Heat, Rain, Queen Modadji, the Rain Queen and Rugby

For days and weeks we’ve had extreme heat, everyone enervated, warnings re keeping hydrated and animals too. Average temps for October are 27 degrees C. We’ve been having temps of 35, 36, 37, 38, even higher in surrounding areas. (Down in Cape Town it’s still cool-ish). Rain usually comes to the highveld within the first week of October, sometimes not, but definitely not preceded by this kind of extreme heat. No sign of rain or hope in sight …

I’ve been watering my very thirsty garden daily and watching the jacarandas from my study in the near distance bloom, colours and shadings different at changing times of the day. There’ve been some breezes in the last few days – I took this 5 sec video from my garden on Tuesday.

My gardener and I visited the nursery on Wednesday – lovely to choose some plantings. Rain looked promising mid afternoon but no luck. The wind was high, the clouds looked promising.

 I thought of Queen Modjadji VI, the Rain Queen. She comes from a matrilineal dynasty from as far back as the 1400’s. It is a tale of intrigue and incest in the royal family, mysticism, strife and ritual. She was a direct descendant of one of the royal houses of Momomatapa, which ruled over the Zimbabwean people in the 15th and 16th century. They fled Zimbabwe, their place of origin, and have been in here in Limpopo (South Africa) where unique cycads are to be found, for the last 2 centuries.

queen modadji


The Rain Dance is an annual ritual performed in the first week of October when the rainmaking charms, hitherto kept under strict lock and key, are brought out.

The people (of the Balobedu tribe) remove to a kraal and Makhubo the cow enters the kraal, praises are sung to it and it is fed beer.

They then remove to a special shrine adjacent, where the rainmaking charms are laid out. Skins are strategically placed, and the beer is poured over the charms. The Rain Queen calls on the ancestors for rain and the people praise the Queen. There’s a complicated beer making and drinking ritual, out come the drums, songs for unity are sung and people dance around the shrine.

The nation of the Balobedu (about 1 million) sing and dance for the rest of the day …

She died young in a nearby hospital at the age of 27, in 2005, from a sudden and mysterious illness – she’d ruled for only 2 years. There are all sorts of theories as to the real cause of her early death. (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rain_Queen)

I’ve done my own version of a rain dance on the odd occasion in the privacy of my garden. Just a bit of jumping around for a minute, outside, imploring the rain to come. I did one this past Tuesday afternoon. I could smell the rain in the air, on the wind… At long, long last – rain on Wednesday night. What a blessing it is … the air is different, all a little brighter, and things are slightly cooler.

The clouds are building up as I write –

Tomorrow afternoon our Springboks play Wales at the Twickenham Stadium (London) – we’re in the quarter-final! It’s going to be one hang of a match (Rugby World Cup). I’m having some girlfriends for tea at 4.00 and the match starts at 5.00, when the beer comes out, and other …

And, while I think of it, imagining – I remember last week when SA played the US. How the US team sang their national anthem prior to the match! With such gusto and energy! It was a lovely experience to share in their pride while they were singing – they played well too. Gave us good competition ..

Have a wonderful week one and all –

Thanks Mike for uploading the video for me, long distance. http://www.mikescottanimation.com

with thanks to google images for photos and info

46 Comments on Heat, Rain, Queen Modjadji, the Rain Queen and Rugby

  1. I’m here. Late to the party, but I made it. Thanks for starting me out with jacarandas, Susan. They are gorgeous. I know from California that they can take the drought. Thank you for taking me to the land of opposites–your heat and drought and sun vs my low gray clouds, incessant dripping, and increasing cold. Has it rained?

    I love the Rain Queen. I’ve done a few rain rituals and lots of prayers, but drought is not a usual problem here. When I visited California for 3 weeks this summer, the plants begged for rain.

    I enjoyed how you described beer in its various forms from ritual and ceremonial to sports, a modern ritual. I can’t help but feel concern for the beer-drinking cow. I imagine it becomes part of the feast, but maybe–as the Tibetans do at times for good karma–it is spared.

    • Thanks Elaine for coming by. The jacarandas are truly beautiful and many think the drought is responsible for their displaying even more beauty this year … and rain and fall in your neck of the woods is a lovely opposite …

      It rained last Wednesday night – so we’ve had two rains thus far both on a Wednesday. Rain was forecast for today but no such luck. Maybe tomorrow.

      Thanks for saying about sports being a modern ritual – I hadn’t thought of that while composing this post!

