A rain dance is a ceremonial dance performed to try to invoke rain to protect the harvest.
Various interpretations of "rain dances" can be found in many agricultural or gardening cultures, from Ancient Egypt to certain Native American tribes. They could still be found in the 20th century Balkans, in a ritual known as Paparuda (Romanian) or Perperuna (Slavic).
Julia M. Butree (a wife of Ernest Thompson Seton) in her book, among other Native American dances, describes the "Rain Dance of Zuni."
A story from the indigenous peoples of the United States relates how the term "rain dance" came into being. The story holds that, during the days of the Native American relocation, certain religious ceremonies (amongst them the Ghost Dance) were banned by the government. The tribes in suppressed areas were forbidden to perform the Sun Dance. The Windigokan, a nominally cannibalistic sect, nicknamed "the backward people," became famous for telling federal representatives that the dance being performed was not the Sun Dance, but the Rain Dance, thus preventing any prosecution or federal intervention.
Feathers and turquoise (or any sort of blue shade) are worn during the ceremony to symbolize wind and rain respectively. Many oral traditions of the Rain Dance have been passed down
In an early sort of meteorology, Native Americans in the midwestern parts of the modern United States often tracked and followed known weather patterns while offering to perform a rain dance for settlers in return for trade items. This is best documented among Osage and Quapaw Indian tribes of Missouri and Arkansas.
The Jargon File of hackers' lore describes an idiomatic usage of the term:
Search and rescue jargon
In search and rescue, a rain dance is a method of estimating how far apart searchers in a line search should be spaced so as not to miss clues and not to waste searchers' effort.
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