Doctrine of Signatures for 5 Spirit-in-Nature Essences

Sometimes our students submit exceptional papers. This is one of those times. We’ll be posting her expositions on 5 of the Spirit-in-Nature Essences in several installments. Enjoy this paper that illuminates the subtle Doctrine of Signature, signifying that the shapes, colors, etc., of a plant or tree represent its amelioration of various human conditions.

Corn (mental vitality) I live in corn country, and know this plant well. Corn comes of age in the heat of summer, shooting up practically overnight, thriving best on hot days with cool nights and sufficient early-season moisture, especially night rains. The sharp, blade-like leaves can cut little scratches into hot, sweaty skin; to me, the blades represent the yang quality of a drive to get things done. If you tear the leaves, they split into long ribbons along the veining, again creating a yang, action shape. The movement of the entire plant is upward, with the tassels shooting up like fireworks.

The ear of the corn also has a yang, masculine shape suggesting action. The kernels line up in rows like so many little tasks to be completed. But there is also a softness and sweetness to this plant, a lovely evening scent that drifts across the fields as it tassels. Rows of corn rippling in the wind can be softly mesmerizing, as alluded to in the “Field of Dreams” movie, in which the ghosts of former baseball players are able to walk between worlds simply by disappearing into a sea of corn.

The roots of this plant seem strange and otherworldly, as if several gripping fingers are clutching down toward the soil to anchor this tall being to the ground. Corn is not deeply rooted. All the energy moves upward.

Cornstalks are famously tall and straight and strong, despite the fact that they are hollow. Herbalists suggest that hollow stalks generally represent a connective link with Spirit, so this could be seen as a sign that it’s a sacred plant. Traditionally, American Indians have honored corn as one of the three sacred sisters, planting it in hills along with beans and squash.

Corn represents work, but the sweetness of work, and the sweet rewards of labor. There is a great folk science to knowing just when to harvest sweet corn for maximum flavor (ideally, early in the morning, and/or immediately before dropping it into a pot of boiling water). Dried, field corn can preserve the valuable nutrients and is sold by the bushel. It can provide food as well as a sweetener for humans and livestock alike.

The yellow kernels can be associated with the energy of the sun, which seems to be at its zenith in sweet corn season, which comes around the summer solstice. Yellow also can represent the solar plexus chakra, thus the choice to react from love instead of fear. Of course, it is easier not to come from fear when you are busy working in the cornfields rather than worrying.