Corn Dollies by Mary Irvine
‘Corn dollies, made from the last sheaf of corn, go back thousands of years.‘
Dressed in Edwardian attire, complete with straw boater I was attending a Mayday celebration. I watched a man working straw into intricate designs. He smiled, ‘I know just what your hat needs.’
Taking a long piece of straw, heads intact, he wove a ‘love knot’ which he placed in my hat-band. My first encounter with corn dollies. I learned only a woman wears a love knot with ears of corn intact- a symbol of new life. A male wears one made just of the stalk.
I was hooked. Problem was getting the right straw to make them. Modern machinery cuts corn too short. I had to find a farm still harvesting with Shires. I did. Geoffrey Morton, in North Yorkshire had farmed all his life using only animal and human power.
Every harvest time the same mantra.
‘It’s Mary Irvine. Would you sell me a sheaf of corn if I came up?’
‘I make corn dollies.’
Then he’d hang up. A two hour round trip followed, hoping he wouldn’t change his mind.
Corn dollies, made from the last sheaf of corn, go back thousands of years. A thank you to the Earth Mother for a good harvest, a hope for harvests to come.Various designs are associated with particular areas. My own specialties the Yorkshire Spiral, Welsh Fan, Favours.
Now many corn dollies are made commercially. I prefer traditional designs that tell a story, keeping our heritage alive.
Mary Irvine – Writer and Philhellene
(Image:By Renata [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons)
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