Paganistan: Notes from the Secret Commonwealth

In Which One Midwest Man-in-Black Confers, Converses & Otherwise Hob-Nobs with his Fellow Hob-Men (& -Women) Concerning the Sundry Ways of the Famed but Ill-Starred Tribe of Witches.

  • Home
    Home This is where you can find all the blog posts throughout the site.
  • Tags
    Tags Displays a list of tags that have been used in the blog.
  • Bloggers
    Bloggers Search for your favorite blogger from this site.
  • Login
    Login Login form

Sowing Seed

 How Throwing Rice Became a Wedding Tradition | Martha Stewart

Some Thoughts on an Old Wedding Custom


The Received Tradition knows three rites of grain-throwing, and each is implicated in the others.

Grain-Throw the First: the actual Sowing of Seed.

The symbolism of this gesture, both practical and ritual, needs little explication, beyond the observation that virtually every agricultural society sees sexual symbolism here.

Grain-Throw the Second: showering the newly-married with Barley.

Barley is the oldest cultivated grain known to humanity: we've been raising it for maybe 12,000 years, since the end of the last Ice Age. Though it would be impossible to prove, it's my guess that we've been tossing it at newlyweds since the end of the last Ice Age, as well. The symbolism of this playful, immemorial act can hardly be lost on anyone. Speaking as a (naturalized) Midwesterner, you've really got to love the custom's implied micro-aggression as well.

Grain-Throw the Third: sprinkling the Sacrifice.

When sacrificing an animal, you first cut off a lock of its hair. This designates the beast as the chosen sacrifice. The sacrificer—and, indeed, all those on whose behalf the sacrifice is offered—then throw a handful of grain over the animal. This sanctifies the animal to the sacrifice, and creates an immediate connection between people and offering. Interestingly, the Latin word sacrificium—literally, “making sacred”—actually refers to the consecration, not the actual killing, of the victim.

For the ancestors, this thrown and sacral grain was so important that it had its own name. In English, we call it yelm (Old English gielm).

Food, Sex, Death: one gesture joins them all.







Last modified on
Poet, scholar and storyteller Steven Posch was raised in the hardwood forests of western Pennsylvania by white-tailed deer. (That's the story, anyway.) He emigrated to Paganistan in 1979 and by sheer dint of personality has become one of Lake Country's foremost men-in-black. He is current keeper of the Minnesota Ooser.


Additional information