It’s Michaelmas. Michaelmas used to be an important day in the ritual year but is rarely marked nowadays bar a couple of mop fairs still going. It signalled the end of the harvest, and this year, the end of Mabon. It’s traditional to eat goose today. Except I didn’t. Instead, on the suggestion of my lovely friend, Lucy, I headed up to Whitehawk Camp, one of the earliest Neolithic monuments in the UK (predating Stonehenge), and picked Michaelmas daisies with her.
Just to tease me, the first thing I saw was a massive blackberry patch positively shuddering with fruit. But as Michaelmas is said to be the day St Michael shoved Lucifer off his lofty perch and into a bramble patch, after which Satan did unmentionable things to the blackberries, it’s said that blackberries are cursed from Michaelmas day onwards. So I very reluctantly left them alone.
Whitehawk Hill was covered in daisies. It’s said that
The Michaelmas Daisies, among dede weeds
Bloom for St Michael’s valorous deeds.
So I’m guessing he did a lot of good stuff to get such coverage.
Crab apples are also a thing on Michaelmas, as it was traditional to pick crab apples and arrange them into the initials of your one true love in the hope they’d get the hint. Lucy and I found a tree with some small apples on it. I have no idea if they were crabs or just tiny normal apples. They tasted pretty revolting, whatever they were.
Picking daisies with a good friend on top of a very high hill dating back to the Stone Age overlooking the sea watching the sun set was the perfect end to a tough day. And as it was a clear day the weatherlore has it that it’ll be a cold winter, but a fine one. Unless you’re in Berkshire where it’s said:
A dark Michaelmas, a light Christmas.
You just can’t please some people.
Had things gone to plan, I would have been wishing on my seventh consecutive night of counting seven stars. But it’s been cloudy the last three nights. I did manage to start again tonight after patiently waiting for ages for the clouds to scud off.
And finally, I did have a nibble of my struan Micheil for breakfast, as is the tradition. It hadn’t lasted well. And went straight in the bin.
Cooper, Q. and Sullivan, P. (1994) Maypoles, Martyrs & Mayhem: 366 Days of British Myths, Customs & Eccentricities, London, Bloomsbury Publishing Plc
Roud, S. (2006) The English Year: A Month-By-Month Guide To The Nation’s Customs and Festivals, From May Day to Mischief Night, London, Penguin Books