Of all the grains eaten in the world, corn - or maize - probably is surrounded by more legends and folklore than any other. Corn has been planted, tended, harvested and consumed for millennia, and so it’s no wonder that there are myths about the magical properties of this grain. Let’s take a look at some of the customs and traditions surrounding corn.
Parts of Appalachia are rich in superstitions surrounding corn. Some farmers believe that if you miss a row while you’re planting corn, someone in your family will die before harvest season. Likewise, if you see kernels of corn lying in the road, it means company is on the way - but if you brush the kernels away or bury them, your visitor will be a stranger.
In late August, we celebrate the beginning of the Corn Moon. This moon phase is also known as the Barley Moon, and carries on the associations of grain and rebirth that we saw back at Lammastide. August was originally known as Sextilis by the ancient Romans, but was later renamed for Augustus (Octavian) Caesar.
During the westward expansion of the nineteenth century, settlers in some Midwestern areas believed that if a girl found a blood-red corn cob among the yellow ones, she was sure to marry before the year was out. Forward thinking young men occasionally planted a few random kernels of red corn strains among their crops. In Kentucky, it’s said that blue kernels found on an otherwise red corn cob will bring the person who finds them very good luck indeed.
Some Native American tribes planted beans, squash and corn in an arrangement known as Three Sisters. In addition to being a self-sustaining ecosystem, in which each plant helps the others, the planting of this trio is associated with the concept of happy families, abundance, and community.
Corn also features prominently in Native American folklore. The Cherokee, Iroquois, and Apache all have tales about how corn came to be part of man’s diet - and these stories usually involve an old woman presenting corn as a gift to someone young.
To use corn in magical workings, think of the symbolism of this hearty grain. Here are some ways you can use corn in ritual:
- Use corn in rituals involving growth and transformation
- Create herbal sachets to use around the house, bringing in magic associated with various herbs
- Make offerings to gods or goddesses of fertility
- Sprinkle corn around your ritual area to delineate sacred space
- Make a corn doll to honor the deity of your tradition
- Create a corn husk chain, with each link representing a magical goal