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Goddess in the Wheel of the Year
by Fiana Sidhe
Lammas 2002, Vol 1-4
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corn in Northern Colorado
courtesy of photographer Warren Gretz and PIX
The Corn Mother

In the house with the tortoise chair
She will give birth to the pearl
To the beautiful feather...
There she sits on the tortoise
Swelling to give us birth
On your way, on your way
Child be on your way to me here
You whom I made new...
Aztec poem
(courtesy Suppressed Histories Archive -- Slide Series)

Myths about the Corn Mother are found throughout the world. In Germany, when the stalks of corn wave in the wind, it is said that the Corn Mother is running through the field. Throughout Europe female dolls are made from the last sheaf of the harvest, in honor of the Corn Mother.

The corn dolly was made...of grain stalks -- wheat, barley, oat, or rye, collectively called "corn" in Europe.
"Corn Dolly," The Woman's Dictionary of Symbols and Sacred Objects, Barbara G. Walker

Some people believe that the name Demeter means Corn Mother. She is known throughout the world by many different names -- Demeter, Persephone, Cerridwen, Bride/Bridget, The Callieach (Old Wife), The Corn Maiden, Mother Corn, The First Mother, Selu and Kahesana Xaskwim. These are just some of her names. She is the Goddess of fertility and life, guardian of all growing and blooming things, and also Goddess of death and rebirth. She sacrifices herself at the harvest, only to be reborn in the spring.

The Blue Corn Mother, Huichol yarn art,
used with permission, The Farm Catalog,
supporting the work of --
The Huichol Center For Cultural Survival and Traditional Arts -- a woman-founded, woman-run coop that helps women of the Huichol support their families through art -- an empowering, inspiring project. See the bracelets!

In one Corn Mother tale of the Cherokee (Native American) People, The Corn Mother, Selu, gave birth to two sons who were always hungry. She told her sons she would go find food and she returned very quickly with a basket full of corn. She continued to do this every day, leaving to find food, and returning shortly, with a full basket of corn. Her sons were very curious and mischievous, so one day they decided to follow her and find out where she was getting the corn. They followed her to a small hut, and peeped through the gaps in the logs to see what she was doing. Inside the hut, the Mother set down her basket and squatted above it, filling it with corn.

That night after dinner, the boys told their mother that they had followed her and knew where she was getting the corn. Sadly, the Corn Mother told her children that now that they knew her secret, she would have to die. She told them that after her death, they must drag her body through the field, then corn would grow. She also warned them that from then on, they would have to work for their food. Then, she lay down and died.

In another version of this story, The Corn Mother was said to be the First Mother to the people. Her children were hungry and to feed them, she asked her husband to kill/sacrifice her and bury her in the field so that crops would grow. In other stories, her sons or husband actually have to dismember her and plant the pieces of her, as seeds. The Lenape People called the Corn Mother Kahesana Xaskwim.

Saramama, Peruvian Corn Mother
art banner copyright © Lydia Ruyle, used with permission

In one legend of Kahesana Xaskwim, people took her gifts for granted and stopped believing in her. Hurt by this, Kahesana Xaskwim gave all the corn seed wings, and it all flew away. With no corn the people began to fight and panic, because winter was approaching. Feeling sorry for the people, the Creator detained winter for them and sent an old wise man from the spirit world to help them. The wise man taught the people how to get enough oysters to help them survive for awhile.Then, taking a young boy from the village with him, the wise man set off on a journey to find the Corn Mother.

The old man and the boy set off across the frozen sea. After some time, they came to a hole in the ice and jumped through it. Instead of there being water beneath this hole, there was a huge barren corn field. In the middle of the field was a small hut. The wise man told the child that this was the home of the Corn Mother, and that they would visit her after they ate. They made a small fire and began to cook some oysters. The scent of the cooking oysters brought the Corn Mother out to them, and she asked them if they would share since she was nearly starving. They willingly shared with her, and after they all finished eating, the old man and the boy sang and danced for the Corn Mother.

After this, the old man asked the Corn Mother for corn seed to take back to the village. Sadly, Kahesana Xaskwim said that she could not give the people any corn because they were greedy and were not thankful for her gifts. The child began to cry and plead with the Corn Mother, telling her how other children, like him, would starve to death with no corn. This made the Corn Mother cry, but instead of tears falling from her eyes, corn seed fell. She told the boy and the old man that they could each take a handful of the seed back to the people, but that the people must sing songs and dance dances to thank her for her gifts. She said that when she heard these songs and saw these dances it would make her very happy and she would know the people were grateful, so then she would bless them with an abundance of crops. The boy and the wise man returned to the people and taught them the songs and dances to honor the Corn Mother.

feedstock corn
courtesy of photographer Warren Gretz and PIX

All over the world, people believe in the Corn Mother, and she plays important roles throughout the year. This harvest season, thank the Corn Mother for her gifts of food to sustain us through the winter. Honor her with songs and dances. Plant seeds and bulbs to blossom in the spring, when she awakens. As the cold and rain set in and she begins to wither and die, remember that she will be reborn in the spring.

References
+ The Grandfather's Speak, Hitakonanu'laxk
+ The Golden Bough, Sir James George Frazier
+ Native American Myths and Legends, Smithmark Press

Further Reading
+ Various Sources on Selu

Graphics Credits
+ corn in Northern Colorado and feedstock corn courtesy photographer Warren Gretz and DOE/NREL (Department of Energy, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, PIX -- Photographic Information Exchange). No affiliation with or endoresement by NREL is implied.
+ The Blue Corn Mother, Huichol yarn art, used with permission, The Farm Catalog
Saramama, Peruvian Corn Mother, art banner copyright © Lydia Ruyle, used with permission

Contributors retain the copyright to their work; please do not take art or words without permission. All other graphics and reference materials are used and attributed as per the Fair Use Provision of The Copyright Act and individual terms of use.
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