Friday, 3 October 2014

FOLKLORE ON FRIDAY : The Devil's Blackberries!

Once again autumn is here, and in the old medieval calendar the start of the new season was marked by one of the four quarter days Michaelmas, also known the Feast of All Angels and the Feast of the Archangels, and falls upon the 29th of September, close to the Autumn equinox. In Christian legend, this was the date that the Heavenly Host triumphed against Lucifer and the rebel angels, with St. Michael defeating the Devil and casting him out of Heaven (as envisioned above by Albrecht Dürer).

However according old English legends, when the Devil was flung from Heaven, the Dark Lord fell to earth and landed, somewhat painfully in a blackberry bush. His Satanic Majesty was obviously not best pleased, and spat and trampled upon the errant bushes and laid an everlasting curse upon them. Hence it was said that after Michaelmas Day, any blackberries on the bushes now belonged to the Devil and it was most unwise to pick them. As an old Irish proverb sums up - “On Michaelmas Day the devil puts his foot on blackberries”!

Certainly there is a certain wisdom here, for by the end of September any remaining blackberries may well have felt the touch of a first frost or be spoilt by worms and larvae that feed upon them. However this legend predates the organisational of the calendar in England, when thanks to the Calendar (New Style) Act of 1750 which saw the adoption the corrected Gregorian calendar. Famously this saw the English "losing" eleven days, and hence several festivals were continued under the old system, hence on October 10th some parts of England celebrated Old Michaelmas. Hence if you go with the adjusted date of the Old Michaelmas, you can get a week and half extra of Devil-free blackberry picking!

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