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Saturday, September 29, 2012

Michaelmas in Medieval Times- (Better use up those Blackberries)

By unknown master (book scan) [Public domain
or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Today is Michaelmas, the day that the traditional church in the West celebrates the Archangel Michael, and all angels.

Michaelmas was a significant day in Medieval times, for both spiritual and temporal reasons.  It marked the end of the harvest as well as the end of activities that could only be conducted in Summer, such as fishing and fruit harvesting. It was a time to process the harvest, fill barns with food, and salt and cure meats.  For those who could afford it, the traditional feast was a goose.

Of course, there was no supermarket stocked with goods from around the world in those days.  The quality of the harvest and its storage determined the complexion of life for the long, bleak winter months ahead. Most villages had a harvest festival on this day. It was also a "quarter day", marking the beginning of one of the four quarters of the year.  As such, it was a day on which rents were collected.  The day following the festival and financial reckoning, laborers could hire themselves out at a "mop fair" for service in the next year's farming season.

In those days, an interesting Michaelmas tradition existed in Europe.  This was considered to be the very night that St. Michael, Archangel, cast Satan down to Earth from Heaven.  It seems that Medieval Christians had it on good authority that Lucifer landed in a blackberry bush. Naturally, from this evening onward, blackberries were to be neither harvested nor eaten until the next season.  Some would express their disdain for the enemy of God by urinating or spitting upon blackberry bushes until the following year when the cycle began again.

By anonymous (Queen Mary Master) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

For us, this time of the year is also marks a turning of the seasons.  We look forward, with excitement laced trepidation, to the festivals of All Saints, All Souls, and Christmas.  Trepidation, because even with our modern conveniences, we feel in our genes the coming of darkness as days shorten and the night sky deepens.  Excitement, because we know that at the end of our season of tenebrosity, we will kneel with peaceful joy, at the cradle of a King.

Pax Christi Dear Ones,
The long dark night approaches,

My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight... ~ Daniel 6:22

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1 comment:

  1. It is always illuminating to read of the history of the church and of the superstitions of those in Medieval times and earlier. This is something that always interested my father so we heard stories of it as children. I love the resolutions of the waning year as we come to the cradle to worship the Almighty King come as a baby. Thank you!


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