Although we now celebrate Michaelmas Day on the 29th September before the calendar was reformed in 1752 it was celebrated on the 10th October which is now known as ‘Old Michaelmas Day’ or “Devil Spits Day” and it is this date when the last day that blackberries should be picked.
St Michael, the Archangel, banished the devil from heaven on this day and the story goes he landed on a prickly blackberry bush, which he cursed and either spat or urinated on depending which story you choose to believe.
An old Irish proverb says: “On Michaelmas Day the devil puts his foot on blackberries”
In St Winnow, Cornwall they said about St Michael’s Day,
‘Good men and women, on such a day you should keep St Michael's Day, God's holy archangel; on this day you should come to church and worship God and this holy archangel. You should know that holy church on that day makes mention of all God's holy angels, for the great help and service that mankind has from them; but especially it keeps the memory of St Michael, because of the particular powers that he has above all others, for he is wonderful in appearing, he is marvellous in miracle-working, and victorious in his fighting...’
A lovely old recipe for this day is Michaelmas Dumplings.
You need approximately
Half a pound of blackberries
1 large sized Bramley apples, peeled, quartered and cored
A cup of self- raising flour
1 Tablespoon of butter
Granulated sugar to taste
1 and a half cups of water
Rub the butter and flour until it resembles fine bread crumbs. Stir in the sugar. Stir in about 4 spoons of milk and mix together to form soft dough which should be divided into four and each piece pressed into a flat circle. Mould the circle of dough around a quarter of apple, to cover it sealing it shut. Do this for each piece.
Place the water in a pan and add a heaped dessertspoon of sugar. Stir until it dissolves and then bring to the boil. Add the blackberries and then place the dumplings on top of them in the pan and cover and simmer for about half an hour. The dumplings should look fluffy. Serve warm with cream or traditionally custard.
The Michaelmas daisy is the flower of the moment.
“The Michaelmas Daisies, among dede weeds,
Bloom for St Michael’s valorous deeds.
And seems the last of flowers that stood,
Till the feast of St. Simon and St. Jude.”
(The Feast of St. Simon and Jude is 28 October)
Giving a Michaelmas Daisy symbolised saying farewell.
In parts of Scotland there is a custom of baking a special bread or cake, called St Michael's bannock, or Michaelmas Bannock on the eve of the Feast of Saint Michael day. . The bread was made from equal parts of barley, oats, and rye and no metal tool could be used in its making and were made in remembrance of absent friends or those who had died.