Sowing, Threshing and Reaping


The Consecration of the Seed. Source: The Silver Bough F Marian McNeill Volume 2

According to Carmichael in The Carmina Gadelica there was a sowing tradition in the Hebrides whereby three days before sowing, the seed was sprinkled with clear cold water in the name of the Father, the Son and of the Sprit.

The person doing the sprinkling would walk in the direction of sunrise as the sun rose.

This would be done with great care and respect and clearly combined traditions from Christianity with those existing before the influence of Christianity.

The auspicious day for observing this tradition was a Friday.

By moistening the seed it would begin the sprouting process and this would encourage quick growth once planted.

This is part of a special blessing for the sowing of the seed
Blessing ( A version of this with a melody can be found in the Songs section)

I will go out to sow the seed
In name of him who gave it growth
I will place my front in the wind
And throw a gracious hand on high
Should a grain fall on bare rock
It shall have no soil in which to grow
As much as falls into the earth
The dew will make to be full.

Friday, day auspicious,
The dew will come down to welcome
Every seed that lay in sleep
Since the coming of cold without mercy
Every seed will take root in the earth
As the king of the elements desired….

p117 McNeill


Hebrides; different cereals were said to be threshed at different times to get the benefits of the air around at different times of year.

Rye in November/December for soft winds.

Oats-January February cold winds.


One account describes family going to the field, all dressed up.

The father takes off his bonnet and lays it on the ground, cuts the corn with his scythe and holds the grain in his hand to make a reaping salutation, passing it round his head three times, giving thanks. The family join in.

Scythes are thrown into the air. How they land indicates who will marry or not, and who be ill or die in the coming season.

The Last Sheaf

This was believed to embody the spirit of the corn. There are many variations in different accounts.

One description cites that the youngest /best looking girl would cut the last sheaf assisted by a young man.

It was important for it not to fall. There would then be a ceremonial return home as king and queen to the harvest celebration.

Corn Dollies

There are lots of different versions and angles on the corn dolly, kirn baby, maiden, lame goat to name but a few names of figures made from the corn.

Often representations are of the Cailleach (Beira) and Bride- often incorporating both

The Cailleach might be put through the door of the last to harvest their corn, an act of shaming.

According to Elaine from Something Corny who specialises in creating with straw, a corn dolly come from the word idol and it didn’t have to be a figure. It could be something fashioned from the straw which contained the ears of corn. It was in the grain that the sprit of the grain was to be found. You can see lots of beautiful examples of her work here.

Maiden Feast and Harvest Home

Again there are many different versions of this but this was the feast åfter the harvest for the workers. Celebrating and consuming the new crops.

Underlying all these customs was an awareness of the importance of both the fertility of land and of the people.

Historically festivities would have involved lots of sexual activity which is part of the reason for their suppression by the church.