The Michaelmas Daisy among dead weeds / Blooms for St. Michael’s valourous deeds
September 29: Michaelmas (Struan Micheil | Blackberries | Carrot Sunday | Art + Resources)
The Michaelmas Daisy among dead weeds
Blooms for St. Michael’s valourous deeds
Michael the Archangel is represented as the leader of 7 archangels and has long been considered a champion of God’s people – an advocate, rescuer, and companion. Michaelmas (aka the feast of Sts. Michael, Gabriel, & Raphael, or the feast of St. Michael & All Angels) recalls the stories surrounding this group of angels, with St. Michael at the fore.
Michaelmas is the bookend to September feasts that celebrate the intersection of theology & the harvest season. The completion of the agricultural year, Michaelmas marked the end of one and beginning of another husbandman’s year1 - the turning point of the farming cycle, as harvest reaches its peak. Rents & debts were paid, new leases taken, positions filled. As an agrarian society prepared their larders & land for a winter of unknowns, they looked to the stories of archangels defeating darkness & dragons to accompany them.
This is the time of year when I feel the autumnal equivalent of “spring cleaning” - a need to take stock, simplify, store, preserve, & refresh for the coming season. I can really see how these ancestors saw the turning of a new year in Michaelmas; we can sense a threshold here if we settle ourselves enough to see it.
Harvest Cake: Struan Micheil
To celebrate this angelic harvest feast, a bannock (unleavened quick-bread) hailing from the Scottish Highlands symbolizes the fruit of the field that is (hopefully) so prolific at this time: the Struan Micheil. Baked with a mixture of grains - especially oats, barley, & rye - this cake represents the culmination of the growing season’s abundance.2
Though its ingredients vary, it often included
“blackberries, bilberries, cranberries, caraway seeds, and wild honey. It was baked on a fire of oak, rowan, bramble, and other woods considered blessed.”3
Traditionally baked by the eldest daughter of a family, a short prayer accompanied her baking:
Progeny and prosperity of family,
Mystery of Michael, protection of Trinity.4
These cakes were enjoyed by families, and more were baked in memory of departed loved ones and also gifted to the poor.
If you bake a Struan this year, maybe consider baking some extras to memorialize loved ones; if you have a food bank locally, maybe they’d enjoy this bannock as well, or a donation of flour, oats, etc?
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According to legend, St. Michael cast Lucifer out of heaven on Michaelmas (originally, this legend was attached to Old Michaelmas – which was on October 10th or 11th5). Lucifer landed in a blackberry bramble, and being so angered by the prickles, he spat on them – so, it became unlucky to pick blackberries after Michaelmas, since they would be spoiled.
“On Michaelmas Day, the devil puts his foot on blackberries.”
Because of this association, blackberry desserts are a popular tradition for Michaelmas – whether blackberry pie or cobbler, it’s considered the last time of the season to use these late berries.
On the Sunday before Michaelmas - known as 'Domhnach Curran', or 'Carrot Sunday' - Hebridean women would head to the fields to pull carrots, hoping for a lucky two-pronged root. If the soil were soft enough, they could easily pull the carrots - but, if the soil were hard, a three-pronged mattock was used to dig a triangle (called a torcan) around the carrot. The triangular shape symbolized St. Michael's shield, while the three-pronged mattock used to dig it symbolized his trident.
As the ladies dug, they would sing a rhyme (this prayer is recorded in the Carmina Gadelica by Alexander Carmichael):
Cleft fruitful, fruitful, fruitful,
Joy of carrots surpassing upon me,
Michael the brave endowing me,
Bride the fair be aiding me.
Progeny pre-eminent over every progeny,
Progeny on my womb,
Progeny pre-eminent over every progeny,
Progeny on my progeny.
And if a lady were lucky enough to dig up a two-pronged carrot, she would continue:
Fork joyful, joyful, joyful,
Fork of great carrot to me,
Endowment of carrot surpassing upon me,
Joy of great carrot to me.
Using scarlet thread, the women tie their carrots up in bunches, storing them under sand until they’re needed.
For our own part, we like to go looking for lucky two-pronged carrots out in the field - and also enjoy some sort of carrot-inspired dish, like carrot soup or carrot cake.
Art + Resources
For my lovely paid subscribers, I’m offering up these printable fill-in-the-blank planner pages (created with a dip-pen and watercolor) - I’m hoping you can help me test them out so that I can refine them and get a whole year’s worth of pages ready! Even though September is nearing a close, these autumnal pages with a Michaelmas theme will transition well into October.
Follow the link below to find the post with the download + details!
Prints & Stickers
These prints & sticker sheets tells the story of Michaelmas through its traditions & natural emblems - from a Michaelmas Blackbird to Struan Micheil!
The print is made professionally at a wonderful local printer, and the paper has a lovely watercolor texture that makes it look like an original painting. The sticker sheets are perfect for decorating your planners, journals, sketchbooks, etc., and have a waterproof sheen.
Both of these are available in my Etsy shop at the moment!
Michaelmas Printable Scene
This printable scene is fun for kids & adults alike - it incorporates a variety of historic Michaelmas traditions, making for a hands-on way to talk about & experience this feast day! From the Hebridean tradition of carrot-pulling, to an end-of-season gathering of the last blackberries, this little Michaelmas goose is ready to celebrate.
A lovely customer, Britta, shared a review about this paper scene that really warmed my heart: “I love that this little scene brings a bit of prettiness to a rather bold and heroic holiday. My 5 year-old daughter loves it!” I couldn’t possibly hope for a more beautiful thing to hear.
Here’s a whimsical coloring page, wreathed in Michaelmas botanicals, for you & yours to enjoy!
Wishing you warmth & comfort as we delve deeper into autumn this Michaelmas.
“Husbandman” refers generally to a farmer, but during the Middle Ages also referred more specifically to rank: a free tenant farmer.
Alexander Carmichael, Carmina Gadelica: “A cake called Struan Micheil is made of all the cereals grown on the farm during the year. It represents the fruits of the field as the lamb represents the fruits of the flocks. Oats, bere, and rye are the only cereals grown in the Isles. These are fanned on the floor ground in the quern and their meal in equal parts used in the struan.”
Niall Mac Coitir, Ireland’s Wild Plants: Myths, Legends and Folklore.
Alexander Carmichael, Carmina Gadelica.
The discrepancy in dates between Michaelmas and Old Michaelmas Day is the result of the switch from the Julian to Gregorian calendars. Where we are in the PNW, I can’t fathom finding any useable blackberries as late as October 10!