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What is a Corn Dolly?

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I always get asked what is a corn dolly and is it made from corn? Simply put, it is a representational doll and no, it is not always corn.

Corn Dollies are a versatile and environmentally friendly way for using sympathetic and representational magic.  The exact origins and meanings of “corn dollies” vary among different cultures. however, are generally associated with the cycle of the seasons, fertility, growth and abundance.

I love making these dolls with my family during the fire festivals as it’s a great way to get arts and crafts time in and a little magic for me. Plus, if I don’t make one for a new garden bed, the bed generally tends to not yield much in the way of produce.

Anyway, let’s jump into what a corn dolly is!

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So What is a Corn Dolly?

Traditionally, a corn dolly is made from harvested sheafs of grain, not corn, and is a representation of the goddess, Brigid. A Corn Dolly is of European origin and the introduction of Corn Dolly made from corn only, came from the American belief system. In the case of “Corn Dolly”, the term “corn” refers to any kind of grain/grass that is fed to livestock. 

I mean sure, dollies made from corn husks do an excellent job and make terrific skirts for the dolly. That, and the fact that almost every country now can grow plants from all over the world given the right conditions. However, I am someone that likes to slightly stick to my roots and ancestry. So during Lughnasadh I create the dolly from whatever I harvest and I have always failed at corn crops. So since oats grow wild around my home, I use them for the Harvest period. During Imbolc however, I use lemongrass and palm leaves to create the doll as that is what is growing in abundance.

Traditional Corn Dolly Uses

Traditionally, corn dollies symbolise Brigid and her gifts of warmth, light, and abundance. People would place these dolls in bedrooms to ward off nightmares, around windows to bless the home, on top of the hearth for warmth, by entrances for protection, and in fields to keep watch over the crops.

Another tradition involves using corn dollies to represent the Crone aspect during the Harvest festival of Lughnasadh. However, they can also be made during Imbolc to symbolise the Maiden aspect. Sometimes, the Lughnasadh made dolls are kept through the winter and brought out again during Imbolc, to symbolise the Crone retransforming into the Maiden. During Imbolc, people would place the Biddy (corn doll) into a little bed with as a symbol of male fertility, in preparation for the time of planning and planting seeds. Which makes sense as Imbolc is the time of planning and planting seeds, so to speak.

Modern Corn Dolly Uses

These dollies now represent any being that fits your vision. Use it for a goddess or god, helper, a friend or loved one or even yourself. Have the dolly as a protector, helper, healer, or beacon of magic.

I personally use the female version as a way to represent myself or my elders who have passed. It’s almost like a magical assistant helping with spells and rituals as I have it watching over my altar. Usually, I will make two of these dolls. One is for Lughnasadh and the other is for Imbolc.  After the celebration period, these will go back into the earth at the end of their time and will give thanks for their magic.

Can I Make One?

You sure can! Corn dollies are fun, easy and a little messy to make but they’re well worth it. Best part is, it all goes back into the earth once it decomposes. So please make sure to throw the left over grass/husks/sheafs into the compost or your green waste bin.

Just remember, your corn dolly doesn’t need to be pretty and fancy! Please don’t get discourage from the beautiful dolls you see online as most are made for decoration purposes. I hope this little break down helps you along your journey and we speak in spells again soon!

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