Newsletter: Mabon 2023
Updated: 4 days ago
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The Evolution of Corn Husk Dolls Through Cultures and Harvest Traditions
The history of corn husk dolls is one of culture, tradition, and creativity. Rooted in the practices of Native American tribes, these humble yet profound creations have traversed time and continents, finding new meanings and expressions among diverse communities. From the legend of the No Face Doll of the Oneida Nation to their adoption by African American and European settlers, and even their role in modern pagan harvest festivals like Mabon, corn husk dolls have left an indelible mark on human history
The story of corn husk dolls begins in the heart of Native American communities, where maize was revered not only as a vital sustenance but also as a sacred symbol of life. Maize was seen as a gift from the Earth, embodying the cycle of growth, harvest, and renewal. From this deep respect for nature emerged the practice of crafting dolls from corn husks.
In the hands of Native American artisans, dried corn husks were transformed into exquisite dolls. These dolls held multifaceted significance, often representing fertility, protection, and the circle of life. Through the act of creating and playing with these dolls, children were taught valuable lessons about the importance of agriculture, the interconnectedness of all living beings, and the wisdom of their ancestors.
Among Native American corn husk doll traditions, the Oneida Nation's legend of the No Face Doll stands as a reminder to be humble. According to the legend, the corn husk doll was revered for her beautiful face and eventually became vain. She was warned by a great spirit to hone in her narcissism and conceit. Unfortunately, the doll did not heed the spirit’s words and the great spirit took away her face. Today, the dolls typically do not have faces.
After some time, corn husk dolls embarked on a journey beyond the boundaries of Native American tribes. With the arrival of European colonizers and, later, African populations, these dolls began to integrate and adapt into new cultural landscapes.
For African American communities, corn husk dolls were a product of ingenuity. Slave populations were often denied access to certain goods as a matter of their status, but they had access to certain materials, such as corn husks, and used those materials to the best of their ability to make for themselves, items that they were typically denied (such as toys). As a result of their ingenuity and perserverence, African Americans transformed corn husk dolls into agents of empowerment and resistance.
Similarly, European colonizers embraced corn husk doll-making, infusing their own folk traditions and sensibilities. Over time, the dolls evolved into both cherished playthings and cherished folk art pieces, embodying the fusion of cultural influences and the spirit of adaptation.
The enduring symbolism of corn husk dolls is exemplified by their presence in pagan harvest festivals, such as Mabon. Mabon, a celebration of the autumn equinox, honors the bountiful harvest and the balance between light and darkness. Corn husk dolls have become a common emblem of this festival, embodying the spirit of the harvest and the cyclical nature of the seasons.
In the context of Mabon, corn husk dolls serve as reminders of the interconnectedness between humans and nature. Just as Native American communities viewed corn as a gift from the Earth, modern pagan practitioners embrace corn husk dolls as symbols of gratitude, transformation, and the cycles of life and death. By incorporating corn husk dolls into their celebrations, contemporary pagans pay homage to the ancient practices that honored the land and the cycles of nature.
The history of corn husk dolls is a saga of cultural interconnectedness, resilience, and adaptation. Originating from the reverence Native American tribes held for the land and the gift of maize, these dolls have transcended their original context to become cherished symbols in diverse communities. As these dolls journeyed through time and cultures, they became vessels for stories of identity, resistance, and continuity. From African American artisans to European colonizers, corn husk dolls carried the spirit of adaptation and evolution, reflecting the dynamic nature of cultural exchange.
Today, corn husk dolls continue to thrive, not only as artifacts of history but also as symbols of gratitude and connection in modern pagan harvest festivals like Mabon. In their simplicity, corn husk dolls remind us of the profound lessons that can be gleaned from the cycles of nature and the stories of those who came before us. In their delicate forms, they encapsulate the essence of human creativity and the enduring connections of our shared heritage.
Abundant Harvest Corn Doll Ritual
The Abundant Harvest Corn Doll Ritual is a celebration of the bountiful gifts of the Earth and the interconnectedness of all life. In this ritual, we'll be creating corn dolls as a symbolic representation of the harvest and the cycles of nature.
Dried corn husks
Twine or natural fiber string
Decorative elements like ribbons, dried flowers, or beads
Candles and candle holders
Offering bowl with grains or seeds
A small altar or sacred space
Creating a space: Gather your items and set up your sacred space or altar with candles, offering bowls, and any other meaningful items. Light the candles and center yourself. You may wish to say a few words to open the ritual, expressing gratitude for the Earth's gifts and calling upon the energies of the harvest.
Starting your doll:
Gather four pieces of corn husk and tie them closed on the narrow end.
Flip the corn husks inside out by taking two on either side of the tie you just made and folding them down in opposite directions.
Place a pinch of grains or seeds in the center of the husks (where the knot is tucked inside), this offering represents the abundance of your harvest.
Tie another knot over the grains to create a small bundle, to resemble a head.
Binding your intentions:
Take two pieces of corn husk and overlap them in opposite directions lengthwise then roll them together, and tie each end to form arms and hands.
Tuck this arm piece into your corn doll, directly under the head, then tie another knot with your twine directly under the arms to form a waist.