  2. lovely Susan, your garden is beautiful, its a blessing to have space for a garden; feel the cool breeze, glad to hear about your rain dance… its fun to dance… remembered the rain dance in one of the programmes for youth I have attended, wherein the leader taught us the rain clap and then led all of us to sing and dance in the rain (pretending as if its raining)…. had a good laugh. I found the information of the queen modjadji quite interesting. Happy to know that it rained at last and you could spend time with your friends…I took a small break for few days away from work and computer, just returned two days ago and catching up with all that I have missed. take care and God bless you !

  3. Susan,

    This is a lovely article. I ran across the Rain Queen in research that I am doing for one of my websites. Amazing how tribunal traditions spreads.

    And it is nice to hear that you did a rendition of your own rain dance. Right On! Fantastic.

    Hope South Africa wins in rugby. I don’t understand the game very well, but it has audiences and fans all over the world.


    • Thank you Patricia. Amazing that you also came across the Rain Queen! Something is in the air. I did another rain dance this afternoon … as I write I hear thunder but it may be a bit of caprice.

      Thanks for your wishes re SA wins. We’re into the semi-finals, next match on Saturday against Australia, a formidable team.



  4. Susan,

    thanks as usual for reminding me how big our world is. Here it has just frosted for the first time and annuals have died. Below freezing when I awoke this AM.. 🙂

    • Eish! As we say here in S.A. Beth … yes, when those annuals die then you know that Jack Frost is making an appearance – keep warm and safe and thanks for coming by.

  5. No rain dances needed here, and yes, we’re very happy the extreme heat of summer is finally departing too. Such strange and delightful weather we’ve been having lately. I completely relate to your extreme heat, as ours lasted a few weeks longer than expected too. I keep thinking it’s finally over, and from the looks of this past weekend, it might actually be true. Here’s to a beautiful fall and winter for all of us 🙂

    • It’s time for another rain dance in our neck of the woods, M.J. Thanks for coming by. Yes, here’s to a beautiful Fall and winter to you in your neck of the woods 🙂

  6. I very much loved your description of the OCTOBER Rain Dance of the Balobedu Tribe, and the endearing portrait of an elegant African woman.

    Garden of EDEN suggests the delight of OCTOBER in densely populated City of Southfield (in Southern Michigan, USA), 30 minutes automobile drive southward going to Ann Arbor City, home of University of Michigan, where I have not heard of Rrrrugby played around campus.

    Especially while wearing polarized sunglasses that enhance color-contrasts, we all here get excited about the various blue and green colors of “evergreen” trees. The trees that are now dropping their leaves before winter present with yellow, orange, and red foliage, some still on the trees and some on the lawns and roadways. LIFE OF ALL SPECIES seems mostly healthy and living “in full swing.” The 2015 new crop of squirrels shows brown and black hungry and playful beings that scurry around, chasing each other on the lawns, roads, and up-and-down trees, adding more feasts for our eyes. These squirrels are busy, this time of year, getting nutrition from fallen seeds and nuts while plentiful, and beginning to think of collecting tiny wooden branches with their claws and mouths and bringing these upwards to create a nest at the highest branches of the trees that have lost their leaves. Nature is kind to the squirrels by shedding leaves before winter, so that the squirrels can safely see how to run up and down trees from their winter nests to collect food they had hidden on the ground; also for “traffic control” if one squirrel is coming down while another is coming up, oops, can see to jump across to another branch at tree-top heights.

    Wishing all “beings” a wonderful transition from Northern Autumn to the challenges of Winter!

    • Thanks Joseph for coming by and providing lovely images of those squirrels enjoying the bounty of Fall! Lovely transitions at this time of year … may yours into winter go smoothly, and you and Anita keep warm!

  7. A lovely read, Sis, and the garden is too too beautiful. And peaceful………birds singing too.

    How funny – I also did a rain dance here in the Western Cape – we haven’t had enough rain this past winter when the rains fall, and our dams are at their lowest in many years. So I had bought a rain dance contraption some years ago – it’s a hollowed out piece of cane, about ,6metres long, attractively decorated, with pins inside that make the sound of rain falling when you turn it upside down. I pranced around the garden, shaking my equipment, and calling for the clouds to come, and come they did for a few days, dropping down their treasure.

    I hope your summer rains continue.

    • Thanks for coming by dear Sis 🙂 I’m glad I re-read about the contraption – at first I read 6 metres long – 0.6 mt is very manageable 🙂 I’ll look out such a thing, it ‘sounds’ lovely. (I think we take after our mother).

      Yes, let’s hope for more rain – none since Wed night. Are you set for the rrrrugby?


