Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Corn Spirit : The Use of Corn Meal in Ceremony

If you're like me, I have always been taught (both as a child and as a shaman today) that whatever we have need of will always be around us. We must simply cultivate the eyes to see it. That in mind, I've always been the kind of person that enjoys practical and thrifty means to accomplish most tasks. So naturally, one of the very first things that I learned to work with in my practices was Corn Meal.

If you go into the pantry of most American homes, somewhere between the cans of green beans and the 5 lb. sack of potatoes. you are sure to find a bag or canister of Corn Meal. And in truth, I find it comforting as well as interesting, that the presence of Corn Meal in the home has not changed much at all through the years. The earliest evidence shows that corn meal was being made and used in familial dwellings as much as 9000 years ago in Southern Mexico. And because of its centrality to the livelihood of cultures on the American continents, Corn has long been used as a sacred substance, performing a variety of ceremonial functions for shamans throughout time.

When using Corn Meal in ceremony, it is wise to set aside the portions that you will be using for sacred work from the corn meal that will be used for cooking. Once they have been seperated, I typically spend time praying over the corn meal, speaking to its spirit. Fostering a relationship with the Corn Spirit is essential since you are in fact calling upon it whenever you use the corn meal. To bless your corn meal (and to begin working with Corn Spirit), pour it upon a plate or cloth in a tall mound. Place your finger into the top making a small impression, it should look almost like a volcano. Sitting comfortably to the south of the mound (this is the place of Maize and Earth), offer prayers, gratitude and blessings to the corn spirit. Below is one of my prayers that you can use if you wish:

Prayer to the Corn Spirit
Xilo, Great Haired One,
You are the spirit by which we live,
Yellow Earth, Staff Of Life,
Preparer of Roads and Great Pollen Star,
From the Ant Mountain you came,
Bless your child, and walk with me,

When Prayers are offered, give offerings to the Corn Spirit, tobacco and copal are suitable gifts. After you have finished blessing the the corn meal, place it in a special bag or container to be stored with your other power objects. It is now ready to be used in ceremony.

In my own traditions, Corn Meal plays a vital role in many ceremonies. It's four basic functions are: The Blessing, The Offering, The Transformer, and The Bridge. Each of these functions can overlap or occur within the ceremony depending upon its nature. The following is a brief description and use of each of these four faces of Corn Spirit.

The Blessing:

Corn, by its very nature is a sacred and vital plant. Its presence allows the people to live, thrive, grow and prosper. Because of this role, Corn Meal can be used to bless people, places, and objects. Imagine that whenever corn meal is used in this capacity that it is like a blanket of energy. It surrounds and marks the intended target with its powerful spirit, lending it gifts of vitality, fruitfulness, and rejuvenation. Keeping the idea of this blanket in mind, you can also see it as a mantle of sorts. When it is sprinkled over a person or object, that mantle is shared and covers the object, making it sacred as well. You can use corn meal to bless your sacred space, prepare ritual ground, consecrate power objects, ready participants for a ceremony, and to bless a family or their home.

The Offering:

The role of Corn Meal in this function is relatively self-explanatory. Whenever humankind views a resource or "good" as crucial to survival or a pleasure to behold, it typically is seen as being suitable for offerings made to spirits or deities. We give up what we treasure because we desire to share the best, most beautiful or essential things with these beings. It is a way of saying "You are important and I honor you." In the modern world, we can pick up a bag of corn meal for $2 - $3, however it is the nature of this substance and its place in our history and daily lives that make it sacred. Similarly, most of us don't need to see how much a wild rose costs in order to value it's beauty and meaning. So when using corn meal as an offering, take a moment to reflect on the nature of the substance you hold.

There are many ways to offer corn meal, the simplest of course is to offer a small amount in a bowl or plate to whatever spirit you are honoring. Other methods are rubbing it over the face of your drum or power objects, throwing pinches of it into the air for the wind to carry or for spirits to feed on. You can even use this corn meal to make sacred cakes or tortillas that are meant to be shared only in spiritual gatherings and as offerings wih spirits or deities.

