Sacred Spaces Sunday – Celebrating Michaelmas Festival as Sacred Space
Do you know what today is? It’s the autumnal Festival of Michaelmas.
I’d never heard about it while growing up, but learned of it while reading my friend Sarah Ban Breathnach’s New York Times #1 bestselling book, Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy. I’ve been reading this book since it came out in 1995 – every day! Some of the day’s writings I can almost say verbatim.
At the end of each month Sarah has “Joyful Simplicities” for that month often tied to what she has been discussing. Sometimes she shares an unusual event or holiday. For September she mentions the autumnal festival of Michaelmas.
This is what Sarah writes as a suggestion for September:
“Observe the autumnal festival of Michaelmas on September 29, which is the feast day of St. Michael the Archangel. This ancient English harvest festival dates back to the sixth century. Legend has it that on this day the devil was driven out of Heaven by St. Michael and landed in a patch of blackberry brambles. It’s traditional to have blackberry treats – pies, tarts, or jam on scones – for tea on this day.”
The first time I read Sarah’s book and saw this, I had actually just picked some blackberries earlier in the day. Hilory and I had gone to an open area where wild berries were growing, carefully picking the berries.
Wikipedia has this to say about Michaelmas Day:
“Old Michaelmas Day falls on October 11 (October 10 according to some sources). 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. In Yorkshire, it is said that the devil had spat on them. According to Morrell (1977), this old legend is well known in all parts of the United Kingdom, even as far north as the Orkney Islands. In Cornwall, a similar legend prevails.”
In reading further about blackberries, it turns out it might be best not to pick and eat blackberries late into autumn since the moisture from rains can cause a mold to grow – a mold that can be toxic.
I feel very fortunate to have grown some blackberry vines this year. I have a few berries starting to ripen and we did have a heavy rain about a week ago. I’ll keep an eye on them to see if any mold occurs. Plus I still have blossoms on them. If we have an Indian Summer I think I’ll be fine. I’ll let you know if something develops.
Ever since reading Sarah’s book, I have observed the custom of Michaelmas by creating a sacred space in which to celebrate the autumnal festival and enjoy something with blackberries. Sometimes it is blackberry jam. Once in a while I’ve found a small blackberry pie. A few times I’ve only been able to find fresh blackberries to put in a salad or fruit bowl.
Then a few years ago I discovered a store sometimes carrying a pear-blackberry galette. It was delicious – not too much sugar or crust.
Each year it’s a surprise what I find to enjoy as I celebrate this autumnal festival. This year I set up a table close to my blackberry vines to honor them for the bounty they have provided this year. Then I covered the table with a “berry-blue” cloth to dress it up.
I purchased the last basket of blackberries and the last pear-blackberry galette at the store. Ceremoniously I placed the berries in a beautiful yellow bowl matching the yellow flower design of the tablecloth. The galette I arranged on a simple white Christian Dior plate I had found at a thrift store many years ago.
After photographing this “Sacred Space” table, I enjoyed a snack of fresh blackberries. In a little while we’ll celebrate my daughter’s birthday. Dinner is going to be pork tenderloin with a glaze made from homemade apricot jam, Farmer’s Market green beans and red potatoes. The apricots are from our organic tree and the jam is made with little sugar. The grand finale will be dessert – the pear-blackberry galette with vanilla gelato. YUM!
I love finding as many ways as possible for celebrating life while creating Sacred Spaces!