Amegoui – Prayers for Rain

IMG_6904Since the end of the rainy season early this year, the weather on Kume Island has been full of clear sunny days.  While it makes for great sight-seeing and beach-going, it has been a hard year for farmers, with little or no rain to sustain critical crops.  For the first time in 15 years, the island locals returned to their roots, asking for the help of the Chinbei, the name of the high priestess from the old Ryukyu Kingdom to come and pray for rain.

This rare ceremony began early on August 11th.  The Chinbei and other priestesses (noro) met at Chinbei Dunchi on Kume Island.  There, a sacred rock was encircled by rope to signify the presence of a kami.  After offerings of rice, fruit, and sake, the noro poured water onto the rock while the Chinbei and other local representatives prayed.  The Chinbei poured sake from a small cup, repeating the process until she felt the kami was satisfied.

IMG_6662

IMG_6708Afterward, all the attendees were asked to participate in a tug-o-war competition outside the grounds.  In addition to the physical offerings of sake, rice, and fruit, the offering of effort and strength signified by the competition was in offering to local kami. While competing, locals were sprayed and doused with water, and afterward danced in the simulated rain.

IMG_6780From Chinbei Dunchi, the priestesses and local leaders made offerings at two other shrines in the area.  These shrines date back hundreds of years.  One was a natural rock formation where a kami is thought to reside.  The other was hidden away near the airport grounds where a concrete structure enclosed the sacred home of another kami.  At both sites, offerings of rice, sake, fruit and prayers were put forth.

IMG_6856

IMG_6874Immediately after the prayers ended, it began to rain.  A tornado was even spotted, though it did not touch down.  The farmers and local representatives happily returned to Chinebei-dun, the parched ground sated with the first short downpour in a very long time.