The Conjure Woman

The Conjure Woman
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Monday, October 10, 2011

How to Make Corn Husk Dolls and Their Role in Legend and Ritual

Inspired by the beautiful tea at Tea Squares, (an enchanting little place in Kentucky where I've been reading tea leaves the past few weeks), I've been making cornhusk dolls with chamomile, star anise and other natural accessories. While researching more about them today I discovered that the tradition of making them may be thousands of years old. They're found in the British Isles, where they're associated with St. Brigid. They're also connected to ancient harvest/fertility rituals in both Europe and Mexico. In some Native American traditions they're also believed to keep away bad dreams.

Traditionally the dolls don't have faces, (I was kind of dissappointed to see that, I'd been planning on giving them pumpkin seed eyes at least!). I found an Iroquois legend describing why:
There were once three sisters called the sustainers of life, Corn Spirit, Bean Spirit and Squash Spirit. Corn Spirit asked the Creator what else she could do for her people and the creator said that a beautiful doll could be formed from her husks. The Creator formed a doll for her and gave it a beautiful face. It was then sent to the Iroqois people to make them happy. 
The doll went from village to village. She played and brought great happiness to children but, everywhere she went everyone went on at great length about how beautiful she was. She soon grew terribly vain. The Creator told her that vanity was not becoming and she said she would stop so that he would not punish her. 
One afternoon, when walking by a creek, she caught her reflection in the water. She couldn't help but think about how beautiful she was. The Creator then sent a screech owl to snatch her reflection. When she looked again it was gone. 

So now, when cornhusk dolls are made, they are made without faces. 
In traditional cultures in Europe it was believed that the corn spirit lived in the crop and that it became homeless at harvest time. Corn 'dolly's', hollow shapes made from the last sheaf of wheat, corn or like crops, allowed the spirit to spend the winter in the home of the maker.  The corn dolly was then plowed into the first furrow of the new season.
More links to info about corn husk dolls:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corn_dolly

http://owlandcrow.saladd.com/2011/01/31/brigid-and-the-snow-moon/

http://www.nativetech.org/cornhusk/corndoll.html

http://www.rawhidestudios.com/cornhuskdolls/

http://museum.oneidanation.org/education/cornHusk.htm


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