Post by Graveyardbride on Sept 29, 2019 2:26:48 GMT -5
Traditions and Lore of Michaelmas (September 29)
To Autumn: Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness .... – John Keats.
In lands once occupied by the Celts, the autumnal equinox marked the end of the harvest and a time for families and the tribe in general to calculate how many animals they could afford to feed during the coming winter months and how many to sell or slaughter for meat to be smoked or packed in salt. Accordingly, livestock fairs, forerunners of today’s county fairs, were held in each community during which people traded goods and settled accounts. Neo-pagans refer to this quarter-day as Mabon, but the Celts did not have a specific name for the final harvest before Samhain (Halloween), the great fire festival that ushered in the dark half of the year.
Following the advent of Christianity, the old pagan customs and celebrations were continued, though under new names, and the autumnal equinox became the Feast of Michael and All Angels, better known as Michaelmas, which is now celebrated on September 29.
In Medieval times, the fair was also the time of year when new servants and tradesmen were hired, leading some to label it “mop day” because those applying for situations displayed the tools of their trade and maids brought their mops. Shepherds were identified by their crooked staffs, gardeners by their rakes, carpenters by their hammers, and so on.
Because this was also the season of the geese harvest, many paid their debts with a brace or more of plump birds from the spring flock. This, like the weaving of corn dolls from the last sheaves of grain, was likely a holdover from the ancient Celts, to whom geese symbolized the holy spirit. In fact, geese were so interwoven with Michaelmas that in some locations, the day was also known as “Goose Day” and fairs were labeled “goose fairs.” Even today, the famous Nottingham Goose Fair is still held on or around the 3rd of October. Another reason goose is eaten on Michaelmas is that when Queen Elizabeth I learned of the defeat of the Spanish Armada, she was dining on goose and resolved to eat it on Michaelmas Day. Her subjects, influenced by their monarch, followed suit.
During the Middle Ages, Michaelmas was considered one of the holy days of obligation, although this tradition ended in the 1700s. Traditions included the preparation of a dinner featuring a “stubble goose,” a bird that had been fattened on the stubble of the fields following the harvest. Another tradition was the baking of unusually large loaves of bread and St. Michael’s bannocks, a special oatcake.
Additionally, Michaelmas marked the end of the fishing season and the beginning of the hunting season, apple-picking and cider-making. In County Waterford, it was also the end of the tourist season which gave rise to a strange custom wherein those in the holiday trade held a procession to the beach and cast an effigy of St. Michael into the sea, symbolically protesting the loss of earnings during the coming months.
In Ireland, the celebration of Michaelmas included Michaelmas pie, in which a ring was hidden. If an unmarried person found the ring, it was believed he or she would be married within the year. There is reason to believe blackberries were included in the pie because many were convinced the fruit was to be avoided after Michaelmas Day. Being frugal folk, believers in this superstition would have gathered as many blackberries as possible before the Feast of St. Michael.
Michaelmas Weather-Lore, Beliefs and Superstitions
The Michaelmas Daisies, among dede weeds,
Bloom for St Michael’s valorous deeds.
And seems the last of flowers that stood,
Till the feast of St. Simon and St. Jude.
The Feast of St. Simon and Jude is October 28.
Eat a goose on Michaelmas Day,
Want not for money all the year.
He who eats goose on Michaelmas day
shan’t money lack or debts to pay.
If St. Michael brings many acorns, Christmas will cover the fields with snow.
A dark Michaelmas, a light Christmas.
According to folklore, the devil stamps on bramble bushes, or spits on them after Michaelmas. Accordingly, one musn’t pick blackberries after Michaelmas. The reason for this belief has ancient origins. It was said the devil was kicked out of heaven on St. Michael’s Feast Day, but as he fell from the skies, he landed in a bramble bush! He cursed the fruit of that prickly plant, scorching them with his fiery breath, stamping on them, spitting on them and generally making them unsuitable for human consumption. Legend suggests he renews his curse annually on Michaelmas Day, making it unlucky to gather blackberries after this date.
If the breast bones of the goose are brown after roasting, the following winter should be mild, but if the bones are white or have a slight blue tinge, then the winter will be severe.
The Victorians believed that trees planted on Michaelmas would grow well.
In Ireland and northern England, it was thought if one ate goose at Michaelmas, he/she would have good luck during the coming year.
In Ireland, the person who found the ring hidden in the Michaelmas pie would soon be married.
Sources: Bonnie Engstrom, Blessed is She, September 28, 2017; Patti Wigington, Learn Religions, March 18, 2017; Kent Harrop, "Celts and Geese," Green Preacher, October 24, 2016; Bridget Haggerty, Irish Culture and Customs; Ben Johnson, Historic UK; Ireland Calling; Karen Burns-Booth, Lavender & Lovage, September 29, 2011; and ProjectBritain.