Friday, 25 November 2016

Là Fhèill Mìcheil in Scotland

In Scot's Gaelic culture, the festival of St. Michael was traditionally celebrated during the autumnal equinox.  Feasting, ritual and offerings were dedicated to St. Michael during the annual festival.  

On the eve of the festival of St. Michael, the day would begin with the custom of baking bread, known as 'struan.'  The following day mass was traditionally celebrated on the morning of the festival, followed by a breakfast of 'struan' and 'lamb.'  Horse racing and a procession would then take place, alongside the exchanging of gifts and wild carrots. During the evening customs of the festival would also involve dancing and feasting.
St, Michael


Curran Mìcheil

One of the most interesting customs associated with the festival of St. Michael was the harvesting of wild carrots.  The carrot was a symbol of deep and sacred significance.  It symbolised fertility, children and offspring. The carrot was given by a woman to a man as love and fertility emblems, but only rarely was it given from a man to a woman.  




Girls and women would gather in the fields to collect wild carrots. When a woman found a bifurcated carrot tradition recounts she would cry out with joy and shout:


'Forcan, forcan, forcan!
Sonas curran corr domh!
Forcan, forcan, forcan!
Conail curran corr domh!

Bheir, Micheal mil domh ciobh is conail,
Bheir Brighde bith domh breochain
Bheir Fite Fith damh fion is bainne
'S bheir Moire mhin domh comhnadh.'

Little cleft one! little cleft one!
Joy of carrot surpassing to me!
Little cleft one! little cleft one!
Fruitage of carrot surpassing to me!

Michael militant will give me seed and fruit, 
Calm Brigit will give me passion,
Fite Fithe will give me wine and milk,
And Mary mild will given me aid.

In North Uist there was a place known as the 'Gearraidh nan Curran (The Grassland of the Carrots).  Before the feast of St. Michael, girls and women would gather there to look for wild carrots and rejoice when they were discovered. 

During the dig, if difficulties occurred extracting the carrot, a space was made in the earth in the form of a three sided equilateral 'triangle.'  This was known as a 'torcan' or a 'cleft.'  Three is a number associated with the 'Triple Goddess: Maiden, Mother and Crone.'  The Triple Goddess was honoured as far back 25, 000BCE. Representations of the Triple Goddess can be found in ancient texts and throughout ancient traditions.

A 'mattock,' a pronged instrument, was used during this extraction process.  This instrument also had three sides thought to symbolise the three-sided shield or trident of St. Michael.

Three Sided Shield of St. Michael
(St. Michael's Church, Linlithgow)

Sources:

Hymns and Incantations by Alexander Carmichael - Carmina Gadelica (1940), Oliver and Boyd, Edinburgh

More Folklore from the Hebrides, (Folklore History Series) V Goodrich-Freer), 2011, Read Books Ltd.

The Outlandish Companion, Volume 2, Diana Gabaldon, Delacorte Press, (Century) 2015



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