The Modjadji or Rain Queens are direct descendants of Queen Balobedu who hail from the Limpopo Province of South Africa. The title is strictly matrilineal and men aren’t given the opportunity to descend the throne. The crown is reserved for the eldest daughter.
According to legend, the rain queen of the Lovedu descends from the royal house of Monomotapa who reigned in the 1400s and 1500s over the territory now known as Zimbabwe. At the time it was inhabited by the Karanga tribe.
In the 1580s the royal house experienced a scandal when one of the princes had a relationship with his sister, Dzugundini. The relationship produced a son. To prevent a civil war, the king banned his daughter and her son from the kingdom of Monomotapa, but not before giving her a horn with magical rainmaking powers. She settled on the opposite side of the Limpopo River – where her descendants still live today. The magical powers were passed along the female line from mother to daughter.
In 1800 Maselekwane, who descended from Dzungundini, was for the first time officially crowned as rain queen and took the name Modjadji I. Fear of her powers has always restrained both internal opposition and any attack from outside. Her reputation as a rainmaker was so respected that even Shaka, the king of the Zulus, turned to her for help to relieve Zululand from a prolonged drought.
Timeline of rain queens
1800 – 1854: Maselekwane Modjadji I
1854 – 1895: Masalanabo Modjadji II
1896 – 1959: Khetoane Modjadji III
1959 – 1980: Makoma Modjadji IV
1981 – 2001: Mokope Modjadji V
2003 – 2005: Makobo Mdjadji VI