Selu is the Cherokee (Tsalagi) name for the Corn Mother who is worshiped by nearly all Native American tribes. She is called by many names but almost all literally translate to “Corn Mother” “Corn Maiden” or “Corn Woman.” Often the name the Corn Mother Goddess is known by is used as the common word for ‘corn’ as well. Selu is the Goddess of the Harvest of course, but also wisdom, magic, hunting (as the wife of Kanati the God of the Hunt,) and various other domains. She was often the most honored “Mother” Goddess among many tribes including the Cherokee.
The Aztec tribe called her Chicomecoatl and She was their Goddess of Corn and of all Fertility (of crops, livestock, wild animals, and people’s own fertility). During one month the Goddess of Corn was the patron deity in the religious celebrations. The main corn blessing rite was led by many Priestesses each carrying seven ears of corn wrapped in fancy cloth on their backs, wearing fancy make-up and feather decorated dresses. At the setting of the sun the Priestesses threw colored corn into the crowds, symbolizing the Corn Goddess Chicomecoatl’s blessing the tribe with fertility for the coming harvest season.
The Hopi tribe called Her ‘Qocha Mana.’ That tribe also has one of the most beautiful Corn Woman tales. They say that it took place long long ago. The men of the village had went out on a hunt. It was mid-winter and there was only a little food in left the village. The women and children stayed behind to wait their return. The men were due to return in three sunsets time but got lost in the snow storm. The menfolk were gone for 20 sunsets instead and when they returned home, all the children ran out to greet them. The men were happy to see the children but were perplexed that their wives and sweethearts were not coming out to greet them. As they entered the village, they found all of the women dead. They rationed the food out to only the children thus sacrificed themselves so that their children could live on. The village shaman told the men “We must dance the Dance of Thanksgiving, for the bounty we have returned with”. The men protested, “How can we have a Thanksgiving Dance with all of our women dead?” The Shaman simply said, “Trust in the Goddess.”
As the men prepared for the Thanksgiving Dance that night the Creator came to the Shaman. She told him to do something unbelievable. She told him to bury all of the women. Furthermore, She directed for the women to be buried together in a single shallow grave. The next morning all of the woman were buried as directed by the Mother Goddess. That night, the men and the children danced the Thanksgiving Dance with heavy hearts. The Creator caused a great sleep to come over the village and sent a wonderful God to the village. The God was tall handsome and entertaining comical fellow who played a flute. He went to the grave and started to play his flute. He bent over the grave and as he played, tears fell from his eyes. These tears became seeds of corn as he played and cried. At the end of 20 sunsets our Creator said to him, “Kokopelli, you shall forever remain hunched over as a tribute to the maidens who will forever be known as the Corn Women. Your tears of sympathy have become seeds of life-giving corn.” Thusly it is told that the Hopi shall never go hungry again for Kokopelli and the Corn Women have given the tribe life through the sacred corn.
Mara Eve Robbins