The palo de agua (waterstick), or palo de lluvia (rainstick), is a musical and ceremonial instrument used in many communities from ancestral times to the present. Its name is descriptive of the sound of falling rain the instrument produces. Rainsticks are made only from dead cacti, found predominantly in the desert zones of Northern Chile. The thorns of the cactus branch are pressed into the hollow shaft to form a spiral pattern. Filled with desert pebbles, the rainstick produces its characteristic pleasant sound when it is tilted to allow the pebbles to run through its interior and bouncing off the thorns as they make their way down.
The origin of the rainstick is a mystery. According to legend, its sound has the spiritual power to serenade the rain gods. Indeed, some maintain that the Diaguita People of the Elqui Valley in Northen Chile use the rainstick to this day in ceremonies to invoke the rain spirits. In modern society, the rainstick, in addition to being widely used as a musical instrument, is also used by persons of all ages as a toy or as a tool for relaxation.