During drought, a Kurdish rain ritual called Bûke Baranê, "Rain Bride," is performed in Kurdistan. Young girls and boys originally performed the custom.
Children in the past fifty have largely performed Bride of the Rain. In the ritual, young girls or children carry a wooden doll dressed in a Kurdish woman's costume and sing songs asking her to make rain.
They usually take the wooden doll door to door, and people would respond by splashing water on it and giving the children treats and gifts.
There are different versions of the song; the most common one includes the following in Central Kurdish;
"Bûke baranê, awî bin dexlanê," O the rain-bride! O, the water that runs underneath crops!
"Bûke barane awî dewê," Rain-bride needs water.
"Awî naw dexlanî dewê," she wants the water for crops.
"Heyaran û meyaran," O beloved ones, our beloved ones.
"Xwaye bîkayte baran," O God make rain. "Bo feqir û hejaran," for the poor and the needy.
This song may vary from region to region and from dialect to dialect.
French orientalist Thomas Bois, who travelled across Kurdistan and wrote extensively about Kurds, notes that "children make a sort of doll of two pieces of wood in the shape of a Latin cross," which "they dress up and put a turban on its head," in his description of the "Bride of the Rain" ritual.
Then they go from house to house singing: pomegranate and jam, God let the rain fall, for the sick and the poor, God allow the rainfall, bald head of the spring, O Bride of the Rain, spray water the crops, give us meals of past days, Bois explains.
Kurdish Jews also performed the custom, but instead of an effigy, a real human woman would play the role of Bûke Baranê; sometimes, a boy would replace the girl. Those who accompanied Bûke Baranê would clap and sing; our bride is beautiful, beautiful! Our bride seeks rain, O, God, she wants food. And where is the remedy for the bridegroom?
As they went from house to house, each house owner poured water on the rainbride and offered food as a gift to their company. Bûke-Baranê custom among Kurds has its roots in Mithraic rituals associated with Anahita, the Indo-Iranian goddess of water.
The doll is an effigy of Anahita, the guardian angel of springs and water, and a symbol of fertility, friendship and love. According to Manya Saadi-Nejad, "the earliest material evidence specifically relating to Anahita date from the Median Period. Their Achaemenid successors inherited many of their royal rituals.
Diakonov attributes the rock tomb to the Median ruler Uvaxshtra I, "Cyaxares I" at Qizqapan, near Sulaymaniyah in Iraqi Kurdistan, which has divine symbols carved upon the entryway; these may represent the triad of Ahura Mazda, Anahita, and Mithra attested later during the Achaemenid period."
The tradition of women soaking themselves in water to bring rain existed in Kurdistan in various forms in the event of a drought.
Bois writes, "women go to the well where they help washing each other." Or clothed in their finest dresses, they assemble in the shade of an old venerable tree where they pour water over one another's clothes and go back to their homes completely soaked.
Bois writes, "the women in the streets of Kirkuk collect rain-water in a spout, and after serving a meal to the poor, they poor are drenched with water from the spout."
The ritual helps explain the Kurdish people's deep roots in Kurdistan and the Middle East, as one of the earliest people that inhabited the landmass thousands of years ago. As they dwelled in geography for a long time, they developed customs and traditions that reflect their geography. The geography of the Kurdistan region has distinctive dry and wet seasons, as for months, little or no precipitation is seen during late spring, summer and early fall, evidencing that the "Buke Baranê" ritual is native to the Kurds and Kurdistan.
A Buke Baranê
Children celebrating rainfall in Kurdistan
Kurdish man splashes water on "Buke Baranê," Bride rain as a gesture of goodwill and celebration of rainfall