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Botanical: Zea mays
Corn or maize is the "mother grain" of the Americas. 'Maize' derives from the Spanish form (maíz) of the Arawak Native American term for the plant. In North America and Australia, it's known as 'corn', which is a shortened form of 'Indian corn'.
Archaeological studies indicate that corn was first cultivated by the primitive peoples of Mesoamerica at least 5600 years ago.
In Corn - Its Origin, Evolution and Improvement, Paul Mangelsdorf explains how...
"This unique grain - it has no close counterpart elsewhere in the plant kingdom - exists only in association with man, and it survives only as a result of his intervention. Thus, the story of corn is in many ways a story about people."
Corn or maize was the primary starch for Native Americans for centuries. The kernels were boiled or fried, or ground to cornmeal after drying.
Mano and matete were traditionally used to grind corn, and these have been excavated at the Mesa Verde site in Colorado. These implements are still used in many Native American households. They also found a dried ear of corn, from the same site, which is at least 1500 years old.
Cornsilks had an important part to play in folk medicine. Cornhusks would become masks, sleeping mats, baskets, shoes or dolls. The cob inside was used to make darts, to burn as fuel, or made into ceremonial rattling sticks.
Mayan legend and history, describes corn as the 'spirit of life'. Humans, they believed, were created from sacred corn, by the deities. Those suffering from a severe illness were fed corn alone, in the belief that their health would be restored.
Archaeological evidence from China and southern India, "both dated before the 15th century A.D., suggests that this domesticated crop was diffused by human action before the arrival of Columbus in the New World. The implications of this evidence are of great magnitude, since the presence of maize in Asia indicates that humans were able to migrate between both hemispheres; more than likely through trans-oceanic means of travel."
This is truly one of the great Religious Herbes of all peoples, although "corn" was sometimes actually "barley" in ancient myths, which may have created hybrid legends. The numbers of diverse peoples who recognize the existence of a feminine spirit within this essential grain create a long list. The Greeks believed corn sacred to the goddess Demeter, often showing her with ears of corn. Consistent with their belief that fruitfulness is found only when there is a balance between the field and the deep world of spirit, corn is also associated with Hades. Roman culture also recognized the power of corn. Saturn is sometimes depicted carrying ears of this essential grain. European pagans worshipped the corn mother with customs that lasted well into modern times. Frazer in The Golden Bough describes the customs of many regions, which utilize various aspects of fertility beliefs with the making of corn dollies. In many areas the corn mother later becomes a harvest goddess.
A bull was offered as a sacrifice to Mithra, a well-known deity who originated in what was Persia. An ear of corn attached to the bull's tail caused the offering to promote fertility among the harvests.
In the western hemisphere corn is equally sacred. Goddesses of corn or maize are found throughout the Americas. The Aztec goddess Centeotl is patroness of agriculture and corn is under her domain. Again from Frazer in The Golden Bough we learn that the people of Peru recognize the spirits or divinities of the plants used for food, healing or other important functions in life. Corn was grown in many areas of North America and the Maize/Corn Mother is found in a number of different cultures. The Zuni peoples grew six varieties of corn, representing the four directions and above and below.
Corn is an appropriate herbe to be brought into the temple or carried through the fields to represent fertility, to invoke the Mother of Nature and ask for her blessings, or to work magickally for abundance. Corn is an integral aspect of so many religions and associated with a multitude of deities, primarily goddesses able to teach all mysteries of life, death and rebirth.
Those who work magickally with foxes might look up the legend in which the fox takes a divine role in bringing us corn.