[FOUNTAIN]Calling on the gods for helpWhile rainstorms hit the Korean Peninsula, a blazing heat wave persists in Europe, killing thousands of people in France alone. Icecaps in the Alps are melting, and signs of climate change appear all over the world.
Some scientists say that this unusual climate is just a prelude to the environmental disasters coming in the future. Some ask for diplomatic efforts to bring the Kyoto Protocol into immediate effect. But not all the assertions are scientific. Some people advocate performing shamanistic rituals to pray to the gods for rain to end the heat.
Until recently, it was unimaginable to advocate performing shamanistic rituals for rain in the age of high-tech science and in Europe. But as the heat wave has been unyielding for more than a month, the view that feeble human beings cannot help but depend on the gods has gained strength. As the belief spreads and villages performing rituals for rain increase around Europe, photos showing the rituals have been transmitted through foreign news services.
In the West, the history of performing rituals for rain is unexpectedly long. Ancient Greeks watered the twigs of an oak, Zeus’ divine tree. Romans prayed for rain by floating a small statue of Zeus on the Tiber River. Residents in some European regions regarded stone as a god of rain and believed that soaking stones in water or wetting them would produce the desired result.
The Chinese believed that the dragon ruled over rain. There was a ritual in which they offered earthworms ― they thought of earthworms as earth dragons ― to the dragon god. In Korea, many records connecting dragons with rain have been found. One of them is a ritual performed in 628 which was recorded in a history book. In the summer of that year severe drought hit the whole nation, so the king prayed for rain by drawing a dragon, it said.
In Korea, people have believed that Heaven would punish a king with severe drought if the king did not administer state affairs well. So when a long spell of dry weather hit the nation, a king was obliged to keep himself clean, abstain from food, move from the palace into a thatched hut and release prisoners.
Rain-calling rituals have almost disappeared in the modern age, since such behavior is considered unscientific. But it just may be because politicians are afraid of people who blame political leaders for drought.
by Kim Seok-hwan
The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.