Michaelmas in Medieval Britain

Today I am participating in a blog hop to celebrate the release of volume 2 of Castles, Customs and Kings: True Tales by English Historical Fiction Authors, edited by Debra Brown and Sue Millard. See the information at the end of this post to order this treasure. Participating blogs in this hop have chosen a custom or tradition from the past to highlight. Follow the links below to read them all.

Michaelmas in Medieval Britain
The 29th day of September is the feast of St. Michael and All Angels, also known as Michaelmas. In medieval times, it signified the end of the agricultural year. Harvest – hopefully a good one – was in. It was a time to celebrate.

Tapisserie de Bayeux - Scène 43 : l'évêque Odon bénit le banquet.
Tapisserie de Bayeux – Scène 43 : l’évêque Odon bénit le banquet. (public domain)

In England, it was custom to eat a goose, which was supposed to protect against money problems for the coming year. With the end of the harvest, servants were hired and debts were paid. Geese may have been given to the lord of the manor to appease him when payment might be late or in lieu of payment. Apparently, Michaelmas also became a time when officials were elected.

Horse races – with prizes – were popular in Scotland. (St Michael was also the patron saint of horses and horsemen.) Scots also celebrated by having the eldest daughter cook a Struan Micheil – a large scone-like cake – made of oats moistened with sheep’s milk, and cooked on lamb skin, on Michaelmas Eve. The Old Foodie has a recipe for oatmeal bannock if you’d like to give it a whirl. Traditionally, he says,

“The dough is then placed on a “struan-flag” – a large stone which your menfolk brought in from one of yon bonnie banks earlier in the day – and is placed before the fire. During the baking three layers of a batter of cream, eggs, and butter is daubed over the dough to enrich and engolden it.”

Old Foodie cautions that any leftover flour must be saved, to be used on Michaelmas Day to sprinkle on your sheep and your land as a way to offer a blessing for the harvest.

So go cook your goose! Follow The Old Foodie’s recipe. Stuff your goose with carrots, along with apples, butter, spices and herbs, and add it to a pot of broth. Cook her good. But do put aside a few carrots. They should be tied together with red yarn, given as gift to any visitors who pop in.

Lastly, it was critical that your blackberries were picked no later than October 10, which was Old Michaelmas Day. Did you know Lucifer fell from heaven that day and landed on a blackberry bush? He wasn’t a happy camper and scorched and spat upon them, making them unfit to eat.

“On Michaelmas Day the devil puts his foot on blackberries.”
–old Irish Proverb

Sir Henry and Sir Stephan will be celebrating Michaelmas in For King and Country, Book II of Battle Scars. Watch this space for publication updates. 

This is a blog hop!  Check out all these wonderful posts, including editor Debra Brown’s Crazy Customs from the Past Blog Hop and Book Release.

Sources:
Michaelmas. Encyclopædia Brittanica. http://www.britannica.com/topic/Michaelmas
Michaelmas. Historic UK. http://www.historic-uk.com/CultureUK/michaelmas/
Michaelmas Eve. The Old Foodie. http://www.theoldfoodie.com/2006/09/michaelmas-eve.html
Michaelmas Day. The Old Foodiehttp://www.theoldfoodie.com/2006/09/michaelmas-day.html
~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Castles, Customs, and Kings, vol. 2New Release!

Castles, Customs, and Kings: True Tales by English Historical Fiction Authors, Volume 2
Edited by Debra Brown and Sue Millard

An anthology of essays from the second year of the English Historical Fiction Authors blog, this book transports the reader across the centuries from prehistoric to twentieth century Britain. Nearly fifty different authors share the stories, incidents, and insights discovered while doing research for their own historical novels.

From medieval law and literature to Tudor queens and courtiers, from Stuart royals and rebels to Regency soldiers and social calls, experience the panorama of Britain’s yesteryear. Explore the history behind the fiction, and discover the true tales surrounding Britain’s castles, customs, and kings.

Purchase links:

Amazon US http://www.amazon.com/Castles-Customs-Kings-English-Historical/dp/0996264817
Amazon UK http://www.amazon.co.uk/Castles-Customs-Kings-English-Historical/dp/0996264817

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