Dodola by Ana Vidosavljević

When the hot summer days brought some unbearable heat that threatened to burn the soil and dry all the creeks, the women in small town of Vlasotince, Serbia would gather and prepare for Dodola.
       The little girls loved this ritual, especially six year-old Mira. She hoped that the elder women in Vlasotince would choose her to be Dodola that summer.
       It was one of the hottest summers yet. The elders believed the warm breeze came all the way from Sahara in Africa. At the beginning of August, the temperature reached 47 degrees Celsius. Radio broadcasts announced a warning for people to stay inside from ten to five and drink a lot of water. Big cisterns with fresh water were on every corner of Vlasotince, in case someone felt unwell and needed help. Mira’s grandma said you could fry eggs on the asphalt.
        That summer morning, when the temperature reached 44 degrees Celsius, the elder women gathered in Grandma Savka’s house just across the street from little Mira’s house. They sat in the shade of an old oak tree in the garden and drank cold lemonade. Mira came to the garden uninvited and shyly listened to them. Grandma Savka spotted her and waved her to come closer and help herself to the cold lemonade which was in a big jar on the small round wooden table in the middle of the circle of women. Mira obeyed happily and then, she found an empty chair just next to her Grandma.
        The elder women discussed the weather, gossiped a bit and complained about the younger generation who didn’t support their idea of Dodola performance as they didn’t understand the importance of old rituals. Grandma Savka, with a smile on her face and looking at Mira said, ‘But luckily there are exceptions. And I think Mira will be the perfect Dodola this year.
        Mira couldn’t believe it! She looked at her Grandma with her eyes wide open and her heart started beating fast with excitement. She would be Dodola, goddess of rain.
        The very next morning, the elderly women gathered again in Grandma Savka’s garden. All of them had small wreathes around their heads. And one of them, Grandma Lidija, made a special garment for Mira. It was a beautiful dress-like garment made of fresh green knitted leaves and branches.
        Mira was so proud of it. There were many other children, mostly girls, few elderly women and few middle-aged women all waiting for Grandma Savka to give the sign that everything was ready. Finally, the gathered women went outside and began walking along the street, singing the song:

       Naša dodo Boga moli,
       Da orosi sitna kiša,
       Oj, dodo, oj dodole!
       Mi idemo preko sela,
       A kišica preko polja,
       Oj, dodo, oj, dodole!
       Our doda prays to God,
       Oy dodo, oy dodole!
       To pour down dewy rain,
       Oy dodo, oy dodole!
       To pour down over fields,
       Oy dodo, oy dodole!

        They went from house to house, stopping at every one. When they arrived in front of a house, the women kept singing while Mira danced alone. A family member would take a glass or bucket of water and pour it over Dodola. Dodola proudly kept dancing.
        Many members of households along the street didn’t think the ‘pagan ceremony’ would make any difference to the weather, but seeing the procession of happy girls and women made them smile and they took part in the ritual anyway. They would come outside, sprinkle Mira with water and watch her dance.
        After a couple of hours, when the women were tired of singing and little Mira was soaked to the bone, they went back to Grandma Savka’s garden. Grandma Savka seated them on the chairs and benches and brought cold lemonade and vanilla cookies. The women smiled, giggled and chatted happily. Well, they definitely enjoyed their little ritual and they hoped, if nothing else, it, at least, brought smiles to the faces of people in Vlasotince.
        The next day, somewhere around seven in the morning, small clouds showed their faces. People in Vlasotince looked up at the sky and hoped. The clouds kept coming and they formed a grey blanket over Vlasotince. The fresh breeze brought them altogether and they threw down a heavy rain.
        Everyone in Vlasotince rushed outside and once again people were dancing on the streets, smiling and hugging one another merrily. The days of drought were over. Mira held the hand of her sister and smiled proudly as she let the rain wet her skin and soak her clothes. A broad smile appeared on her face. Watching the joy spread throughout Vlasotince she thought, maybe, just maybe, she had helped bring back the rain.

Ana Vidosavljević is from Serbia and currently living in Indonesia. She is a teacher, international relations specialist, writer, translator, interpreter, journalist, surfer and mom. Her collection of short stories Mermaids was published by Adelaide Books in September 2019, and a memoir Flower Thieves will be published by the same publishing house in April 2020. Check out her blog or follow her on instagram.

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