The Boundary of What Was and What Is To Be

It’s the Feast Day of Saint Michael or Michaelmas.

In the Greek and Roman Catholic Churches, it was once a very important day. It falls near the equinox and so marks the fast darkening of the days in the northern world.

This boundary of what was and what is to be, was the end of the harvest and the time to calculate how many animals could be feed through the winter and which would be sold or slaughtered.

It was the end of the fishing season, the beginning of hunting, the time to pick apples and make cider.

Some people made this a night for a goose dinner, as an old English proverb says: “If you eat goose on Michaelmas Day, you will never want money all the year round.”

Michaelmas (mɪkəlməs) is the feast of Saint Michael the Archangel also knowns as the Feast of Saints Michael, Gabriel, Uriel and Raphael, the Feast of the Archangels, or the Feast of Saint Michael and All Angels.

In Christianity, the Archangel Michael is the greatest of all the Archangels and is honored for defeating Satan in the war in heaven.  He is one of the principal angelic warriors, seen as a protector against the dark of night, and the administrator of cosmic intelligence. Michaelmas has also delineated time and seasons for secular purposes as well, particularly in Britain and Ireland as one of the quarter days.

Old Michaelmas Day falls on October 10 or 11, depending on the source, and a according to an old legend, blackberries should not be picked after this date. This is because, so folklore goes, Satan was banished from Heaven on this day, fell into a blackberry bush and cursed the brambles as he fell into them. It is said that the devil had spat or urinated on them.

Marking Michaelmas Day

Today is Michaelmas, a feast day in the Christian world for the archangel Michael. It was once a very important day in the year, but now is hardly even noticed.

Because it occurred near the equinox which initiates the darkening of our days (in the northern hemisphere) and the end of the harvest, it was important in farmers’ real life calendar year. Farmers needed to make some important decisions about which animals could be fed through the winter and which ones would need to be sold or slaughtered.

If you survived by fishing, that season was probably ending. But it is the beginning of hunting season.

I wrote about Michaelmas earlier and why you don’t eat blackberries after “Old Michaelmas Day” (which occurs in October).

Michaelmas was once the day in England for settling rents and accounts for farmers, which required having your harvest in and sold or the sale of livestock.

michaelmas-daisyWant to celebrate with a traditional Michaelmas meal? Then a roast stubble goose would be the meal.  That was once a commoner’s fancy meal, but today a roast goose would qualify as a luxury.

You might want to pick a bouquet of asters, also known as Michaelmas daisies. they are perennial flowers that usually bloom in late summer or fall in clusters of white, blue, deep purple (the traditional Michaelmas color) or pink with a center of gold. They are easy to grow, carefree plants.

Add to this a bit of literary trivia: Because it is the feast of Saint Michael, it is also marked as the birthday of Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, author of Don Quixote and Spain’s greatest literary figure. Cervantes’s exact date of birth is unknown, although it was the custom in Spain to name a baby for the feast day on which he was born, and given that Cervantes was baptized just 10 days later, on October 9th, it is probable that today was his birthday.