There are only nonspecific traditional legends of the rainstick and the gentle sound of rain it makes when used in ceremony. While several cultures claim its ancient beginnings, the rainstick appeared first in music in the 1960s. Some storytellers have given the rainstick a rich folkloric history by creating ancient-sounding legends about its uses in the tasks and ceremonies of native peoples.
Chilean and South American Lore
Some sources describe the rainstick as a ceremonial instrument used by the Diaguita Indians in Chile and indigenous peoples in other parts of South America. They claim the ancients believed its gentle tinkling sound cajoled the gods into sending rain. These claims, however, are vague and not substantiated in the annals folklore.
The Legend of the Rainstick (Sara Hickman)
In this modern legend, by Sara Hickman, a young boy named Runs Without Fear steals his grandfather's medicine stick and shakes it as he rages against Father Rain because of an ongoing drought. Father Rain responds with a bolt of lightning that burns a hole through the centre of the medicine stick. In defiance, Runs Without Fear fills the stick with dried seeds and nuts and shakes it again. The sound of the seeds and nuts rattling through the stick is so beautiful it causes Father Rain to weep tears of joy -- rain.
The Rainstick, A Fable (Sandra Chilholm Robinson)
West Africa is the setting of this ancient-sounding, middle-school book that tells the story of a young boy's quest to save his village from a drought. This full-colour book also includes directions for crafting a rainstick.