Tradition or Torture: Thailand’s risky rain-asking rituals

Rainmaking rituals have been an integral part of several cultures, especially agrarian societies. The ritual’s main purpose is in the name: to ask for rain. As precipitation plays an essential role in crop cultivation, Thai farmers believe that natural showers are a gift from deities. In moments of drought, doubt and worry are planted. With no rain, crops die out, and the soil dries out, leaving farmers with little to nothing.

In Thailand, the rainmaking ritual is called “Hae Nang Maew” (แห่นางแมว) – which translates to Cat Parade. Don’t be fooled by the cute name, as the tradition has a few concerning and questionable practices.

Tradition origin, and practices

In ancient times, Thais believed that cats are mythical creatures with supernatural powers. These sacred powers also come with the ability to call for rain. As cats and water don’t usually mix, every time there is rain, our feline friends will cry out. These cries are requests that will reach the heavens, where a male deity resides, and he will send the rain down.

Here’s the troubling part: The Cat Parade begins with villagers placing female cats (one to three) into a basket. The basket is then carried with sticks, where the villagers will start to parade the cat from house to house. As this is happening, there are chants and songs being recited by the crowd. Those in each house that is passed, must present some offerings, like liquor, rice, eggs, dessert, or money, and splash water into the cage the cats are in. If the owner of the house refuses, it’s believed that bad luck will be drawn upon the family. The ceremony will take up the whole day under the sun. If there is no rain as a result, the process will be repeated until there is rain.

Thai laws and regulations 

There is a continuous attempt to strengthen animal welfare. Animal cruelty is prohibited in Section 20 of the Cruelty Prevention and Welfare of Animal Act, 2014.

As referenced from Animal Protection Index, Animal Cruelty in Thailand is defined as:
“an act or a failure to act which causes an animal to suffer, physically or mentally, or causes an animal to suffer from pain, illness, infirm, or may cause death to such animal…”

It should also be mentioned that the definition of “animal” is inclusive of any living animal. Regardless of the presence or absence of an owner, that means all friends are protected by the law!

We’re doing better! 

Because of stricter laws and regulations, these rainmaking practices are slowly fading away. In the past, there have been feline friends who have suffered from these traditions and had to cross the rainbow bridge prematurely.

Thai style creativity has always been something we can all appreciate. There have been several reports of villagers using teddy bears, stuffed cat animals, and even clay figurines instead of a cat in order to continue the ritual! 

Photo credits: Khaosod, Post Today, and MGR Online 🙏

It’s been said that the purpose of the Cat Parade is to bring villagers together. We believe that traditions and cultural practices should be preserved. But when we’re harming or hurting another life in the process, we should adapt and find other ways to continue the tradition in a sustainable manner.

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