The Cailleach

The Cailleach

PriceFrom €25.00

Early Man had little understanding of how corn actually grew. Many thought that it depended upon pleasing a local god, goddess, or nature spirit. When growing corn, such a vital food stable then, as it still is today, this naturally developed into the belief of an actual ‘Spirit of the Corn’. To them, this nature spirit if cared for, would ensure the fertility of that crop. 


A common belief gradually grew that once the corn was harvested from the field. The corn spirit, without the standing crop to live within, would be homeless and die in the coming cold winter months. Early farmers worried that the future fertility of their crops would be affected if this Corn Spirit was to perish, so a way to keep it alive had to be found. 


Many thought it could be hunted and captured during the actual cutting of the crop, so farmers would chase this corn spirit into the last sheaf of corn, in an attempt to trap what they believed was the future fertility of their crops. Once trapped within the ‘last sheaf,’ harvest games were played as the last corn was pulled or cut by the young men using scythes. Sometimes it was plaited while still standing in the field, other times cut and then fashioned into a corn dolly or Cailleach (which means ‘Hag,’ ‘Witch’, or ‘Old Woman’ in Irish).


 The dolly then became the Corn Spirits home during the winter. The actual name ‘dolly’ it is thought, does not relate to the shape of a human doll, as few of the traditional designs do, but may derive from the word ‘idol’. The corn dolly or idol would then be taken back to the farm after the harvest, amid great celebration. To be kept safe over the coming months in a place of honour in the farmhouse. On the first day of spring and the cutting of the first furrow, it was often taken back out into the field and buried in the earth – thus returning the Corn Spirit to the land and ensuring its fertility for the following year.

*** Each item is handmade and completely unique so please allow for natural variations ***


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