Spilling with fruits, grains, gourds and flowers, this beloved emblem of earthly abundance, pleasure, healing and good fortune has been presiding over harvest festivals, feasts, and revelry – since time immemorial. Today the cornucopia still adorns Thanksgiving tables, but its mystical significance and magical power are barely remembered, never mind utilized. So this Thanksgiving why not craft a little cornucopia magic of your own? Because if “gratitude attitude” is the key to prosperity nothing says it better than the ole’ horn of plenty.
The cornucopias earliest origins are shrouded in mystery but historians generally agree it first begins to appear in the upper Palaeolithic and Neolithic when animal horns were placed on stone altars to evoke invoke the blessings of the bountiful all giving mother, the earth. In ancient Egypt, India, and the Middle East it was the great goddess in her cow incarnation, who nourished the world through her horns of plenty.
In the ancient world, cornucopia were held high by fertility and harvest goddesses who brought forth growth and plant life, goddesses such Ceres, Demeter, Abundantia, and Flora, as well as goddesses of prosperity and good luck like Fortuna or Tyche. These goddesses were all honored with offerings of food at times of harvest – and of course, there was a lot of accompanying feasting, games, and revelry.
Cornucopia images can also be found in old Celtic Europe (British Isles, France and Germany) in countless carvings, votives, statues, and shrines dated between the 1st to 7th century, depicting the Mothers or Matrones. These divinities were associated with rivers, mountains, springs, and trees and holding cornucopias filled with fruits and grains. During harvest, women left offerings at these shrines, to ensure their blessings. Scholars generally agree this “Cult of the Mothers” was a pagan tribute to the female divinity in nature.
The horn was also associated with medieval legends of the Holy Grail, the mystical chalice that returned green to the wasteland and was the source of life itself. In Norse mythology, the horn was carried by goddess Idun, “The Glorious Maiden Who Knows the Age-Cure of the Aesir’ who dispensed the elixir of immortality and the eternal regeneration of youth.
Today we’ve mostly forgotten that for our ancestors the cornucopia was a revered ritual object symbolizing the unlimited procreative powers of mother nature. Many scholars theorize cornucopia were ceremonial objects used to consecrate or bless plants or objects placed within, or to receive prayers that were chanted or spoken into it.
So why not revive this ancient magic and craft up a magical cornucopia of your own? This Thanksgiving, take a basket out to into the garden, fields, and woodlands. Fill it with whatever you find, herbs and flowers like rosemary, thyme, nettle, rosehips, hawthorn berries, spicy nasturtium blossoms etc.
Once home arrange your basket into a cornucopia of sorts – and take a moment to symbolically offer it to the great harvest goddesses of old and the generations of your foremothers whose ritual acts of harvest, celebration and “thanksgiving” created a magic to bless themselves and the land. And don’t forget to say a prayer or a few words of thanks for the nourishing bounty of mother nature.
For me, the best thing about my cornucopia ritual is this. When the geese fly overhead and the landscape shimmers with the reds and yellows of dying foliage, my basket fills me with “gratitude attitude” for the never-ending ability of the earth to provide. And in the darkening days of encroaching winter, it’s a good faith to have.