Monday, July 25, 2022

Native American Plant Myths - The Old Woman & Planting Corn

1590 North American Atlantic Coast Natives by John White (c1540 – c1593). 
The village of Pomeiooc (Pomeiock) was a Native America settlement,
 designated on de Bry’s map of Virginia, Americae Pars Nunc Virginia Dicta,
 between today’s Wyesocking Bay & Lake Landing, North Carolina. 
John White called the settlement Pomeyoo.

For thousands of years, Earth's indigenous people from separate ethnic groups inhabiting a variety of the planet's climates & terrains have searched for and created oral myths about plants & animals. They often used nearby plants not only for food but also as medicines to control ailments afflicting them. Many of these myths were passed down from generation to generation as oral tales before written language.

Extracted from: Myths of the Cherokee. 
19th Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology. 
Washington Government Printing Office 1902  
Recorded by James Mooney (1861-1921) who was an American ethnographer
 living for several years among the Cherokee.

Plant Lore

Much ceremony accompanied the planting and tending of the crop. 

Seven grains, a sacred number, were put into each hill, and not afterward thinned out. 

After the last working of the crop, the priest and an assistant--generally the owner of the field--went into the field and built a small enclosure (detsan├╗├▒'li) in the center. Then entering it, they seated themselves upon the ground, with heads bent down, and while the assistant kept perfect silence the priest, with rattle in hand, sang songs of invocation to the spirit of the corn. 

Soon, according to the orthodox belief, a loud rustling would be heard outside, which they would know was caused by the "Old Woman" bringing  corn into the field, but neither must look up until the song was finished. 

This ceremony was repeated on four successive nights, after which no one entered the field for seven other nights, when the priest himself went in, and, if all the sacred regulations had been properly observed, was rewarded by finding young ears upon the stalks. 

The corn ceremonies could be performed by the owner of the field himself, provided he was willing to pay a sufficient fee to the priest in order to learn the songs and ritual. Care was always taken to keep a clean trail from the field to the house, so that the corn might be encouraged to stay at home and not go wandering elsewhere.