Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Legend of the Corn Beads

In 1838 the Cherokee people were forcibly removed from their home land and their homes. As the soldiers came to each house hold to gather the Cherokee people for the removal, many cried tears of sadness over the loss of homes and personal belongings. Most were only allowed to take what they could carry. As the people were taken from their homes they would cry out asking the Creator to send a miracle.

As they walked along the trail, their tears fell to the ground. At the place where the tears fell, a shoot that looked like a cornstalk grew. As the plant bloomed and opened up, seeds of gray fell to the ground. Creator said, “This will be a sign unto all who pass that my children will always be a part of this land. The cornstalk represents life for my children and the seeds of gray represent suffering and sorrow.”

The trail the Cherokee people walked is now known as the Trail of Tears and the seeds are known as corn beads.

Corn Beads are actually Job's Tears or Coix lacryma-jobi a plant in the grass family. Photobucket

This plant comes from Asia and has been naturalized in the southern United States. The tears or seeds are hard shelled but have a natural hole in them which makes them perfect for using as beads. They have been used to make necklaces and rosaries.


I received these corn beads from one of our volunteers who grows them in her garden here in northern Illinois.


Below I show the beads being strung on stretchy cord and being made into a bracelet. I added some green stones that had holes drilled in them.


If you would like to be entered into a drawing to win this bracelet, e-mail your name to I will pick a winner on March 17, St. Patrick's Day.



Mamatree said...

Great story about the "Corn Beads". I've just known them as Job's Tears. They are fascinating. I love growing,and creating with them. They also are great in dried arrangements in the Fall! Hope to see you at the seed sale.-Karen

Jan Clifton Watford said...

I have read with interest about the corn beads. I have a corn bead basket that I inherited from my mother that was very special to her. I have little history on it and was wondering if you have ever heard or seen corn bead baskets. I am sure it is probably 150 years ol or more.