  8. What a wonderful post, Susan. I love your garden – it’s incredibly beautiful. I’m relieved that there was some rain finally. And I loved learning more about the rain dance ritual. Fascinating!

    • Thanks so much Gulara, so pleased you liked it! There MAY be some rain today which dawned cool and overcast. If this happens it wouldn’t surprise me if it hailed …

  9. Learning the history of your country is fascinating. I loved the pictures but the video would not play. I do hope you are successful with your rain dances as I can relate to your concern about the heat. Where our temperatures here in the NW corner of the U.S. were not as hot as your temperatures, out temperatures were exceedingly hot for our area and we suffered many fires. I truly pray that your rain dances prevent any fires . Keep hydrated!

    • Sorry about the video not playing Gwynn … (I think you saw it on FB?). Today is overcast and cool, such a change. MAYBE there will be rain today, who knows. But have watered my garden nevertheless. I know about your terrible fires … we sadly get them here too, on the land and also in shack settlements often due to a candle left burning unattended ..

    • Ah Philippa! Well, we’ll be standing when Wales sings their anthem – what could be more glorious than the Welsh singing their hearts out! Please tell your husband we are honoured to play against Wales, and we remember Gareth Edwards … I will tell my friends of the dilemna presented …

        • Well, I do, I think they will too! I will certainly tell them of this and we must remember that the playing of the game will prevail! Can you imagine the singing?

          • Ah well, it was a hard fought game, to the very last, and played in a good spirit. I love the rituals of the Welsh kicker, touching his forehead and shoulders and twitching like an animal until the perfect stillness before the ball get unerringly centred through the posts! Something very endearing about him! But that last try?! Well, even the Welshman accepted his side had been valiant and yet lost. Not like Scotland, cheated by an error from the SA ref who bolted off. Yet he had been a brilliant referee for the earlier Welsh game.

            • It was altogether very exciting and a completely exhausting weekend with the rrrrrugby. And the Scotland match – eina! I was counting on them and we were in total shock.

  10. Your garden is beautiful. I’m glad you finally got rain.
    It’s a lovely fall day here in southern New Jersey.
    The Rain Queen story is fascinating. I clicked on the link to learn more–as you said, incest and intrigue! The cynical me wondered if the original king committed incest and then constructed the story to make it OK. Rather than being powerful, the Rain Queens seem kind of constrained to me.

    I hope you have a grand time with your friends, drinking tea and whatever!

    • Thanks Merril for your lovely comment. I’ve seen some pictures of Fall in various parts of the States that are just beautiful! How I would love to see that!

      Mike my son commented earlier above – now your comment about the constraint of the Rain Queens has got me extra intrigued. I’ll investigate further to see what angle they take on her. I don’t at this stage know if a fully fledged movie or fully fledged animation movie is on the cards. I hope that whatever take they make on her, if it all proceeds, is a recognition of her powers and their expressed wish for unity and peace for themselves and their neighbours ..

  11. How very interesting about the queen, Susan. I hope she heard/saw you and sent some rain your way.
    I’ve been doing my rain dance, too, and some clouds are rolling in. We’re expecting a severe storm this winter. It’s always “too-too.” Too much heat, too much rain. Moderation would be nice.

    • Hi Silvia, lovely to see you here and so pleased that you also do a rain dance! Yay! Yes, sometimes too much, sometimes too little .. please keep me posted your side, I’ll keep you posted my side. Hope the weather men have got their predictions wrong re severe winter storms … keep safe. Better to be warned though –

      have a great weekend!

  12. Nice post ma 🙂 someone submitted a Rain Queen story to Triggerfish storylab and they made the top 35. I think it may be one of the finalists.

    • Thanks Mike! That is amazing about someone submitting a Rain Queen story to Triggerfish!!! Something is clearly in the air! I am absolutely intrigued!! I love it when synchronicity pops up like that! Thanks so much for helping me get up the video! And please forward my blog to that person who no doubt will also be intrigued about the synchronicity…

      Have a great weekend! Love, Ma

  13. I love the world-wide rituals involving water: rain dances, baptism, foot washing, hand washing, purifications, throwing a gold cross into the water for sponge divers to find during epiphany celebrations, water dowsing, designating springs and wells as sacred goddess sites….almost all of them based on early reverence for the miracle of water and its association with the cleansing, refreshing, life-giving sacred feminine. Surely the devastating pollution of bodies of water throughout the world is evidence of our lost connection to Her and our desperate need to re-establish it.

