Human lifestyle is predominantly determined by people’s customs and traditions. In earlier times, people believed in their ability to have an impact on natural forces and to practice magic so as to affect the world around them. For instance, it was accepted as fact that one could induce rainfall or stop lightning through the use of magic. In most cases, ancient beliefs and corresponding rituals have survived through the centuries. They abide and function in one way or another in human consciousness, in daily life, and correspondingly, in art.
The role of cultural anthropology in contemporary literary criticism is of special significance, not merely because of the ways in which critical values have been affected, but because anthropology provides an index to many of the preoccupations of the great creative thinkers of our time. Out of an understanding of human behaviour in times past we have come to know a good deal more about ourselves. And new interpretations of customs and beliefs have led to new ways of looking at literature.
Some writers use elements of folk practice as a supplementary material or as texture for their production. These folk practices become a basis for the plot and even attach to it an artistic function. The 20th century Greek and Georgian writers, Stratis Myrivilis and Guram Dochanashvili, are among them. The analysis below focuses on the theme of the rain-invoking rituals they used in their novels.
The rain invoking ritual and the so-called “rain magic” have always been treated as very important phenomena. “Weather Management” was among the focal points of social magic. In primitive society, the person “in charge of” inducing rain was highly reputed and so was the ritual itself.
Rain-invoking rituals predominantly represented an imitative (homeopathic) magic. Such rituals are normally performed (or were performed in the near past) by high-cultured peoples. At the upper stage of development, the rain-invoking ritual is most frequently connected with the beliefs and ideas concerning super-natural forces believed capable of sending rain.
Ancient Greek beliefs and ideas concerning the rain-invoking ritual were reflected in an interesting way in Pausanias’ writing The Descriptions of Greece. Water problem still exist in Greece In the late spring. Untill the recent days there were celebrations and there still exist folk songs dedicated to the rain-making rituals. The central figure on those festivals was the pagan figure – “Perperouna” or “Perperia”, the ceremonial was conducted during drought period – usually in May. Young person was adorned with flowers and carried from home to home accompanied by singing of ritual songs and splashing of water on him. 
Rain-invoking rituals practiced in Georgia are also quite remarkable. It appears this kind of ritual is universal and found throughout the world’s religions. It is widespread among many nations and cultures totally different from one another. The paper will focus on the rain-invoking ritual as described in Stratis Myrivilis’ novel Mermaid Madonna (Η Παναγιά η Γοργόνα) and Guram Dochanashvili’s The Best Robe (Samoseli Pirveli).
Both novels were produced in the 20th century. Stratis Myrivilis wrote in the first half of the 20th century while Guram Dochanashvili in the second half; in fact, he is still among the most successful Georgian prose writers. Mermaid Madonna was first published in 1949, and The Best Robe in 1979. Both writings were composed over the course of several years. While the disparity in time between the novels is 30 years, the following reasons allow parallels to be drawn between them: their artistic images are archetypal, they both accentuate mythological images and primordial mysteries; both writers put emphasis on the myth, mythologems, folk and biblical plots that have common cultural traits.
Myrivilis’ novel abounds in mythological layers; more precisely, it puts together Christian and ancient Greek mythological images and symbols. The immediate evidence of this is the title of the novel - Η Παναγιά η Γοργόνα. The synthesis of the mythological and the Christian, of folk and Christian traditions runs throughout the novel as its leitmotif. The novel invites the symbolic interpretation of the characters as well as many diverse associations that ultimately lead to the assimilation of controversies: Madonna is Mermaid (Γοργόνα) and the kindly god has horrible eyes. The fresco of Mermaid Madonna depicted on a village church wall is personified through the central character of the novel – Smaragde.
The rain-invoking ritual described in Stratis Myrivilis’ novel consists of three phases: 1. The divine service at St. Photine’s Church; 2. The post-service procession up the ascending olive-tree lane; 3. Supplications to the heavens in the form of prayers and entreaties for the rainfall.
