Of special importance were the last sheaves of corn left standing as it was often believed a Corn Spirit resided within them.
This was a vital time of year, when success was a genuine matter of life or death.
A prosperous harvest ensured that a community would be fed throughout the potentially barren winter months.
They would sacrifice this corn along with a hare – normally one hiding in the crop - although later there was no sacrifice and model hares were made out of straw instead.
This then led to the making of corn dolls, which were hung up in farmhouses, and which were supposed to represent the goddess of the grain. The word harvest normally makes us think of agriculture, but many harvest celebrations exist around the country that celebrate another type of reaping.
Roaming groups of labourers would seek employment from farms at the start of the season, in Norfolk they would drag their sickles along the floor to announce their arrival.
A ‘Lord of the Harvest’ would be appointed and was in charge of negotiating rates and conditions of labour.In the UK the harvest festival, also known as the harvest home, is traditionally celebrated on the Sunday nearest the harvest moon.This is the full Moon that occurs closest to the autumn equinox, which is often between 21-23 September.Normally falling towards the end of September, or early October, the harvest festival is the closest thing we have to a day of thanksgiving.Although today we can plan a fixed day for this celebration, in the past the harvest festival differed, based on when all the crops had been brought in.There are about 24 festivals that give thanks for the fishing seasons.