THE FOLKLORE, MEDICINE AND ECOLOGY BEHIND THE MAIZE
“A light wind swept over the corn and all nature laughed in the sunshine.”
The mysterious, thrilling and amazing beauty of corn field is like a kiss of eternity. It is always there, no matter what happens with us and the rest of the world. The corn has such a perfect DNA, to be adapted and to survive all our challenges, since it has been created, long time ago. I am even not sure if any other grain has such a meaningful presence in our lives like maize, that has gotten almost the mystical portray and known to be given many legends on the road. It is simply something odd about this plant but also very magical and I guess that old and native cultures of North America felt the same, when they imagined all those interesting tales about the corn we know nowadays.
The Appalachia people believe there is something supernatural about our good, gold and old corn. What it could be? The ideas are different but some of them are even afraid to miss the row when they plant the corn because they think someone from the family will die before the harvest season. The kernels of corn that are lost around could symbolize that new people will join you and if the husk is great, it could be that winter will be cold and with no mercy. In late August, it usually starts the Corn Moon or the Barley Moon, the time of big harvests.
When I am around husk and corn, I can’t stop thinking about the sinister things that are maybe behind. It is definitely because of so many scary movies and Hollywood appetite to make bloody settings in the labyrinth of maze but I am asking myself why the corn has a dual nature in our cultural minds? It is healthy, beneficial but it is also very environmentally demanding and sometimes even aggressive, at least as far as I have read comments from farmers. It is like the species that adapt itself the best way it can, with 100% of success.
Native American tribes consider corn (maize) as the gift of Great Spirit, as the food and ceremonial tool. Those indigenous people have learnt very fast that corn and its two other sisters, squash and bean, are very substantial nutrients and they were the first who discovered the multidimensional use of corn in domestic life. After the colonization, the corn is domiciled and turned into the global product, but its origin is hidden in Native American culture. I found one comment from the doctor of anthropology who made studies about corn folklore and his opinion is that white people feel some kind of cultural sins because of what they did to Native Americans and that is also why they see husk and corn as pretty much lucrative, mystical and evil.
When I star at the corn fields, I do not think of any cultural sins but about the power of the nature and about the spirituality of Native Americans. I am so amazed by them and almost every time I find myself related to something, mentally or spiritually, I also find myself connected with Great Spirit and the complete Native American philosophy of life circle and harmony. Those people have influenced the Earth with their special spirituality that we feel those energy even now, so many years after, all over, through the husks and corns, through the eternity that only belongs to them.
There is a medical background of the corn too and there are many health benefits of eating this grain or include it in the regularly diet. First, it prevents anemia and cancer, but it also protects heart and boost immune system. Some researchers claim that corn, so rich with minerals and vitamins, could improve our eyesight and helps as control diabetes and bad cholesterol. It is also very much responsible for the wellness of digestive organs and participate in empowering of bones structure and their density.
If we analyze all the advantages of cultivating corn, we must open the chapter of its disadvantages, just to keep the line of objective writing. According to environmental scientists, the corn production has a negative impact on the environment and climate change issues. Why? The corn requires a lot of fertilizer and water, which make a discomfort in the ecosystem. We do not talk here about a moderate production but rather about worldwide aggressive corn production, that is used for human food, animal farming and for ethanol for cars, as the fuel:”Corn is a really thirsty crop, so in parts of the country where we don’t have ample rain, we’re irrigating it, usually with groundwater, like from the aquifer that we have in the middle of the country called the High Plains Aquifer, which is a tremendous groundwater resource. It really is the lifeblood of states like Nebraska and Kansas. But the fact is that the amount of water that’s required to grow corn is much more than what’s required to grow crops that have traditionally been grown in those areas, like sorghum or wheat. But the high price of corn has driven production in those areas. Ethanol mandate as well has encouraged production in those areas. And we’re seeing in our report that there’s at least 20 counties in Nebraska, Kansas and Texas that are seeing groundwaters precipitously drop as a result of corn production.” The researchers try to spread education about the sustainable corn production because it is stated that malign corn production could cause up to 4,300 premature deaths a year in the United States. This could be about $39 billion per year. The really worrying situation is Indiana, Illinois and Ohio while it seems that Minnesota, Iowa and Nebraska are improving their impacts on the production technology.
The global corn market is hungry for more products and more fields of use. The demand doesn’t stop so the new offers are always coming. We can’t blame farmers for doing their job. There is only a hope that we can rationally produce it, without damaging the nature, sensible climate and already sick environment. It is a possible to find the way that is not harming or at least, not so harming for the Planet. It is all about sustainability. All we need is a bad husk, good and golden corn and less grid.
3 thoughts on “THE CURIOUS DESTINY OF CORN”
What an excellent article, Sarah !
I totally concur with you as to the health benefits of corn. At the same time, I’m glad you pointed out the negative impact of its industrial production, as it is a major concern. In fact, when soil is used for corn crops for too long, the soil loses many of its nutrients and becomes infertile. I even read that the corn would then have to be replaced with another crop in order to restore the nutrients in that soil.
Further, all the aquifer water used to irrigate this overproduction of corn will not get naturally restored at the same rate of consumption. This would, and will, result in the depletion of the aquifer water, which would, in turn, cause a lack of water for humans, animals, and all other plants.
Thank you, Sarah, for this educational article !
Sarah’s informative and intriguing article reminded me of The Columbian Exchange (i.e. transference of biodiversity between Europe and The Americas, either deliberately or unknowingly/unintentionally).
Invasive species were a byproduct of the exchange: the changes in agriculture significantly- altered global populations. European traders returned to Western Europe with maize, potatoes and tomatoes, which became very important crops in Europe by the 18th century: most Europeans ate vegetables, fruit, marine life and not much meat (this was eaten by the elite, mostly).
Initially, many European efforts at mass production of maize failed, because they were cultivating the crop via the European agrarian and commercial aspects: the indigenous peoples of those regions in The Americas that cultivated maize (i.e. pre-Columbian periods) gradually perfected their agrarian techniques over a period of about 2,000 years (e.g. grafting, crop rotation, mixed crops to encourage pollinators and superior soil enrichment). This prevented the maize from falling prey to specific diseases and for crops to yield surplus for periods of insufficient crops.
The Irish Potato Famine (1845-49) was caused by the fact that the British landlords would not allow for mixed crops and or different species of potato, in order to avoid disease, which brought about the loss of multiple yields in Ireland.
By the 1600s, European interventions in The Americas were beginning to affect native crops like maize (e.g. via impacts on regional ecosystems from unintentionally-introduced microorganisms from Europe that arrived on ship in the water, the soil in ballast, the food and humans themselves).
Wherever humans venture, they impact upon the natural environments…