    Thanks for this interesting post. I wonder what happened to the Rain Queen? Possibly another result of disrespect for feminine power, wisdom and authority? So sad….

    • Thanks Jean for coming by. And thank you for bringing in all those rituals for water in honour and recognition of all that is purifying and good, giving life, and it’s strong ‘…association with the cleansing, refreshing, life-giving sacred feminine’.

      There is also a story that Queen Makobo Modadji V1 (the most recent one and the youngest in history) died of a broken heart; she fell in love with a commoner but was not allowed to consort outside of the palace, … but there is also a story of poison as she broke those ‘rules’ to meet her lover in secret .. in fact there are many stories.

      And, from that link, the second Rain Queen Masalanabo Modadji, is said to have been the inspiration for H. Rider Haggard’s novel: ‘She: A History of Adventure’ –

      Let’s hope and pray that we all are aware of pollution around the world and begin to realise the value of water and take the necessary steps to establish a much needed balance. We could start off, each of us, by not wasting water and having a reverence for it. And boycotting wherever we can those businesses that cut down forests, our lungs, in pursuit of palm oil, or soya or whatever ..

      Thank you again.

      • Hi Susan – how sad if she fell for a commoner and because of it fell foul of the expectations of her people. Tradition and customs now probably should be more flexible in cases like this … but I guess I understand …

        Broken heart or poison .. either are desperate conclusions … and now her daughter and the in-fighting … power doesn’t change does it …

        Cheers – but a fascinating subject – Hilary

        • Thanks Hilary … not an uncommon theme – thinking of Princess Margaret and her love for the photographer .. Princess Diana too ..

    • Thank you Pam! Good to see you here! I was thinking of you the other day when I was watering my garden and thinking about story telling – I’ve saved all your posts (though dry for a while?) to look at again – I always so enjoyed them! Have a great weekend!

  14. Lovely letter-like post, Susan. The collective concentration to bring rain, and your personal dance in your garden, the South African lore and history. So hot there, 100 F. I hope it was a dry heat. But, best of all here, I loved your live view, video, of your garden in Johannesburg, the breeze, the birdsong and especially that beautiful, queenly jacaranda. I miss jacarandas since I left Southern California — one of my favorite trees. Thanks for this lovely post.

    • Thank you so much Samantha! Jacarandas are really beautiful and they really do change colour in different lights. As you would know –

      I don’t quite know what kind of heat it is … not dry, not humid. I know humid heat. Johannesburg heat is not dry usually, can be humid before a storm. We’re dry in winter, unsurprising as we’re 6000 ft above sea level. .Not like Turkey which was 35 degrees plus but very bearable …

      I’m so glad you liked the short clip – and that you got a peek into my garden 🙂

      Have a wonderful weekend!

  15. Hi Susan – well the rain queen rained .. she must have decided she didn’t like the thumping, just the gentle patter of wondrous rain. I remember those days, and the jacarandas – the garden looks good – but new plants always delight.

    Rugby – yes I shall watch some … but I’ve a talk to go to …

    The Rain Queen custom goes back centuries .. so interesting to read about … while their ceremonial traditions have lots of different sections to them … the beer making and drinking ritual reminding the tribe to unite and stay united … I hope they do – it sounds a little strange after the last Rain Queen died unexpectedly and so young at that …

    Cheers Susan and I’ll have a cup of tea first and then a beer for SA winning its rugby .. enjoy the time – Hilary

    • Thanks Hilary for coming by! I’m glad you liked it! The link I provided would be interesting …there are actually quite a few links to explore. It’s a place I would like to go to – not very far away from here …

      Glad you’ll be watching some of the rugby … the match starts at 5.00 pm SA time. That may be 6.00 your time, or 4.00 p.m. I’ll tell my girlfriends that you’re watching – hopefully cheering on The Bokke! I’ll be in sackcloth and ashes for a month if we lose this match … Thank you for support! And have a lovely weekend!


  16. We’ve been having abnormal heat for the past month or so. We’ve also had the usual lack of rain for Southern California, but supposedly we’re supposed to have a lot coming our way. We take the bad with the good and when it rains sometimes it rains far more than is good for us.

    Arlee Bird
    A to Z Challenge Co-host
    Tossing It Out

    • Thanks for coming by Arlee. Yes, I know of the drought and lack of water in California .. hopefully it will break soon and not rain tooooo much! There’s a story in our not very distant past of the Rain Queen’s exhortations bringing too too toooo much rain .. perhaps an example of being careful what one wishes for …

Comments are closed.