Make a Corn Dolly

In traditional European pagan culture, it was believed that the spirit of the corn lived in the crop and would be made homeless by the harvest. Of course, as we know from our post on corn rituals, this would not have been “corn” as we know it today because it was a New World crop and wasn’t grown in Europe at this time. The term “corn” here actually refers to “grain,” such as wheat.

In any event, it was customary to take the last sheaf of the harvest and fashion it into a decorative dolly. The spirit of the grain would then spend the winter in this new home until it was time to plant again the next year. The corn dolly was plowed into the first furrow to ensure a good harvest of the new crop. In many places, these dollies have become—and remain—a popular art form. Some are very intricate, and bear little resemblance to a human figure.

Meanwhile, back in the New World, many Native American groups made dolls from natural materials, and one material that was commonly used was corn husks.

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“Yule” See the Light with this Ancient Tradition

Is there light at the end of the tunnel? When we’re trying to make our way out of a long, dark space, that’s what we all want to know, isn’t it? And that, in essence, is what the tradition of the Yule log is all about…

Pagan Origins

On the longest night of the year—the Winter Solstice—ancient people celebrated the return of the sun god. The darkest time of the year was past; now the days would begin getting longer. The festival known as Yuletide involved burning a log on the eve of the Solstice (which occurs on either December 20 or 21 each year in the Northern Hemisphere).

Although the name Yule comes from the Norse words “Yul” or “Jul,” the ritual burning of a special log during the Winter Solstice took place in such far-flung places as Ireland, Greece, and Siberia. The earliest burning of a Yule-type log was in ancient Egypt around 5000 BCE in honor of the sun god, Horus.

The Celtic Druids decorated their logs with holly and pinecones. The remnants of the burned logs, believed to protect the homes from evil and lightning, were traditionally kept to start the fire the following year as a symbol of the cycle of seasons, the annual death and rebirth of the sun, and the triumph of good against evil. Ashes from the Yule log were spread around homes and gardens as added protection. [Read more...]

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