In the novel, the description of the rain-invoking ritual starts with the procession. After the mention of the service, which normally precedes the procession, the latter is described in detail:
«Από την εκκλησία της Αγιά-Φωτεινής, τ’απολείτουργα, ξεκίνησε η συνοδειά. Μπροστά οι παπάδες, ο ένας με το χρυσό Βαγγέλιο, ο άλλος με τ’ασημένιο. Στις τέσσερεις γωνιές οι τέσσερεις Ευαγγελιστάδες στο σμάλτο... Τα παλικάρια βαστούσαν τα κονίσματα ... Ξεκίνησε η πομπή για τα χωράφια, έβγαινε κι έβγαινε ο κόσμος από το πρόκλιτο και σωσμό δεν είχε... Η συνοδειά έγινε μακριά σαν ένα ατέλειωτο μαύρο φίδι, που κλωθογύριζε ανάμεσα στα δέντρα τις κουλούρες του. Σιγά-σιγά χανόταν πίσω από μια πύκνα από καρυδιές, κι έλεγες πάει, καταχωνιάστηκε μέσα στην λαγκαδιά του Ορυάκα, και ξαφνικά πάλι, να κι έβγαινε το κεφάλι του στο ξάγναντο. Αυτό το κεφάλι άστραφτε από λέπια χρυσά και αργυρά... Κατόπι ξετυλιγόταν αργά-αργά, η μαύρη ουρά, και σ’όλο το δρόμο ο μπουχός σηκωνότανε σύννεφο ξανθό πάνω από την ανθρωπομάζωξη». 
This part of the ritual – the procession – is presented in a very interesting way. It abounds in both ancient Greek and Christian ritual elements. The procession is described in detail – through the woody gorge, up the ascent, the stream of people heading for the holy olive lane. Remarkably, the procession of the people who take part in the rain-invoking ritual is compared with the black serpent, and the Gospels gilded with gold and silver – with its golden and silvery scales. As the description proceeds, the procession is likened to a serpent nearly in every sentence. What accounts for such a comparison? The serpent and the serpentine structure – the coiled tail – are recurrent artistic details that acquire symbolic meaning not only in Mermaid Madonna, but also in other works by Stratis Myrivilis. From ancient times, snakes were primarily fertility or rain symbols, and sexual or agricultural fertility symbolism remained a basic element in later snake cults. Sometimes it occurred as an image for the creator himself.
I believe the infinitely long procession compared to the serpent can be interpreted as one of rain-invoking symbols. Remarkably, the novel describes the serpent as black. This may be attributed to the symbolic function of colors in magic. In particular, when people resorted to sacrifice to induce rainfall, the offering animal should be black. It made no difference whether the offering was a sheep, a goat or a swine. Contrary to that, a white sacrificial animal was believed to be appropriate for sun-invoking rituals. The ever ascending serpent can be interpreted as one of the symbols pertinent to the rain-invoking ritual.
Now let us consider the third and central phase of the ritual – the prayer offered to God in the open space aimed at inducing rainfall. According to ancient Greek data, people often resorted to a sacrificial ritual with the intention of inviting a particular natural process. The most popular was the one which aimed to invoke rain during periods of drought. In Stratis Myrivilis’ novel, the phase of offering a sacrifice is replaced with prayers which, together with the ritual activity performed by the priest, constitute the core of the rain-invoking ritual.
Here we come across a kind of group ritual conducted by a particular individual – a priest in this case. Other participants took an active part in the ritual as well. In wooden vessels, old women burned the so-called “olive tears” that issued a pleasant smell (the fragrance was supposed to reach the Lord and was one of the means to achieve communion with Him – like the frankincense that ascended to the heavens together with prayers). Animals seemed to be involved in the ritual performed by humans; they mooed and bellowed so that their voices could reach God; in this way they helped humans communicate with Him. The silver bells on the priests’ censers and the bells around the animals’ necks sounded together in an unusual chime. Men, women and children all knelt down and repeated aloud ‘Amen!’, So that their voices could reach God, and the Lord could hear them. This was done to fulfill the foremost function of the ritual, to communicate their concerns to the Lord, the Supreme Deity, to soften His heart and move Him to pity, to resume the distorted communion. In fact, a drought was the sign of divine wrath. “God will wipe us out because of our sins,” the villagers feared, and the drought corroborated their misgivings.
