop.

A student of Matsuo Basho named Shinshi wrote a poem and after that, it rained.

amagoi ya ta o mimeguri no kami naraba

rain rituals -
if the gods are here now
to see the paddies

© Shinshi

Or these haiku which are written by Shiki:

tsuki akashi amagoi odori mi ni yukan

a red moon -
let us go to see
the rain dance

amagoi ya oriori nozoku miya no soto

prayers for rain -
once in a while I have a look
outside the shrine

© Shiki (Tr. Gabi Greve)

ama goi no tatsu nottekomi te se no hayashi

praying for rain -
the dragon rushes on
to the rapids

© Fujiwara Takao (Tr. Nakamura Sakuo)

Haiga by Nakamura Sakuo

taimatsu ni amagoi-gyoo ya yoru no mine

rain rituals
in the light of torches -
mountain peaks at night

© Tan Taigi  (Tr. Gabi Greve)

What a wonderful way of begging for rain and what a great series of haiku this is. Isn't it an awesome idea that "praying for rain" has given us these beauties?

And now it is up to us to create haiku in response on "prayers for rain". Have fun!

Here is my attempt:

she the moon hides
behind clouds while witches dance
begging for rain

© Chèvrefeuille

Above used information / background is from Gabi Greve's weblog.

I couldn't find a good enough image to create a haiga with so I love to share a video here about a raindance in Africa with music by Adiemus.

This episode is open for your submissions tonight at 7.00 PM (CET) and will remain open until April 28th at noon (CET). I will try to publish our new episode, bird feathers, later on. !!! With this episode the responding time is now increased to 5 days (approximately) as promised in our yesterday's CD-Extra !!!


  1. I have enjoyed Sakuo's haiga when he used to blog them, its really a treat to see some of his work featured here now

    This is a very interesting haiku theme 'praying for rain'
    Thank you Kristjaan

    much love...

  2. high fever prevents me from uploading my works / hope my family in CarpeDiem Haikukai will read my prayer for rain ,here @