Fiction

The Corn Idol

Written by Jenn Gosselin. This historical piece looks at the rituals surrounding agriculture in Latin America, examining the practices from the perspective of the Corn Idol.

As I begin my ascent into the sky, my excitement stokes deep within, for today is my feast day. Those that worship me so wholly will soon begin the ritual in my honour and end the evening with feasting and enjoyment. How small they are, the mortals, but their capacity to love those of my kind knows no boundaries. Their adoration makes us all the more powerful, all the more inclined to reward them with crop and the riches of the earth.  

I chase my sister, the moon, away as I climb higher, watching raptly as my people begin to stir and emerge from their dwellings. My eyes turn to the minor temple, where the young women who were chosen specially to honour me this day, will emerge. 

Soon, they appear, dressed in white with crowns of corn leaves adorning their heads. They look beautiful, radiant with red dying their cheeks, seeming even more youthful. The only other speck of colour on them is that of the parrot feathers covering their forearms, giving them the illusion of possessing wings, as though they would take flight to meet me.  

These young women have been working for days, building an exquisite effigy, meant to represent me. It is made of the earth, my mother. Of seeds, corn, and honey, used to represent my skin, my eyes, my teeth, and my blood. I am divine, yet I cannot walk amongst them, so they must make do.   

The elite have clothed me in fine garments, fit for my station. They placed me on an azure litter, and I am carried on the slim shoulders of the young women to the court where the king resides. He is merely a representation of me, but he is just and treats my people well. I have appointed many like him, and not all have made me as proud.  

The young men of the village, dressed as handsomely as the women, take the litter now upon their shoulders and process to the great temple. There they set down the idol for prayer.  

This is only the beginning. 

They hoist my effigy onto their shoulders, and once more walk in procession from the city. They travel to many places within a few hours. More of my children place tributes on my litter, sacrifices are made in my name. I feel the energy, even at my height, basking in the warmth of the blood and the sound of their worshipful cries.  

At the closing of their parade, they return to the foot of the great temple steps and set the litter down. My people, my beloved mortals, are so clever. We have made them that way. They hoist the chair up the steep, sloped steps of the temple, some pulling from above and some helping from below. It is much too dangerous to carry me, and I am grateful they have concocted a way to bear me safely up to the apex. 

Once there, they place my idol in a hut made of roses. When my corn effigy is settled, more flowers and rose petals are sprinkled in devotion, and my imitation is blessed by the holiest of men, the priests, those that spend their entire existence in fealty to my kin and me.  

More sacrifices are made, including human volunteers. Blood stains the sacrificial altar, and with every swing of the priest’s knife, I am remade, empowered, my being thrumming with celestial might and vigour.  

Then, the real celebration begins. Music of drums and flutes and other instruments lasts well into the late afternoon, to the point where I am almost out of sight of them. Our greatest creations have done us proud, and as my sister ascends to take my place until the next break of day, I see my people nourishing themselves with the facsimile of my flesh. From elder to the smallest child, all take a small part of me, the idol, and ingest it.  

I smile, a swell of pride bursting within me, and then I rest until the dawn. 

Written by Jenn Gosselin

Source

Acosta, Joseph de, The Natural and Moral History of the Indies [1590]. Volume II: The Moral History, ed. Clements R. Markham, trans. Edward Grimeston (Cambridge, 1880; repr.: 2010). 

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