A typical design of corn dolly that has origins in Wales and Herefordshire.
Place upon your altar to bring fertility to your practice and life then burn on Imbolc to return the magic back into the Earth.
The History: The tradition of the corn dolly has its origins in pre-Christian Britain. At harvest the last sheaf of corn was sacrificed along with an animal, often a hare which was found amongst the crops, to the gods to ensure soil fertility for the next year. Later a model of a hare was made out of straw to represent ‘the continuity of the spirit. Eventually this evolved into the corn being plaited to represent a figure symbolising ‘the goddess of the grain‘. This became known as a ‘corn dolly’ and was usually hung in a farmhouse’s rafters till the next year.
The corn dolly was a feature of Lughnasadh, which is typically held between the 1st August and was the first harvest festival of the year. The ashes of the corn dolly were then ploughed back into the ground during Imbolc. The Celtic festival of Imbolc celebrates the first signs of spring and “commemorates the changing of the Goddess from the Crone to the Maiden”.
In Cornwall and Devon the last sheath of corn was known as the neck. The person to cut the last sheath held it up in the air and shouted. The shout or ‘cry’ as it was known typically followed this pattern:
Reaper: “I’ave ‘un! I’ave ‘un! I’ave ‘un!
Reply: “What ‘ave ‘ee? What ‘ave ‘ee? What ‘ave ‘ee?”
Reaper: “A neck! A neck! A neck!”
Everyone: “Hurrah! Hurrah for the neck! Hurrah for Mr [name of reaper]
A man was then chosen to rush to the site of the feast with the ‘The Neck’ of corn and enter the building by stealth avoiding a young woman who was appointed as guardian at the entrance to obstruct him. If he managed to get into the building without being soaked by her, he could claim a kiss as a prize.
The neck or corn dolly would then preside over the harvest celebrations and the feast where it would be seated at a prestigious place at the table.
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