The Goddess of the Corn
This year, I created a Corn Queen in the warm days of early September at our business, Crazy 8 Barn & Garden.
I had been mulling this project in my mind for a while. Each year as fall would approach I would search out the photos that I had stored in Pinterest – the website for all things DIY and beautiful. It was difficult to find the real beauties.
What to type in the Search block?
Each search brought up a plethora of figures handmade from corn stalks, wheat, reeds, grasses, chicken wire and more. Some were majestic. Others frightening. But none explained the history of how to build one.
This year we had the manpower and the time to create a harvest goddess in our garden. So we took on the challenge. There were many trials and many errors, but in the end The Corn Queen was gorgeous.
“Do you have anything that we could use to build up the bottom half of the corn Queen?” I asked Manfred, my partner in life and business.
I could see his mind’s eye scouring the row of discarded implements and other paraphernalia that piles up in a farm yard.
“I’ve got that old base for the satellite receiver that they left, when I bought the Smith farm. That might work. I’ll bring it down after lunch,” he said.
The square tube structure with four feet and a centre pole became the weighty frame for the queen.
Next, we formed her torso with chicken wire and stuffed her full with straw.
Nadia, my 17 year old employee, brought in a plain white Styrofoam head and painted the corn queen’s face. Her eyebrows would make any brow tinting salonist jealous and her lips were perfectly pouty without aid of botox. We fitted a piece of wooden doweling in the hole at the bottom of the head and jammed the other end into the straw filled shoulders. She had potential now.
I spent the Saturday afternoon of Labour Day weekend tying the bottom end of corn stalks around her waist. The tassels and the ripening cobs flopped gracefully to the ground, forming a full skirt like a southern belle’s ball gown. I cut the thick ends of the stalks to form a gentle bodice and then stuffed to ripened red seeds of sumac and full bloom hydrangeas like a chain of office up and over her shoulders.
While her face was beautiful, she needed hair and a crown. I pinned long corn leaves at her forehead and draped them down her back. A woven crown of willow was impregnated with sumac cones, hydrangea blooms, and dried grass. We plunked it on her head.
Her arms, made of banded-together willow saplings were sticking straight out from the shoulders. Manfred and I gently pulled them to form a clasp in the front of her body. Then, we affixed a basket filled with hydrangeas and glorious orange and red berries.
We draped more vines of with the bittersweet berries across her skirt like glistening gemstones in royal wedding dress.
Her beauty is only matched by her strength. She has faced vicious rains and winds this past month and only her crown has needed to be readjusted after the storms have passed.
In our small village of Palmyra in southwestern Ontario, she has stood as a testament to the harvest. As a statement to all the goodness and challenges that nature offers us. To the bounty that we create as we till the soil and use and respect and understand our climate. She is a corn queen – a false goddess to whom we may offer thanks.
Susanne Spence Wilkins