Corn Gods & Deities

Native American Corn Gods

Corn food lore is very rich in detail. This food, also known as maize, is a basic food crop across the Americas. Cultivated by hundreds of tribes, including the nomadic, it was considered to be like gold because it was a common trade item.

Known as one of the Three Sisters of the northeastern tribes, it was often planted in groups with squash and beans, the other sisters. In all cases it was (and still is) believed to be a special gift to the people from the Creator. In some instances it embodies the spirit of a particular deity.

As a result it also played a part in ceremonies. For example, sacred (blessed) corn pollen or cornmeal were used as ritual adornment and spiritual offerings. 

Here are four Native American Corn Gods and Spirits:

First Mother also known as “Corn Mother” is one of the most popular of the corn gods, especially for the Penobscot and Abenaki tribes. Although legendary details vary, sacrifice is a common theme.  She is said to have sacrificed her life to feed her children. Her body became a garden.

Selu, in Cherokee mythology, is believed to be the First Woman and goddess of the corn. Her name literally means maize or corn in the Cherokee language. She had twin sons. Once they had grown, they grew afraid of her power and decided to kill her. Despite that she taught them to harvest corn so that her spirit would be return each year as a reminder of her sacrifice.

Mandaamin unlike other corn spirits was most often portrayed as male. He too sacrificed himself to bring corn to the people. In some Potawatomi versions, however, he marries First Woman and becomes the father of humankind.

Little Giver. Not much is known about the legends of this corn spirit. She is often portrayed as a dwarf who gave corn to tribes. In both Seminole and Miccosukee mythology this deity is still honored for her generosity. 

Corn has also long been a common clan symbol in many Native American cultures. Tribes with Corn Clans include the Muskogee Creek, the Navajo, the Mohave, and the Pueblo tribes of New Mexico. In some instances there are several corns, including the Blue Corn Clan and Yellow Corn Clan. And, during planting and harvesting customs, corn dances are performed to appease to and honor this important spirit.

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