The Transformer:

Staves of Life Design - Original Artwork-
From planting the seed to harvesting, to the drying and milling of the corn. The entire life cycle of Corn is in a constant state of change. This movement and shifting of form makes Corn Meal a powerful container of transformative energy. This energy is clear when we look at the history of the people from North to South America. Corn literally transformed these ancestral traditions and lifestyles. The plant itself transformed from the small bushy Teosinte into the tall stalks we know today. This energy of transformation is carried on in the corn meal that we use in our ceremonies. To access this energy I typically create a hoop of corn meal on a plate or flat surface, this circle can be any size that works for you so long as it is a continous line. Within this hoop, "draw" a symbol for corn using the corn meal. This can be a glyph or symbol that is traditional to your practices or you can create one for yourself. (See my Transformer diagram below, using a traditional "Staves of Life" corn stalk design.)

The placement of the Red and Black stones.
Arrows on the left and right show the upward movement of energy from the earth
After you have created the Transformer, you can choose to use its energy in a variety of ways. The method I use most is to place two objects inside the hoop. The first is a representation of the energy I want to change, for instance If I am having issues of self-doubt I would make or find something to represent this energy for me, perhaps a black stone or picture of the cowardly lion. This is placed or "planted" at the bottom or southern edge. Then we select an object or symbol of what we want that energy to be transformed into. In this instance I want to become confident, so maybe I would choose a red stone or picture of a strong  looking ballet dancer, whatever represents the idea of what you want to transform this energy into will work. This is then placed above the central design in the Northern realm. Looking at the diagram above we can see that we are mirroring the process of growth and change that corn undertakes. In the same way we are creating growth and change in ourselves by planting this seed and transforming its energy into what we need to survive and thrive. When using this method, it is best to only use the corn meal once, afterward return the corn meal to the earth, thanking it for helping you in your work.

The Bridge:

Corn when growing, mirrors the vertical axis that shamans draw on time and time again in their work. This axis is the tree upon which we climb to access and connect with the otherworlds. Corn rises from the earth and reaches skywards, it is this action that creates the connection. We can use this energy to connect to the otherworlds, to specific energies, and to spirits or deities. In this capacity, the corn meal is the "preparer of the way", it becomes the road for these energies and beings to travel upon. from their world to our sacred space. Like the roots of a corn stalk, the corn meal acts as an anchor for the energies we choose to call upon.

I mainly enact the corn meal bridge in two ways, both can be used to achieve similar means. For either method you will need a plate or a flat surface on which to work. The first method, I refer to as the Shining Mound, you can think of it like a Helipad lit up with flashing lights. Depending on what energy you are trying to connect with or call upon you may choose to incorporate corresponding tools accordingly. First place a heap of corn meal into the center of the plate, using your hands to shape it into a mountain. Around the Mound I typically place crystals that will acts as a beacon and condenser, however you can use objects or herbs that you feel relate to the particular working. If you are connecting with an energy that you feel is unfriendly (in the case of illness, etc.) it is wise to place a circle of corn meal around the Mound to act as the barrier. When ready, the energy called upon "jumps across" to the mound, which acts as a seat or "island" for the energy to stand upon.

The Mound Method, The Spirit crosses space to stand on the Central Mountain or Island.

The second method, one I tend to use more often, I refer to as the Bridge. To use this method, once again we begin with a plate or flat surface to work upon. Next we "draw" out a symbol for the energy that we are working with. I typically use this method when I am working with the energies of Day Signs or Deities whom I am comfortable with. This symbol can be as complex or as simple as you like, so long as it has meaning to you. This method works similarly to the Mound method, in that a spirit or energy crosses to the corn meal. However I do not recommend using this method to work with spirits that you are unfamiliar or at odds with as in the case I mentioned above (for these spirits I suggest working carefully with the Mound Method if you feel comfortale doing so, and only after you have a feel for the techniques used here.) I find that this method works well when you want to connect with a specific known energy, such as calling upon ancestors, inviting health or balance into your life, or even connecting with cultural archetypes. Like the Mound Method, once the "drawing" is created, we can call upon the energy to cross the bridge created by Corn Spirit. This energy will rest upon the design created, however unlike the Mound Method, this energy is free to interact within the space we are working in.

From the times of our ancestors to the modern age, Corn has stood with the people as a powerful ally and sustainer of life. Inviting its energy and guidance into our lives can bring about great changes within and around us. By choosing to foster and understand the relationship between yourself and the Xilo spirit, you take the first steps in picking up the trails that those who have gone before us have travelled.

In Lak'ech

-Kurt Shoopman





No comments:

Post a Comment