In Mermaid Madonna the rain-invoking ritual aimed at rescuing olive trees – the holy and supreme plants for Greeks. The event took place on a hill. A tree (a hill) represents one of the modifications of the axis of the universe; binding together earth, heaven and hell. The tree of the universe reflects all elements and parameters of the cosmic order. As Myrcea Eliade comments, In the mythological world conception of many peoples, it is through the tree that a human communicates with the upper world. The tree represents the route towards the heaven. Its vertical line was regarded as the best means to get in touch with the deity. The ritual described in Stratis Myrivilis’ novel, which aimed at rescuing olive trees, can be interpreted as human efforts to save and secure the route between humans and God.
Thus the tree – the sacral element that links humans with the upper world – acquires even more significance when identified as an olive, a holy tree. It was the only means on the island with which people earned their livelihood, and at the same time it is the way to get closer to God.
According to the novel, the coveted rainfall is celebrated with general merry-making and songs. Children make up a circle and dance, which presumably symbolizes the communion with the cosmic energy and stands for temporal cyclicity. The activity suggests some ancient ritual. The custom of supplicating for rainfall described in Mermaid Madonna is, in fact, among the ancient customs which allowed communion with God.
As mentioned above, neither has modern Georgian literary work failed to offer an artistic interpretation of the universal rain-invoking ritual. Guram Dochanashvili’s prose, and in particular his novel The Best Robe, is among the most distinguished Georgian writings of the 1960s-70s. Dochanashvili began working on The Best Robe in 1966 and finished it in 1978. His entire prose focused on the questions which have concerned humankind throughout history. The novel depicts a model of human society which fits all periods from the Middle Ages up until recent times. While it abounds in mythological and Biblical symbols, its principal motif is the parable of the Prodigal Son from the Gospel of Luke (15, 11-32). The central character is Domenico. He is a young man who longs to travel around the world to see foreign lands. Throughout his travels he will endure innumerable sufferings and return afterwards to his homeland. In the Biblical parable, “the best robe” is the precious vestment which the rejoiced father puts on the son after he returns home. In the novel, “the best robe” is decorated with precious stones. The author endowed it with many different aspects. He related ancient symbols (originated in oriental and classical cultures as well as in old Georgian civilization) and the concepts of the Biblical tradition to modern metaphysical issues. The characters in the novel reflect a synthesis of mythological and Biblical archetypes, which suggests the polyvalence of the text. The society and characters depicted in the novel have always existed and will continue to exist. Therefore, the problems the author has chosen are eternal.
Before commenting on the way the methods used against the drought are described in the novel The Best Robe, let us consider the rituals preserved in the Georgian empiric lifestyle.
The rain-inducing ritual called Lazaroba is evidenced in almost all parts of Georgia and, with little variation, is performed everywhere almost in the same way. Lazaroba had a double purpose – it was held in good as well as bad weather. The ritual text included the request for either a sunny or a cloudy day. Another name mentioned in weather-inducing rituals in addition to Lazarus was Elia.
In different parts of Georgia, during summer droughts, people used to cut out a wooden puppet which they called Lazarus and carried it from home to home singing ritual songs. In Javakheti, a southern region of Georgia, people would choose a virgin, put a bowl with water on her head and have her walk around the village from one household to another. Evidently, the ritual against the drought with varying details was performed in all parts of Georgia. Sometimes, the idol was replaced with a woman. In Akhalkalaki, a city in eastern Georgia, “they did not make Lazarus, but chose one woman, and would walk from home to home, and would pour water all over the selected woman. Undoubtedly, both customs are the activities symbolizing the ancient ritual of human sacrifice to the lord of weather, the ancient deity of the paganistic period.”
The rain-invoking rituals described in The Best Robe (the ones which the residents of Maghal-Sopeli village used to perform) have much in common with the above-mentioned customs. In the novel, the ritual consists of three phases: 1. First, the clay crockery is laid in the sun; 2. Then a woman is seated on a hillock; 3. Finally, a wooden figure of the rain deity is cut out.
All phases, excluding the first, possess an ethnographical basis. The act of laying the pottery outdoors can be attributed to the author’s imagination as no such behavior has been recorded in the ritual studies of either part of Georgia (except for one detail: in some ritual practices, a bowl is put on the woman’s head). This artistic passage lays a foundation for the other two stages. The episode reads as follows:
“The peasants took outdoors all the clay crockery they had, and laid them on the earth. They prayed to the heaven for the sake of their dried jugs and bowls, to have it send rain; the crockery was laid out everywhere, throughout the entire village, it was strange to see the wordless supplication of the vessels heated up in the sun.”
