On Sunday I popped down to Siddington Church to admire the corn dollies. At harvest it is decorated top to toe, not only with fruit and flowers but also with a fantastic display of corn dollies. The Church is small and timber framed and just seems made to show them off.
I think all the dollies have been made over the years by Raymond Rush who is one of the Lay Readers. He lives in the farm near the church, and sometimes at this time of year you can pop over and visit his workshop, and buy some to take home. He is a well known author and speaker, and has written several books on folklore and country customs. My mum can remember attending one of his talks at her church. He arrived at the back of the hall wearing a smock and spotted neckerchief and swinging a lantern, shouting ‘Have you seen the Light?’
The corn dolly is pagan in origin, so it always amuses me to see the church decorated with them. There are several traditions associated with them but all involve the idea that at harvest the Spirits would take refuge in the standing corn. The last sheaf cut would therefore be made into a receptacle to hold them safely until the following year. Some of these would be geometrical in design, and still others would actually be an effigy of a person – a corn dolly. These would be carried home and put in a place of honour until the following spring. At that time it would be taken out and broken open in order to release the spirits into the fields with the newly sown grain.