The Everyday Lore Project

20 September 2020 – Corn Dolly

20 September 2020 – Corn Dolly

It was corn dolly carnage today as I tried and resolutely failed to weave one properly. 

The pain started last night when I unwrapped my beautiful bundle of wheat stalks (yes, corn dollies are commonly made with wheat these days), when a moth dove straight into it. The buggers are back, in fact they never quite went away and now two different varieties flutter their chops everywhere.

So anyhow, I left a handful of stalks dunked in a shallow bath ready for today, and sprayed the rest with a decidedly non-lavender moth repellent. 

Bridie doll

I’ve always been partial to a corn dolly, see also harvest trophy, mell doll, kern baby, churn maiden, ivy girl and others. I have vague recollections of making them at school for the traditional harvest festival where we celebrated packets of Angel Delight, tins of fruit cocktail and Fray Bentos pies donated to the school’s makeshift altar (it was the ’70s, and Twickenham). So I thought this would be a breeze, after all I’d mastered lavender wand weaving, French knitting, the friendship bracelet, my Brigid’s Cross and a Bridie doll. Not so.

I studied the video. I rewound it. I stared at the screen. It was absolutely clear in its execution, but could I spiral my stalks? Could I buffalo. Discarded mangled attempts, both damp and dry, began piling up on the table. And my patience was fraying. At least the smell of the wheat cancelled out the scent of yesterday’s perfume

So I switched to a simple plaited design. I can plait. And I managed three rather scrappy, unimpressive Countryman’s Favours, which are now being pressed under The Oxford Companion to the Year. An Exploration of Calendar Customs and Time-Reckoning. It seemed appropriate. 

Maybe my lack of creative dexterity was because I hadn’t actually gone about making them correctly in the first place. The Spirit of the Corn is said to inhabit the last stalks of the harvest, and it’s those you’re supposed to use, so you protect the Spirit from the winter by bringing it back to your hearth. Then in the spring, you take the Spirit/dolly back out into the fields to ensure a prosperous harvest for the coming year. But my wheat was mail order. And thinking about it, given my face is all itchy, I’m slightly wondering if I also shouldn’t have also have worn gloves when handling it. What with me being just a tiny bit allergic to wheat. Now where’s that antihistamine?

Veg Vig
Mangelwurzels gonna mangel and mustard seeds are gonna sprout.

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Published by Liza Frank

Author of My Celebrity Boyfriend. Obsessed with hula hooping, sons of preachermen and fresh dates, sometimes all at the same time. Curator of Folklore Agony and The Everyday Lore Project.

2 comments on “20 September 2020 – Corn Dolly”

  1. Glorious Barbara says:

    They’ve got a ‘The Scream’ vibe about them…perhaps that’s what makes them look menacing. And what’s this about countryman’s favours? Sounds well dodgy.

    1. Countryman’s favour is the style of the doll!

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