Send rain, or we'll send bare hons with water pistols

August 24, 2002|By ROB KASPER

FORGET SCIENCE, it is time to roll out the folk wisdom. This summer's drought has turned our brains into Doritos. As proof, consider the fact that lately I have begun looking into rainmaking schemes we can try this weekend to end the drought.

Meteorologists and weather whiz kids don't put much stock in these folksy methods of producing rainfall. But these are the same smarty-pants that have been predicting that rain and a "cool front" are right around the corner.

I have been reading up on rainmaking rituals, paying particular attention to ones requiring getting naked, sipping beer and climbing trees. Sure enough yesterday, at the mere mention of these rites, the skies darkened and rain - a sprinkle or two - fell. It was a start. Imagine what will happen when we pull out all stops, and some of us pull off our clothes.

For some reason, the only naked bodies that seem to appease rain gods are those belonging to women. It might be the fertility thing, or the explanation could be that generally speaking, when men get naked, the landscape suffers. But the way things worked in ancient peasant theology was that to get some raindrops, the women had to bare skin.

For instance, according to information I found on a rainmaking Web site called something like "conjurefolk," a drought ended in the ancient Russian village of Ploska after the resident womenfolk removed their clothes and walked around the boundaries of the village at nightfall pouring water on the ground.

I guess the modern-day equivalent of this scheme would be for a carload of Baltimore hons to hop in a Camaro and tool around the Beltway tonight in their birthday suits, shooting water pistols on the shoulder of the road. Just a suggestion.

If the ride-around-the-Beltway solution doesn't appeal to the rainmaker wannabes out there, I offer a backup scheme that comes to us by way of Transylvania. For this rain-charm to work, the ever-present bare naked ladies have to float around on the water on a craft that is illuminated with candles. After an hour at sea, the au naturel navigators ditch the boat, return to land and the rains follow. Or so the story goes in Transylvania.

If any civic-minded souls floating around on the Chesapeake Bay want to try this rainmaking rite, I have one small suggestion. Make sure you use citronella candles. Otherwise the mosquitoes could leave some nasty bites on your nether parts.

As for the male rainmakers, we are supposed to hang from trees and spill beer. In other words, we should behave pretty much like we would any football-season weekend.

Apparently in a Russian village near Dorpat, when drought hit, it was the custom for three guys to climb a fir and imitate thunder, lightning and rain. The thunder guy pounded on a kettle with a hammer, the lightning guy knocked two burning sticks together and the rain guy coaxed water from a bucket by goosing it with branch. It is not clear whether alcohol was involved in this ritual. But when you look at the big picture - three guys climbing a tree and pretending to be thunder, lightning and rain - you tend to think the answer is yes.

Beer, especially spilled beer, plays a big part in an old Lithuanian drought-breaking ceremony that I am thinking of trying tonight.

According to the lore, years ago back in the old country, when people wanted rain, they assembled in the woods and sacrificed several critters including a "black he-goat." Then they carried a bowl of beer around a fire three times, spilled the beer on the fire, and prayed to the god of thunder and lightning for help.

With a few updates, I think we could give this ritual a go right here in Baltimore. Tonight, instead of assembling in the woods, I am going to gather with friends at the neighborhood swimming pool.

Instead of eating black he-goat, we will chow down on bright red steamed he-crabs. Instead of gathering around a glowing campfire, we will be standing around a foaming keg of beer.

I figure we can stick a candle on top of the keg, run around it three times and spill beer while chanting the names of the local televised weather deities - Turk, Tasselmyer, Lewis and Pinson.

If that doesn't bring rain, we can always climb a tree.

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