Corn Mother

About the Corn Mother

Since maze is a substantial food among the Native Americans it would certainly be included within their mythology. One legend concerns an old lady and an orphan boy. The old lady lived alone and walked her beaten paths everyday.

On day she found a spot of blood on one of the paths. She covered it with a jar, which she later removed and discovered a little baby boy under it. When the boy grew older he called her Grandmother.

When he became seven he made his first bow and arrows, and was very curious and full of questions. Almost everything he saw, he would ask his Grandmother what it was.

So when he saw a bushy tailed animal run up a tree, he asked Grandmother, «What is that?» «It’s a squirrel,» she told him. «Shoot it; bring it home, it’s good to eat.» So he did. Next he asked her what it was that flew from tree to tree.

She answered, «It’s a bird and good to eat. Shoot it and bring it home.» Next the boy spied an animal with no tail and round ears.

Grandmother said that was a bear, and added it was good to eat; so he shot it and brought it home. By this way he learned the names of all the animals and which were valuable as food.


Definition and Meanings

The legend of the Corn Mother is a significant part of Native American mythology, particularly among tribes for whom maize (corn) is a staple crop. The story you’ve shared, involving an old lady and an orphan boy, is a variant of the broader theme of the Corn Mother, which is central to the agricultural and spiritual life of many Native American cultures.


The Corn Mother Myth

  • Symbol of Sustenance: The Corn Mother is often depicted as a deity or mythological figure representing the origin of maize. She symbolizes sustenance, fertility, and the cycle of life.
  • Variants Across Cultures: Different tribes have their own versions of the Corn Mother myth. Common themes include sacrifice, rebirth, and the nurturing of the people through the gift of corn.
  • Spiritual and Cultural Significance: The myth embodies the deep connection between the people, their sustenance, and the land. It often holds a central place in the spiritual and cultural practices of the tribe.


Your Shared Legend

  • Teaching and Nurturing: The story you’ve mentioned focuses on an old woman and an orphan boy. The woman’s role as a teacher and nurturer to the boy reflects the nurturing aspect of the Corn Mother.
  • Learning and Growing: The boy’s curiosity and learning process represent the growth and development of the tribe, learning to live in harmony with nature.
  • Understanding Nature: His learning about animals and hunting symbolizes the tribe’s relationship with nature – understanding, respecting, and utilizing the natural world for sustenance.


Broader Context

  • Agricultural Importance: In many Native American cultures, corn is not just a food source but a central element of their identity and way of life. The Corn Mother myth often reflects the importance of agriculture and the reverence for natural resources.
  • Moral and Ethical Lessons: These myths also convey moral and ethical lessons about respect for nature, the importance of community, and the responsibilities of individuals within the tribe.


Modern Relevance

  • Cultural Preservation: For Native American communities today, these myths are crucial in preserving their heritage, identity, and traditional practices.
  • Understanding and Respect: For non-Native people, understanding these myths is important for respecting and appreciating the rich cultural history and spiritual beliefs of Native American peoples.