The bowl, chalice or ceremonial goblet symbolizes the drinking in of spiritual illumination or knowledge, redemption, and hence immortality. In the novel, along with bowls, villagers also used jugs or pitchers as the tools for supplication rite. A pitcher, like other vessels, is a maternal womb symbol, associated in iconography with the source of life or the fertilizing waters. The writer’s intention to include the vessels in the rain-invoking ritual is fully acceptable to the reader, evidently owing to its symbolic sense, although no such detail is found in Georgian ritual practice.
In the above-cited passage, the sensation of the divine presence is still uncertain. The rite is followed with seating a woman on a hillock; for the rest of the day, she is to sit there nude, fully exposed to the sun:
The passage partly reflects the practice of walking a virgin around the village in place of an idol during the Lazaroba ritual procession. Presumably, the selected woman should exceed others in beauty. Georgian idiomatic speech has preserved the following saying: she is so beautiful as to compete with the sun – the phrase is said about distinguished beauties.
In the pagan pantheon of Georgia, the sun was personified as a female deity. This is attested to by Georgian folk pieces – for example, ancient Colchian verses which translate as Sun is my mother, and Moon is my father, and additionally, the Sun lay down, and gave birth to the Moon. Hence, people in old times were evidently familiar with the “rivalry” between the beauty of the sun and woman’s beauty. The ethnographic material (the custom of a virgin-led procession targeted against the drought) and the idiomatic expression (she is the sun’s rival in beauty) preserved in folk speech is connected with the ritual of seating a woman on the hillock (as described in The Best Robe). It is obvious that the writer’s imagination was fostered by his native folklore. The third phase of the ritual is directly linked to the above-mentioned rain-invoking rituals. When the display of the pottery and the placement of a woman on the hillock failed to produce the desired result, the peasants made a wooden figure of the rain deity:
“The cloud would not appear. It did not either when they carvedout the rain deity of wood and put it in the sun – hoping it would itself experience the disadvantages of the drought.”
As said above, during the Lazaroba ritual, women would carry a wooden or clay idol from one household to another.
The ritual described in Stratis Myrivilis’ novel aimed at the rescue of olive trees, while G. Dochanashvili’s narrative does not specify the kind of the plant – it only mentions that the ritual was performed for the sake of crops. In all cultures plants are the symbols of the living earth, the natural cycle of birth, death and rebirth. Fecundity, riches, success and health, and even more than that, immortality and eternal youth – all are accumulated in plants and herbs.
The interconnection of the three worlds – the nether world, the surface of the earth and the upper world – through the aforementioned sacred tree was mentioned above, when Stratis Myrivilis’ novel was commented on. The question is likewise relevant in Dochanashvili’s The Best Robe as Maghal-Sopeli (the Highland village), where the rain-invoking ritual was performed, is the symbolic representation of the upper world. It forms the tripartite opposition together with the other two sites mentioned in the novel: Lamaz Kalaki (which translates as the Beauty town and represents the middle world, the earth) and Camorra (the nether world).
After the long-endured drought was over and the rain had started, the peasants gathered in a cave at the marginal part of the village. They celebrated the rainfall with a modest repast and sang Georgian folk songs: “The singers … intoned in a full voice, and the song powerfully whirled in the room … They forgot all, closed their eyes and sang so.”
Music is believed to regulate the cosmos. It is associated with the original voice which created the universe. Rhythm and dance take after the process of the divine creation. Remarkably, in both novels (by the Greek as well as the Georgian writer), the long-desired rainfall that results from the ritual efforts is followed by the grateful people’s singing.
In The Best Robe, as in Mermaid Madonna, the ritual is performed by a group of people. The Georgian novel does not mention the identity of the immediate executor of the ritual. The plural forms of the narration suggest the involvement of the entire village. The Georgian writer shows a great deal of skilfulness and originality as he transforms the “counter-drought” ritual practice and fits it artistically into the mythological background of the novel.
