Sir James George Frazer (18541941). The Golden Bough. 1922.
herself is wrapt up in the sheaf, so that only her head projects out of it. Thus encased in the sheaf, she is carried on the last harvest-waggon to the house, where she is drenched with water by the whole family. She remains in the sheaf till the dance is over, and for a year she retains the name of Baba.
In Lithuania the name for the last sheaf is Boba (Old Woman), answering to the Polish name Baba. The Boba is said to sit in the corn which is left standing last. The person who binds the last sheaf or digs the last potato is the subject of much banter, and receives and long retains the name of the Old Rye-woman or the Old Potato-woman. The last sheafthe Bobais made into the form of a woman, carried solemnly through the village on the last harvest-waggon, and drenched with water at the farmers house; then every one dances with it.
In Russia also the last sheaf is often shaped and dressed as a woman, and carried with dance and song to the farmhouse. Out of the last sheaf the Bulgarians make a doll which they call the Corn-queen or Corn-mother; it is dressed in a womans shirt, carried round the village, and then thrown into the river in order to secure plenty of rain and dew for the next years crop. Or it is burned and the ashes strew on the fields, doubtless to fertilise them. The name Queen, as applied to the last sheaf, has its analogies in Central and Northern Europe. Thus, in the Salzburg district of Austria, at the end of the harvest a great procession takes place, in which a Queen of the Corn-ears (Ährenkönigin) is drawn along in a little carriage by young fellows. The custom of the Harvest Queen appears to have been common in England. Milton must have been familiar with it, for in Paradise Lost he says:
Adam the while
Waiting desirous her return, had wove
Of choicest flowrs a garland to adorn
Her tresses, and her rural labours crown,
As reapers oft are wont their harvest-queen.
Often customs of this sort are practised, not on the harvest-field but on the threshing-floor. The spirit of the corn, fleeing before the reapers as they cut down the ripe grain, quits the reaped corn and takes refuge in the barn, where it appears in the last sheaf threshed, either to perish under the blows of the flail or to flee thence to the still unthreshed corn of a neighbouring farm. Thus the last corn to be threshed is called the Mother-Corn or the Old Woman. Sometimes the person who gives the last stroke with the flail is called the Old Woman, and is wrapt in the straw of the last sheaf, or has a bundle of straw fastened on his back. Whether wrapt in the straw or carrying it on his back, he is carted through the village amid general laughter. In some districts of Bavaria, Thüringen, and elsewhere, the man who threshes the last sheaf is said to have the Old Woman or the Old Corn-woman; he is tied up in straw, carried or carted about the