As you tie your knots, use this time to infuse your doll with your intentions. Think about what you wish to manifest in your life, and what aspects of abundance you want to celebrate. Whisper those intentions into the doll, or meditate with it while you work.
Decorate and personalize:
Enhance your corn doll with decorative elements like ribbons, dried flowers, or beads. Think of ways to use these decorations as symbols of your desires and aspirations.
Display or release:
When finished with the making of your corn doll you can place it on an altar or another special place, surrounded with candles and other special items to celebrate the season. (be mindful of how close flames come to your corn husks).
Another option is to release your corn doll back to the Earth as an offering, you can burry it in the ground or leave it in a place where it can return to the Earth naturally.
This ritual serves as a reminder to the interconnectedness between ourselves, the Earth, and the cycles of life. We hope you will use it to honor the gifts of the harvest and set your intentions on the abundance and growth in your lives.
Shadow Work Prompt: Balance & What We Harvest
Mabon, also known as the autumnal equinox, is a time of balance between light and dark as well as a time of reflection on the harvest and the approaching winter. Corn dolls, often made from the last sheaves of the harvest, are symbolic of the spirit of the grain and the agricultural cycle. Here's a shadow work prompt that focuses on Mabon and the creation of corn dolls:
Reflect on the symbolism of Mabon. As a time of balance, Mabon invites us to acknowledge both the light and the darkness within ourselves. Consider the following questions:
What aspects of your life or personality do you find it challenging to accept or integrate? How do you embrace the balance between your light and shadow self?
Reflect on the areas of your life where you feel a sense of equilibrium and harmony. How do you maintain balance during times of change and transition?
Explore the tradition of creating corn dolls. Corn dolls are often associated with the spirit of the grain and the agricultural cycle. They embody the energy of the harvest and the essence of nature. Consider the following:
Imagine yourself as a corn doll, embodying the energy of your own growth and achievements. What parts of your life have you "harvested" successfully? How can you celebrate and honor these accomplishments?
Reflect on the idea of transformation and sacrifice. The creation of corn dolls involves using the last sheaves of the harvest, acknowledging the cyclical nature of life. Are there aspects of your life that you're ready to release or transform? How can you embrace the concept of letting go to make space for new growth?
Explore any resistance or emotions that arise when contemplating the creation of corn dolls and the themes of Mabon. Consider the following:
Are there parts of your life that you're hesitant to release, even if they no longer serve you? What emotions or fears are associated with letting go?
Reflect on any feelings of discomfort around the changing seasons and the symbolic transition from light to dark. How do these feelings mirror other transitions in your life? How can you find acceptance and comfort in change?
Take time to journal, meditate, or engage in other introspective practices to explore these questions. Embrace the symbolism of Mabon and corn dolls as a way to connect with the cycles of nature and your own inner journey. Use this shadow work prompt as an opportunity to honor your growth, release what no longer serves you, and find balance as you navigate the changing seasons of your life.
Color Therapy: The Harvest Witch
Sometimes, losing yourself in an artsy task can help you keep yourself in balance. We want to help you in this endeavor. So, we have another printable coloring sheet for our coven! This Mabon, we have a harvest with just waiting for the love of your crayons, colored pencils, markers....whichever artistic tool you choose! You can download a .pdf version of the coloring sheet from the link below!
The Magic of Bread - NOW AVAILABLE
We witches of Midwest Coven Cast recently published our first children’s book, The Magic of Bread: A Kitchen Witch Tale. We have been just tickled by all of your support. We even reached as high as #37 on Amazon’s “Children’s General and Other Myth Books” list. THANK YOU!
If you haven’t already, we would appreciate if you checked it out! It is a tale of family connection, kitchen magic, and the kindness of caring for others. It is available in both physical and digital format (and also on Kindle Unlimited for those with a subscription). For those who read it, there are two delicious sweet bread recipes in the back for our little witches/pagans to try out with the assistance of their grown-up.
Our next work, The Magic Garden: A Green Witch Tale will be available in early November and we hope you will keep a look out for that as well!
Southern Hemisphere Shout Out: Ostara
Blessed Ostara to our friends in the southern hemisphere. As we take on more darkness, you will take on more light until we balance once again in half a year. If you would like to see how we celebrated Ostara in here in the North, you can check out our last Ostara newsletter!
Special Thanks to Our Patreon Coven
Thank you to our wonderful coven patrons, and especially Steve D. and Anonymous! Your support means the world to us and helps us be able to create all of our books, podcast, and more! You are the best!
Consider joining us, and our amazing coven on Patreon to help us continue to deliver podcasts, books, video, and more.
13 September Midwest Coven Cast, Season 4, Episode 2
14 September New Moon (8:39 PM CST)
23 September Mabon
27 Septembr Midwest Coven Cast, Season 4, Episode 3
29 September Full Harvest Moon (4:57 AM CST)
11 October Midwest Coven Cast, Season 4, Episode 4
14 October New Moon (12:55 PM CST)
25 October Midwest Coven Cast, Season 4, Episode 5
28 October Full Hunter’s Moon, (3:24 PM CST
31 October Samhain