29 September 2013

29 September - Michaelmas

“On Mount Gargano, the commemoration of the blessed archangel Michael.  This festival is kept in memory of the day, when under his invocation, was consecrated a church, unpretending in its exterior, but endowed with virtue celestial.”

Weather: If Saint Michael brings many acorns, Christmas will cover the fields with snow.  [not a whole lot of acorns this year… dare I hope?]

If Michaelmas day be fair, the sun will shine much in the winter, though the wind at the northeast will frequently reign long and be very sharp.

If Michael's day is quiet and beautiful, it will last for the next four weeks.

If the wind is out of the north on Michael's day, then October will be dry.

On Michaelmas day, the heat leaves us.

A dark Michaelmas, a light Christmas.

St. Michael's rain does not stay long in the sky.

As many days old as the moon is on Michaelmas, so many floods shall we have after. [the moon will be twenty-four days old this year.  That’s quite a number of floods.]

If it rains on Michaelmas, it will rain up to Christmas.

If there is a gentle rain on St. Michael's day, we can expect a mild winter; but if there is thunder, winter will have heavy winds.

If it does not rain on St. Michael and St. Gallus (October 16), a dry spring is indicated for the next year.

The winds between 6 a.m and 6 p.m. today foretell the character of the winds in the following year. For example, if the wind during the hour of 8 a.m. is heavy and cold, then March will have heavy weather and cold winds.
The winds between 6 am and 7 am indicate the character of January.
Between 7 am and 8 am, that of February,
Between 8 am and 9 am, that of March,
Between 9 am and 10 am, that of April,
Between 10 am and 11 am, that of May,
Between 11 am and 12 noon, that of June,
Between 12 noon and 1 pm, that of July,
Between 1 pm and 2 pm, that of August,
Between 2 pm and 3 pm, that of September,
Between 3 pm and 4 pm, that of October,
Between 4 pm and 5 pm, that of November,
Between 5 pm and 6 pm, that of December.
[and thank goodness there are only 12 months.]

"If thou wilt see how it will go that year, then take heed of the Oak-Apples about S. Michael's day, for by them you shall know how by them it shall be:
If the Apples of the Oak-trees, when they be cut be within full of spiders, then followeth a naughty year [oooo, that sounds like fun]; 
if the Apples have within them Flies, that betokens a meetly good year; 
if they have Maggots in them, then followeth a good year [and a sudden loss of altitude for the apple];
if there be nothing in them, then followeth a great Dearth; 
if the Apples be many, and early ripe, so shall it be an early Winter, and very much snow shall be afore Christmas, and after that it shall be cold; 
if the inner part or kernel be fair and clear, then shall the Summer be fair, and Corn good also; 
but if they be moist, then shall the Summer also be moist; 
if they be lean, then shall there be a hot and dry Summer."
The Husbandman's Practice, or Prognostication for ever

Traditions: Eat a goose on Michaelmas Day to have money in the coming year.  [One roast goose, coming right up!]  And check the wishbone - a dark one means a severe winter coming; if it is light, winter will be mild.

Indeed, today has long been a general festival and feasting day, with the newly harvested crops taking pride of place in the menu. No manual labor was to be done today (other than, of course, getting the feast ready).  Back in the merry days of King Ethelred, the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday preceding the feast of Saint Michael were ordered to be spent in fasting and penance, including fixing meals as though one was going to eat them, and then giving the whole meal to the poor: “Let every priest with his people go in procession three days barefoot, and let every one’s commons for three days be prepared without anything of flesh, as if themselves were to eat it, both in meat and drink, and let all this be distributed to the poor.  Let every servant be excused from labor these three days [that must have made the servants happy!], that he many the better perform his task, or let him work what he will for himself…” Those who broke the fast were fined according to rank:
A thane or nobleman was fined one hundred and thirty shillings.
A poor freeman was fined thirty pence,
And if “a servant break his fast, let him make satisfaction with his hide”
The money so taken was then to be divided among the poor.  No mention of what was done with the poor servant’s hide.

All blackberries should have been gathered by now, for today the Devil passes his hoof over them (or breathes or spits or pees on them) and scorches them. The legend is that when St. Michael tossed the Devil out of Heaven, the Devil fell to earth and landed in a blackberry bush.  Not comfortable on the best of days, and this was already a bad day for Old Scratch.  In his wrath, he cursed the berries by one of the methods above, so that any still left would be poisonous.  Blackberries only, though.  The other edible berries should be just fine, if the birds haven't beaten you to them.

To bring good luck to your homestead, give to the cows a handful of each different sort of grain that you’ve grown this year in their supper tonight, and scatter some on the ground for the birds.

Love charms: Gather crab-apples, carry them to the loft (an attic will do if you haven't a loft) and form them into the initials of possible suitors.  On Old Michaelmas Day (October 10), see which initials are the most perfect.  These are considered to be the strongest attachments and the best for choice of husbands [and the eleven days gives some enterprising young man or woman the chance to nudge the fates in the desired direction]

And once you've got your man:
St. Michael's chair is on St. Michael's Mount in Cornwall.  Tradition asserts that any woman who sat in this chair would ever after rule her husband [ladies, try suggesting St. Michael's Mount for this year's vacation.  Your husband may counter with Nice or Majorca instead.]

Another superstition regarding St. Michael’s Mount is that there is a magic circle traced on its summit, within which demons which have been exorcised from human bodies lie imprisoned in chains.   The unfortunate person who sets foot within this circle will be compelled to run all night until cockcrow without being able to stop.

Gardening: Michaelmas Daisies are one of the joys of my backyard.  They are wild and grow everywhere - lovely violet-colored flowers bravely standing up to the winds of autumn.

The Michaelmas Daisy, among dead weeds,
Blooms for St. Michael's valorous deeds,
And seems the last of flowers that stood
Until the feast of Simon and Jude...



Today is the feast of Saint Michael the Archangel (and in the new calendar, of Saints Gabriel and Raphael, as well).

From Catholic Culture: "... in our Catholic tradition, St. Michael has four duties: (1) To continue to wage battle against Satan and the other fallen angels; (2) To save the souls of the faithful from the power of Satan especially at the hour of death; (3) To protect the People of God, both the Jews of the Old Covenant and the Christians of the New Covenant; and (4) finally to lead the souls of the departed from this life and present them to our Lord for the particular judgment, and at the end of time, for the final judgment."

That's quite a lot of duties.

Saint Michael is the patron and protector of soldiers and law enforcement officers. In his honor, thank your community's finest, if not in person, then with a note to the nearest precinct or a letter to the editor of the local paper.  Another good way to celebrate the day is by a care package and a note of thanks to the troops.  Local associations which provide these will welcome your donations.

Read more about Saint Michael and the traditions for his day (including recipes for Roast Goose, and St. Michael's Bannock) at Fisheaters and at Catholic Culture. [Use the nuts that you cracked on Crack-Nut Sunday in the stuffing]

St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle! Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God, thrust into Hell Satan and all the other evil spirits who roam about the world seeking the ruin of souls.

“St. Michael battling demons”, from The Hours of Catherine of Cleves, 15th c. Morgan Library, New York.

“St. Michael and other Archangels”, engraving from The Every-day Book and Table Book by William Hone, p. 1327.

“St Michael”, engraving from The Manual of Prayers, 1896.