Dancing for Rain on Union Island

On 24 May, Union Island witnessed the Maroon or Rain Dance once again, a three-part ritual related to a people’s cry to God to send them much needed rain.  The dry season, from January to May, can be long and difficult for the inhabitants of this island.

Early in the day at a site chosen for the occasion, the festivity begins with the announcement of a dream or vision by bell ringing and the blowing of the conch shell, a call to repentance and prayer.

Next is the Maroon feast.  Men and women cook food, some of which is given as offerings for the men who died at sea.  Children and shut-ins are fed, then the rest of the population may partake – nobody is turned away.

About 6:30 or 7:00 P.M. the rain dance begins.  It is regarded as another plea to the God for rain.  The persons attending form a circle with reserved positions for drummers, singers and dancers.  Libation begins the drum session.  The dancers dress in beautifully flowered skirts over white lace petticoats and African head ties.  Bongay, cheer-up, shantie and Nation dances are done.

As the feeling of the spirit deepens, the drumming, singing and dancing accelerate.  It continues past midnight to the applause of the audience.

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