The above-cited passages depict the natal place of the protagonist, which is a common Georgian village. There is nothing in the novel that would unambiguously indicate that the population of Maghal-Sopeli was pagan. In Georgia, the formerly polytheistic elements lost their pagan religious sense in the Christian environment and assimilated with the new religion. A lot of rituals were handed down from one generation to another almost unaltered. They were deprived of their religious veil and survived as an ancestral tradition.
Joseph Campbell offered an interesting synthesis of the myth and ritual schools. He defined the functions of myth and ritual. According to Campbell they are: 1. The metaphysical or mystical function which generates the sense of respect and awe among people; 2. The cosmological function which builds the overall idea about the cosmos; 3. The social function which shapes and protects a society; and 4. The psychological function which directs the inner development of a man. The analysis enables us to conclude that the rituals described in the mentioned novels have all four functions.
Although Myrivilis’ novel reflects the custom of Greece, and Guram Dochanashvili presents a common Georgian traditional behaviour, both novels reflect the universal pattern of the rain-invoking ritual and include parallel elements. The analysis led to the following conclusions:
The analysis of the excerpts from the novels by Stratis Myrivilis and Guram Dochanashvili which describe the rain-invoking rituals revealed that the mentioned rituals follow the universal pattern. The variety of the ritual elements that were typical of many peoples in old times survived into the authors’ contemporary epoch. The writers presented literary transformations of the actual ancient custom. A ritual is doomed to oblivion unless the creed it reflects is deeply rooted in human consciousness. The use of rain ritual motifs and their interpretations in modern literature once again testifies to the significance of the universal model. The rituals in the above-considered novels are multi-functional. They are intended to make an impact on the reader through the above-mentioned means, which is conveyed through highly artistic prose.
 Haskell M. Block, Cultural Anthropology and Contemporary Literary Criticism, in book: Myth and literature; contemporary theory and practice, edited by John B. Vickery, University of Nebraska Press, 1966, pp. 129-130.
 James Frazer, The Golden Bough, in Russian, Moscow 1986, p. 66.
 The Circassians and Ossetians of the Caucasus believed the supernatural forces were the souls of the dead, while different African peoples regarded them as the souls of rain deities. Europeans attributed this same power to Christian saints. What peoples of different confessions had in common was the belief in the supreme deity – God, who was the “highest authority” capable of granting rainfall to humans. Formally, the public prayer for rain officiated by a Christian priest in the drought which includes the sprinkling of the “holy water” over a valley closely resembles the rain-invoking ritual performed by an Australian magician. The only points of difference are the religious concepts attached to the rites. For more details see S.A. Tokarev, Rannye Formi Religii, izd. Hayka, in Russian, Moscow 1964, p. 21.
 According to Pausanias, on the way from Megara to Corinth, on the top of one of the mountains, there is a temple of Zeus surnamed Aphesius. The name had several interpretations as old as antiquity. According to one of them, “Aphesius” refers to Zeus the rain-maker. Pausanias, TheDescriptionsofGreece, in Russian, Moscow 1938, ff. Paus. This tradition proclaims that on the occasion of the drought which once afflicted the Greeks, Aeacus offered Zeus and Aegina a sacrifice in obedience to an oracular utterance … and Zeus put an end to the drought. Paus. 1.44.9.
 Σ.Λ. Σκαρτσής Το δημοτικό τραγούδι (τα κείμενα και η ερμηνεία τους), τ. 2, Αθήνα 1964, p. 163. For the rain-making rituals and folk songs in about it see also: Δ.Χ. Σέττας, ΚάλαντααπότηΒόρειαΕύβοϊα, Αθήνα 1963.
 For example, according to Frazer, “the Pshaws and Chewsurs of the Caucasus have a ceremony called “ploughing the rain”, which they observe in time of drought. Girls yoke themselves to a plough and drag it into a river, wading in the water up to their girdles. In the same circumstances Armenian girls and women do the same... In Mengrelia (Western Georgia), when crops are in want of rainfall, the population dips into the water a figure of a saint. This is practiced every day until it rains heavily.” James Frazer, ibid, pp. 73-79.
 Translated from Greek to English as this by Philip Sherrard and Edmund Keeley, The Mermaid Madonna. Abbott Rick, tr. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Press, 1959.
