Saturday, 15 September 2012


Epstein's St. Michael, Coventry Cathedral
         September. A great time of year. I was out walking today, in the sun, but seeing  dead seed-heads, and blackberries, and the leaves turning colour. I enjoyed the mad whippets' account of rambling and brambling (I didn't know whippets were so fond of blackberries.)

       September's big day is the 29th, which is Michaelmas, the feast of Heaven's Captain, Saint Michael, the warrior Archangel, who doesn't mess about with turning the other cheek, but adopts a more robust approach to defending us from Darkness and Evil, with a spear. Somebody's got to do it. You can imagine him tapping his fingers and sighing a lot through those long meetings in Heaven.
          I've always had a fondness for St Michael, probably because I suspect Him of being someone pagan, thinly disguised.
          His feast day is one of the four quarter days, which mark the turnings of the year, and which were always celebrated with feasts and fairs. And there was never any pretence that Michael had ever been human, as there was with, say, Saint Christopher or Saint Bridget. Michael was always supernatural, an Archangel, no less.
St Michael by Raphael
          He is the patron saint of horses and horsemen.  Hmm.  Horses were sacred to the Norse God Freyr (who was also a young warrior, often identified with Christ in the early years of Northern Christianity. 'Freyr' is a title, not a name: it means 'Lord', and there was some confusion about which Lord the Christians were talking about.) Horses also seem to have been venerated by the people we loosely call 'the Celts'.
         Michael is usually represented with a lance or spear - often with the Devil stuck on the other end of it. Again, hmm. A spear was the symbol of the Norse God Odin, but a better match is probably the God who survives in the old Irish stories, Lugh of the Spear.
          Did Michael find a welcome and lasting place in British tradition because there was an empty niche - very suitable for a Saint - waiting for Him?  The Church might say there was only one God, but was there a collective sigh of relief when Michael turned up? Oh, there He is. Been wondering where He'd got to.
Michael's daisies
         And then, He has Michaelmas Daisies. I've always loved them.

    But Old Michaelmas Day - before the calendar was changed - was October 10th. I hope the whippets avoid blackberrying on that day and after because - so I was told - the Devil will come and hold the branches down for them to reach. No good ever comes of accepting help from Old Nick.
          Another version is that He makes it His personal mission to spit on each and every blackberry left on the bushes on October 10th. A doddle, I suppose, when you are the great Lord of Evil. And being poked with a spear every September must make you crotchety.
Icon of St. Michael, patron of horses
          As a child, I was never told why Old Nick had such a spite against blackberries - I assumed it was all part of his general grudge against the world - but it seems that when He was thrown out of Heaven, He fell into a blackberry patch. I can see how that would put you off them.
         Happy Michaelmas! And I hope you have a jug of michaelmas daisies.
          And here's a suitably supernatural Blott... Cover Brother Andrew dropped by my house today, just as I downloaded this week's Blott, but fought off all attempts to show it to him, because he wanted to see it for the first time, in its proper place, at the end of this blog in the early hours of Saturday morning.
          I love this Blott - but I want to see Demon Lord Ashteroth again!

1 comment:

madwippitt said...

Enjoyed the blackberry info - never heard that before - and thanks for the link! We shall avoid snacking on even the puny ones after Michaelmass.

More Lovecraftian Blot! Brilliant - plus a dreadful punchline. It's true, the old ones are still the best!