Corn Mother - Ergot, The Corn Mother, and The Rye Wolf

The Element Encyclopedia of Witchcraft: The Complete A-Z for the Entire Magical World - Judika Illes 2005

Corn Mother
Ergot, The Corn Mother, and The Rye Wolf

The classic attribute of the Corn Mother is that she simultaneously destroys and creates. In the act of killing, she gives life and vice versa. Even the most terrifying Corn Mother—and some are truly monsters—provides nourishment; even the most benevolent is potentially a killer. Nourishment generously given can also be inexplicably withheld and vice versa.

Image The Corn Mother is the loving, devoted mother who provides for her children’s needs.

Image The Corn Mother is the mad, raging, out-of-control mother (see Ergot, page 426).

Her aggressive act of grinding transforms grain into meal. Destruction and sustenance emerge from the identical source.

Mother was intended literally. In Assyrian, bar means both “son” and “corn”—a concept also reflected in classical Greek where stachys refers to a spike of wheat but also implies a child. Their identification as mothers is intrinsic to the identity of many Corn Mothers including Demeter, Isis, Ezili Dantor, and the Virgin Mary.

Virgo is the constellation identified with the Corn Mother. The astrological sign’s modern image remains based on its ancient Babylonian depiction: a woman carrying a sheaf of corn. Originally, this sheaf was understood to simultaneously indicate a child.

The Earth sign Virgo is thus represented by a Virgin (originally meaning an independent woman) holding her child, which is simultaneously a human infant and a stalk of wheat. This is the basis of many mystery religions: the child is the mystery; the mother is the deity.

By the Middle Ages, European Corn Mothers were scary cannibal hags who lay in wait in the cornfields to seize unwitting children, perhaps attempting to take sacrifices (payment) no longer offered. Sometimes these Corn Mothers are explicitly identified as witches: witches, too, are feared (or respected) as potentially dangerous but also are potential sources of wisdom, healing, protection, and joy.

The frequent associations of Corn Mothers with iron betray their affinity with certain spiritual traditions, witchcraft, and women’s ancient blood magic.

Corn spirits aren’t only fierce, raging hags; sometimes they are beautiful, benevolent grand goddesses. Sometimes they are both, as in the Greek spirit who epitomizes the Corn Mother, Demeter.