 The title of the novel cites the phrase from the Gospel of Luke (15, 22), which in the King James Version of the Holy Bible is translated as “the best robe” (“Bring forth the best robe …”).
 The Mermaid Madona’s (ΗΠαναγιάηΓοργόνα) earlier version was published under a different title - ΗΠαναγιάηΨαροπούλα- in instalments in the Greek newspaper “Ασύρματος” in 1939. For details see Κ.Α. Δημάδης, Δικτατορία _ Πόλεμος και Πεζογραφία 1936-1944, εκδ. Γνώση, Αθήνα 1991; pp. 209-247.
 The Modern Greek word “Γοργόνα” is translated into English as “Mermaid”, but for Greeks it is the same word for ancient Greek mythical Gorgon, or Alexander the Great’s sister the Gorgon.
 The Rain-Invoking Ritual, see Στρατής Μυριβήλης, ΗΠαναγιάηΓοργόνα, εκδ. Οι φίλοι του βιβλίου, Αθήνα 1949, pp. 406-417.
 It suffices to recall Vassiliso Arvanitis (ΒασίληςοΑρβανίτης) where a serpent is compared to the kindly household sprite (a type of benevolent goblin), which, as one of its characters believes, protects the tenants from harm; the same character interprets its death as the cause of his young child’s decease.
 Jack Tresidder, The Dictionary of Symbols, Helicon in association with Duncan Baird Publishers, 1997, p.184
 According to Pausanias, “there are altars for Zeus and Hera on Arakhne hill. When rainfall is required, people offer the gods sacrifice at this very place” (Paus. 2.25.10.) In The Descriptions of Greece, Pausanias describes one particular case of the rain-invoking ritual: “If the drought persists, if the trees and the seeds that are in the earth start to wither and dry, then the priest of Lycian Zeus turns towards water and says prayers, he officiates the sacrificial ritual observing all relevant rules, then he touches the water surface with an oak twig, so that it does not go deep into the water; when the water starts to move, the vapor comes up in the form of fog. After a while, the fog turns into a cloud, which attracts even more clouds, and as a result, rain falls on the Arcadian land” (Paus. 8. 38.4.).
 About the interconnection of the three worlds through the sacred tree see Mircea Eliade, Patterns in Comparative Religion, London: Sheed and Ward, 1979, pp. 298-309, also Rusudan Tsanava, Golden Fleece, Oak-Tree and Serpent in the Myth of Argonauts and in Georgian Folklore, Georgian Folklore XIV, in Georgian, Tbilisi, 1984, pp. 98-106.
 Elia is a Georgian pagan deity, lord of sowing, rain and lightning. According to a popular belief, he rides to and fro across the sky, is blind and sometimes sends hail where it is not welcomed. Therefore, when a hail cloud appeared, people used to start shooting guns and ringing bells so that Elia could hear the noise, realize the village was beneath and change his mind. People associated the pagan god with Elijah, the Christian prophet who ascended to the heavens. About the question see Irakli Surguladze, Mythos, Cult, Ritual in Georgia, in Georgian, TSU press, Tbilisi 2003, pp. 226-230.
 Sergi Makalathia, Meskhet-Javakheti, in Georgian, Tbilisi 1938, p.110.
 Ivane Javakhishvili, Georgian Paganism, Collection of works, in Georgian, V. I, Tbilisi 1979, pp. 116-118.
 The name of the village translates as “high village” or “highland village”.
 Guram Dochanashvili, ibid, see the rain-invoking ritual at pp. 44-46.
 Jack Tresidder, ibid, pp. 42, 94, 161.
 Guram Dochanashvili, ibid., 44-45.
 For more details see Mircea Eliade, ibid, pp. 251-305.
 For more details see Z. Kikvidze, The Function of Myth and Parable in G. Dochanashvili’s Prose, in Georgian, Tbilisi, 1997.
 Encyclopedia Simvolov, Znakov, Emblem, Lokyd-Myf, in Russian, Moscow 1999, p. 335.
 Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, Ed. by J. Hastings, New York, 1977; cited from N. Ratiani, The Reflection of Rituals in Ancient Greek Literature, Logos, Tbilisi, 2001, p. 23.