Monday, March 31, 2014

The Secret of No Face (Corn Husk Doll)

Corn husk dolls are a very ancient craft of Native Americans.  I knew little about them and didn't realize that traditionally (at least in the Iroquois tribes) they do not have faces.  I found a book called The Secret of No Face by Chief Everett Parker and Oledoska which seems to be a compilation of many mythical adventures of a corn husk doll who sets out on a quest for a face, a name and a soul because all were taken away from her by the Maker of All Things because a doll became  so entranced in her own beautiful image in a pool that she forgot that her purpose was to bring happiness to Native children.

The doll, though tiny, becomes as much a monster killer and brave quester as any mythological hero from any other tradition in the world. And even after reaching the Maker of all Things, and her return to earth (He lives beyond the Milky Way) she must still find her soul within, in the context of her own people.  What an adventure!

This book  tells the story as it was told among the Ireokwa (their  spelling instead of the French spelling that we still use, Iroquois) which, as most of us learned in school are five nations of northeast (US and Canada).  As I see from Google, other Native groups also made corn husk dolls and have their own versions of the myth. \ The end notes of the book list consultants from several other Native tribes, including Southwestern ones so I assume some of the adventures may be from different traditions.

Throughout the story animals and plants, especially corn, of course, are personified, truth and kindness, valor in a battle and personal responsibility are emphasized.  I am reading, coincidentally  a book about Greek mythology. While heroism is abundant honesty and kindness have little place at all.  The great sin in Greek philosophy is hubris.  It is related to but not quite the same a narcissism, the sin corn husk doll is trying to atone for.  In this story she has help from kindly people, she changes the hearts of selfish beings; it is altogether a more human world view.  I found the book through Amazon, I recommend it. (The art work in it is primitive.)

2 comments:

FOLKWAYS NOTEBOOK said...

In the Amish tradition, as you might know, their cloth dolls never had faces. As I understand in the Amish culture this was for the same reason as the Iroquois in your story -- to teach humility. Many of these old cultures seem to have ideals that we as a nation have overlooked -- good post -- barbara

June Calender said...

Thanks, Barbara. I didn't know that about Amish dolls