The Ritual Cycle of the Rain Baby: An Example

So, last year I wrote about a new tradition for Riverain, the Water Sabbath, which is how I celebrate the holiday that falls between the Winter Solstice (Yule) and the Spring Equinox (High Spring). Riverain comes at the height of the wet season in California’s Mediterranean climate, when the hills are green and the creeks and rivers are running high.

Riverain is an example of my firm belief that the Sabbaths (holidays) we celebrate around the Wheel of the Year should be rooted in the actual climate, culture, growth cycles, and land where we live, rather than reflecting some other culture or place in the world. The traditional Pagan holiday at the time of Riverain, Imbolc, is a Celtic-named time the traditions of which include “casting seeds upon the snow”; this has no relevance to me in California (if it does for you, of course, that’s great–go ahead and celebrate it!)

So this new tradition—the weaving of a Rain Baby, a corn-husk doll that represents the cycle of water through the year—started last year but I am fleshing out how it plays out through the year now.

The Rain Baby is born (crafted) at Riverain, and kept on the household Focus.

The Baby is a child/toddler at High Spring (the vernal equinox), and presides over the childlike games and festivities of that Sabbath.

The Rain Baby becomes an adolescent at May Day, and is not involved in the celebration of that adult Sabbath. The Rain Baby may be kept on the May Day Focus, but should be shrouded in fabric so they cannot watch the adult, sexual aspects of May Day.

The Rain Baby emerges from this “cocoon” of social shielding as an adult on Midsummer, ready to do their work as the Bringer of the Harvest. The Rain Baby presides over the Focuses of Midsummer and Harvest. Also at Harvest, we gather the corn shucks which will be used to make the Rain Baby of the next cycle.

At Hallows, after the harvests are all done, the Rain Baby is burned in the Hallows fire, to go back up into the sky and fall as rain for the next cycle.

The Rain Baby is a cycle of observances that adds another layer to the Wheel of the Year, lending meaning and tradition to my annual celebrations. I encourage each of you to think about how you can layer practices and meaningful traditions into your own annual cycle of celebrations. Have fun with it!

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11 thoughts on “The Ritual Cycle of the Rain Baby: An Example

  1. Well, you’re doing some heavy lifting there, buddy, spinning a whole new tradition off another new tradition. On the other hand, all the old traditions had to start someplace. Who knows where your idea will go, and what it will become, with time. If it gets a chance to evolve, I expect it will emerge as another variant of my favorite guy, The Green Man, who has been doing a pretty good Year King thing for millennia. It’s true, he doesn’t lay out for Beltaine, and (ever since that little misunderstanding with some goddess or another) he tends to go away for a good part of the year, but, essentially, that’s what you’ve got, it seems to me.
    So, I think I’ll stick with old Leaf Face. He’s not much company for some of the year, but it’s always fun when he comes back to town- “Hey, weren’t you dead?” “Yep, but I’m back. Didja miss me?”
    Thanks, and be well. -Buff

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    • Well, the Rain Baby isn’t conceptualized as a deity, which is very different from the way most Pagans envision the Green Man. And there’s a whole rigamarole with dying and being reborn and stuff, which isn’t the same thing as evaporating and then falling and hanging around for awhile. I don’t think the Rain Baby ever goes away–they just exist in different states depending on the time of year.

      But it’s all about what works for you. And it isn’t heavy lifting when you’re only trying to create traditions that work for yourself. Others can take it or leave it, as they please. If the Green Man image works for you, that’s great–it never really has for me, so…well, different strokes.

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  2. I’m not sure you’ve created anything new here, but congratulations on changing names and calling it yours. I think you are arguing semantics frankly, and are willfully oblivious to the similarities between your new made up story versus the ones you look down on. It’s creative to be sure, but it’s not far off from the original, including the intentions behind it. Based on your comments, you don’t have as good a grasp of the old beliefs as well as you think you do. Those obvious issues aside, I fully support your right to practice the way that makes sense for you, and applaud your attempt to create new traditions that align with your beliefs. This is something every Pagan must decide for themselves. I just wish, seeing as how you are promoting Atheopaganism as a new religion and all, you’d be more original about it.

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    • I practiced conventional Paganism for 25 years. I am *plenty* famiiar with what you call the “old beliefs” (many of which aren’t actually old at all). It is no surprise that nature cycles will look somewhat similar, but there is a big difference between enacting the water cycle and an elaborate story involving battling gods and goddesses and so forth. If you see similar patterns, that’s to the good. If you find my “originality” lacking, go make some of your own. Judging by traffic and interest on Facebook, a lot of people are getting something out of what I write here. Your mileage may vary.

      Oh, and: I don’t claim that Atheopaganism is the first naturalistic Pagan path. Never have. But it is *a* Pagan path, and as legitimate as any other. Other major voices in the naturalistic Pagan sphere recognize it as such. Not sure why you should have a problem with it.

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      • I don’t doubt you called yourself a Pagan for 25 years. Perhaps you simply learned Paganism wrong, then, because you repeatedly struggle with understanding what motivates Pagans and what they believe.

        I think you are projecting a bit at the end. I don’t see any accusations that you are claiming Atheopaganism as the first. I also did not question the legitimacy of Atheopaganism as a belief system within the Pagan community. Only its ability to be original- if you insist on tearing down traditional Pagan beliefs & practices, the least you can do is not so closely imitate them.

        Speaking as a non-theist, you’ve had to do some pretty impressive mental gymnastics to ignore how alike your rain baby narrative is from stories of the goddess and god. The words confirmation bias spring to mind, but you can’t hear that so I’ll leave it there.

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      • You seem to be doing some serious projecting yourself, Carl, from suggesting that I learned Paganism “wrong” (what makes you an authority that can make such a determination?) to completely missing the difference between a metaphorical ritual practice and actual belief in actual gods. There is no “sacrifice” in the Rain Baby story; there is no battle of Oak and Holly Kings. Maybe it is you who isn’t very familiar with the so-called old traditions.

        I find it ironic that you claim that I am “tearing down traditional Pagan beliefs and practices”, apropos of nothing. I am doing no such thing; I am building a NEW Pagan practice which, yes, shares some similarities with others, and also has distinct differences.

        In any case, clearly you don’t want what we’re doing here, so why don’t you go somewhere that suits you better? Your criticism here doesn’t contribute to anything, other than, perhaps, a desire to take pokes at me personally. Kindly show yourself to the exit.

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