Learning through the lens of WHEAT & CORN

Photo: Wheat

The fall is the season for harvesting wheat and corn. The word “harvest” is originally derived from the Old English “haerfest,” meaning “autumn.” In ancient Britain and other European communities, the fall harvest marked the reaping and gathering of wheat. Victorian folklorist James George Frazer recounts several northern European’ corn dolly’ customs, corn being an ancient term for any kind of grain: “In the neighbourhood of Danzig the person who cuts the last ears of corn makes them into a doll, which is called the Corn-mother or the Old Woman and is brought home on the last waggon. In some parts of Holstein the last sheaf is dressed in women’s clothes and called the Corn-mother. It is carried home on the last waggon, and then thoroughly drenched with water. The drenching with water is doubtless a rain-charm.”

Typically, these dolls, made at the harvest time, would be kept throughout the winter and then plowed into the following spring’s furrows. All over the world, harvest time is an occasion to thank the earth for providing us with food. Looking through the lens of the grain harvest, today’s self-directed learning module supports interests in European culture, Native American customs, and colonial food history through the lens of corn & wheat.

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