Below, a collection of Cornish Corn Dollies
The folklore and history behind Corn Dollies is huge and varied. They are known to have been used for some good purposes and some not so good. Most were used in pagan ceremonies to worship fertility Gods/Goddesses or harvest spirits who were believed to live in the grains. They were used to say thank you for their harvest and to pray for a good one next year. In Britain one of these ceremonies was known as Crying The Neck, performed especially in the South West of England. Intricate shapes would often be woven with the last strands of straw cut from the fields, but some would just gather and tie up a bundle of straw to carry out the ceremony. Many of the intricate shapes made were given names, such as the Mordiford dolly, Suffolk Horseshoe or the Horn of Plenty. Some were named after the places where they were traditionally made and some after the shape they resembled, like the Welsh Border Fan.
Men and women, according to some folklore, would also make small Corn Dollies. They would give them to their sweethearts as love tokens, these were known as Favours or Harvest Knots and would have been worn as a buttonhole. According to tradition a Favour given by a man or boy to a female would still have its ears of corn on. However a Favour given by a woman or girl to a male, would have been made only of straw and wouldn't have ears of corn on. This is mimicking nature, grain being the seed of new life (the seed of a new crop) or in the females' case, the bearers of children and the soil being known as mother earth, the bearer of new life.
After the 2nd World War there was a big revival of the tradition of Corn Dolly making, many new and interesting designs were made and are still made to this day. There’s a handful of people still making them and designing new ones, like I do.
© All Pictures and Text Copyrights are reserved by Christina J Best