Lugbara rainstone

Lugbara rainstone
Other views of this artifact:

Accession Number:
1946.8.100 .1
West Nile District Maracha
Cultural Group:
Lugbara Bari
Date Made:
By 1932
Quartz Stone
Carved , Recycled
L = 19.7, W = 19.3, Ht = 15.2 mm [RTS 18/8/2004].
Other Owners:
Taken from the Lugbara by Jack Herbert Driberg before 1922; obtained by Charles Gabriel Seligman and Brenda Zara Seligman while in Sudan, and showed to the Bari of the Bekat Clan during their field work there in the winter of 1921 or 1922; donated to the
Field Collector:
Jack Herbert Driberg
PRM Source:
Brenda Zara Seligman
Donated August 1946
Collected Date:
By 1932
Rainstone made of translucent clear coloured quartz with some internal flaws visible, and consisting of a circular, very slightly convex upper surface on a squat body with sides tapering out slightly to a very slightly convex underside. This looks to have been artificially shaped; according to the Seligmans it was probably made from a reused lip plug. It is nearly complete, but has some small chips to the upper and lower edges. There is currently no signs of a coloured surface pigment. It weighs 11.8 grams, is 19.7 mm long, 19.3 mm wide at the top, 21 by 20.1 mm across the base, and 15.2 mm tall.

This was part of a group of rainstones, that had traditionally belonged to the Lugbara, were captured in war by the Bari, then later recaptured by the Lugbara. They were obtained by Jack Herbert Driberg sometime before 1922, and then acquired by Charles Gabriel Seligman and Brenda Zara Seligman while in Sudan, who showed the stones to the Bari of the Bekat Clan during their field work there in the winter of 1921 or 1922. The stones were subsequently donated to the Pitt Rivers Museum in August 1946. For the other two rainstones, see 1946.8.100.2-3.

The Lugbara are to be found in northwestern Uganda, the adjoining area of the Democratic Republic of Congo and in the West Nile district. They relate culturally and linguistically to the Madi.

According to Seligman, stones like these were used for making rain according to a Lugbara ‘stream ritual’; they were kept in a sealed gourd, and when rain was required, the gourd would be broken in a stream and the stones left there for the night. They were then resealed in a new gourd. All the stone originally had red paint on the surface; this was examined, and found to contain no signs of blood.

This rainstone is illustrated in C.S. & B.Z. Seligman, 1928, "The Bari", JRAI 58, 412, 463-4, at the bottom right corner of their figure 2; and in C. G. & B. Z. Seligman, 1932, "Pagan Tribes of the Nilotic Sudan", London, 1932, p. 232 ff, fig. 18.

The Seligmans comment: "As for rainstones, these are in use among all Bari-speaking tribes of whose magico-religious practices we have any knowledge, whether on the right or the left bank of the river. They are also found among Lokoiya, Lango (of the Sudan), Acholi, Mari and Lugware ... [on the Bari rainmaking ceremony] Of the objects concerned in rain-making there can be no doubt that certain stones, generally of quartz, are the most important ... Of the attitude of the natives to the pieces of quartz which from now on we shall speak of as rainstones, we had an early opportunity of judging, when one of us showed a 'chief' and some old men of the Bekat clan the stones, said to be of Bari origin, which Mr Driberg had taken from the Lugbware some years previously. These were four pieces of worked quartz - old lip-plugs - of which drawings (actual size) are given in text-fig. 2 [Note that the stones illustrated include 1946.8.100.1-3]. The two conical stones were considered as male and the cylindrical as female, the larger of the latter being regarded as the most potent, and it was pointed out that when taken in the hand and held close to the ear it 'called out'. This stone, though not transparent, was clearer than the others, while the minute pits on the surface of the two male stones showed the remains of red paint. Although all four stones are evident artifacts, and three of them obvious lip-plugs, even if the fourth [= 1946.8.100.3] be too large for this purpose, not one of our informants considered them other than natural ... " (C.S. & B.Z. Seligman, 1928, "The Bari",
JRAI 58, 412, 463-4).

The use of rainstones by rainmakers in the Gondokoro district was also described by Cole: "[the rainmaker] next produces a pot, roughly made of clay, in which he keeps his rainstones. These are stones which have been found upon the hills and are curious either for their shape or colour. I brought several of them to England, and some were found on examination to be pieces of rock crystal, aventurine and amethyst. The stones are then covered with water and the chief takes in his hand a peeled cane, which is split at the top, and with this he beckons the clouds towards him..." (W.E. Reymes Cole, 1910, "African Rain-making chiefs, the Gondokoro District, White Nile, Uganda",
Man 10, p. 91). See also the discussion of the use and significance of rainstones in the southern Sudan in S. Simonse, 1992, Kings of Disaster , 292-301. For an example of a pot used to hold rainstones by the Lotuko, see 1940.12.615.

Rachael Sparks 25/9/2005.

Primary Documentation:
Accession Book Entry - Mrs Seligman, ... - ... - 1946.8.100 - Uganda, West Nile District, Maracha, Lugbwara tribe - [1 of] Three (of an original four) 'rainstones' - Of translucent quartz, 2 cylindrical discs [.1 & .2] (3/4" diam. x 1/2" thick 5/8" diam. x 7/10" thick) & 1 shaped like the end of a pestle [.3], handle broken, c. 2" long [&] 7/8" max. diam. - Note by Prof. C. G. Seligman - "Found in a sealed calabash: used for rain-making: when required for rain the calabash is broken in a stream and the stones are left there for a night & then re-sealed in a new calabash. Traditionally these four stones were taken long ago in war by the Lugbwara from the Bari, who told the Lugbwara at the time that they had themselves taken them from the Lugbwara in a previous war. Stream ritual is Lugbwara practice. All previously had red paint. The red on the stones has been examined for blood: no trace was found" - Further information in C. G. & B. Z. Seligman "Pagan Tribes of the Nilotic Sudan", London, 1932, p. 232 seqq. [sic] where the four are illustrated (Fig. 18).

Related Documents File - Notes on 'Lugbara rain-stones' by C. G. Seligman [cited in accession book entry] [GI 17/1/2002].

Old Pitt Rivers Museum label - "Rainstones", used in rain-making ceremonies, by the LUGBWARA who are said to have taken them in war from the BARI, UGANDA. See C.G. & B.Z. Seligman, 'Pagan Tribes of the Nilotic Sudan', p. 282, d.d. Mrs Seligman, 1946.8.100.1-3. LUGBWARA TRIBE, MARACHA WEST NILE DISTRICT, UGANDA [written on base of box in which stones are stored] BARI RAINSTONES [written on lid of box; RTS 18/8/2004].

Publication History:
C.S. & B.Z. Seligman, 1928, "The Bari", JRAI 58, 412, 463-4, illustrated at the bottom right corner of their figure 2 [partial copy in RDF file]. C. G. & B. Z. Seligman, 1932, "Pagan Tribes of the Nilotic Sudan", London, 1932, p. 232 ff, fig. 18.

Funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council
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