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Rain and Water Symbolism in Southern African Religious Systems: Continuity and Change

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Abstract This article presents a diachronic perspective on rain and water rituals in southern Africa. The authors claim that contemporary rituals can only be properly understood when cognisance has been taken of their deep roots into the past. The authors indicate how water and rain rituals show signs of continuity between past and present, in spite of the dramatic upheavals created by the arrival of colonialism and missionary Christianity. The authors furthermore argue that such rituals are not only of ‘religious’ importance, but also indicative of the material concerns concerning the environment in the communal consciousness of ordinary people. The popular interest in these types of rituals may indeed be understood as the refusal by ordinary people to submit to a dominant globalisation paradigm which has a vested interest in casting them in the role of permanently helpless victims.

Affiliations: 1: Stellenbosch University Stellenbosch South Africa ; 2: University of Kwazulu-Natal South Africa


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