—Everything connected with corn is sacred. For the Pueblo Indian, life itself depends upon the growth of corn. Since the beginning of time it has been his greatest source of food. Directly and indirectly his entire existence is related to the culture of corn. Land is owned by individual or tribal group, but wealth depends upon the production of corn. Soil and water are of prime importance because they make possible its growth. The Pueblo Indian believes that rain and snow are sent by the supernaturals and can be obtained only by prayer and ceremony, and thus have come into being the Weather Control groups which form the underlying structure of Pueblo life.
As the staple food, corn is eaten fresh or is dried and stored for the future. The need of safe storage space has had its influence upon the structure of house and village. As the basis of Pueblo life is corn, it is not surprising to find it a conspicuous feature of the ceremonial life. The perfect ear, with its special covering, is the life fetish of each individual, and is often placed upon the society altars or worn secreted in the belts of the dancers. Ears of appropriate colors are laid around the medicine bowl before the altar. The bowl represents the center and the corn the six cardinal directions.
White corn meal, finely ground, is the women's special offering, equivalent to the prayer plume of the men. However, both men and women sprinkle corn meal on the dancers. The priest sprinkles a 'road' into the dance plaza for the impersonators to follow, or with meal he designates
the 'way' to the edge of the village, where the populace go to offer prayers to the Sun. At the end of the Hopi Snake Dance the women describe a great circle with corn meal. The snakes used in the dance are heaped in the center of this circle; then, after another prayer and a sprinkling of meal, each member of the Snake Dance group grasps as many of the wriggling reptiles as he can and dashes away in one of the cardinal directions
to deposit his burden far out on the desert, whence it is to return to the world below carrying to the gods the prayers for rain.
Corn in various forms is carried or worn by the dancers. Sometimes it is the actual ear, sometimes the symbolic representation of it—both three-dimensional and painted. Cornhusks are used, and even the cob. The whole grains are always carried somewhere on a dancer's person to symbolize prayers which accompany the dance. The knobs of the masks worn by the clown Mudheads have corn and other seeds tied in them.
Ears of corn are often carried by impersonators and women dancers as an accessory to their parts, or they are attached to the tablita worn by the maidens. The Sio Shalako mana, the Zuñi Shalako Maiden of Hopi, is shown with a stylized ear of corn on the forehead (pl. 18). Painted representations are found on masks, head boards, and tablets which are carried in each hand. The corncob is useful as a holder into which the feather
quills are stuck, thus forming a feather bouquet. I have seen an example of a curved cob, stained from black at one end to red at the other, used as a beak on a mask.
The dried husk is a useful part of the corn. It is slit into ribbons and used to decorate the hair (pl.39) and caps of the clowns. Balls of husk are covered with cotton cord at the head of the long fringe on the plaited ceremonial sash, representing corn and rain and the desire for bountiful crops. Tightly twisted cornhusks form the framework and mounts for feathers in many ornaments. Cornhusks wound into a circlet may be worn on the head to support wooden symbols of lightning and clouds. Skillful arrangements of cornhusks simulate teeth and mouths on masks. Cornhusks are rolled into cones and used as earbobs, or are fashioned into collars at the bottom of masks. Erna Fergusson colorfully describes the manufacture of gay cornhusk flowers: "They smoothed the pale gold husks on their knees, tore them into the right shape, and then, dipping twisted yucca fiber into shallow pottery bowls, they applied a light-red paint to one half of each leaf. The work was apparently negligently done, while conversation went on, but the results were beautiful. Soon four petals were ready, and then they were quickly twisted into the shape of a big open flower, like a squash blossom, tied, and laid aside. Without any apparent effort or hurry each man soon had beside him a pile of pale-gold and red blossoms."