Michaelmas 29th September

P105 Silver Bough Vol 2 McNeill

Michaelmas rituals described in the Carmina Gadelica are from the Western Seaboard and the Isles. The Arch Angel Michael was Patron saint of the sea, boats and boatmen, horses and horsemen. There would be races, pilgrimages to the family graves with special circuits on horseback.

Women would do the Carrot Gathering.

On the eve of St. Michael women would spend the night baking struain, while the men would watch their horses -stealing was allowed on this night for people to make the pilgrimage the next day, but the horse to be returned uninjured.

“A cake called the Struan Micheil is made of all the cereals grown on the farm during the year.
It represents the fruits of the field (and an unblemished lamb represents the fruits of the flocks.)

Oats bere and rye are the only cereals grown in the Isles. These are fanned on the floor, ground in the quern and their meal in equal parts used in the struain. The strain should contain a peck of meal and should be baked on a lambskin. The meal is moistened with sheep’s milk being deemed the most sacred animal….

The struain is baked by the eldest daughter of the family, guided by her mother and assisted by her eager sisters. As she moistens the meal with the milk the girl softly says:-

‘Progeny and prosperity of family

Mystery of Michael, protection of Trinity’ “

Special woods ( oak, rowan, bramble and others) are gathered and the struan is cooked in the fire.

“As the struan gains consistency, three successive layers of a batter of cream, eggs and butter are laid on each side alternately.”

There would be family ones, communal and individual ones. Ones for children and even the deceased. The person for whom it was being made would be named in a blessing.

Care had to be taken -a broken one would not be used as it was regarded as an ill omen.

Girls would compete with each other for the best one with the most interesting variety of ingredients.
The struains were taken to church to be blessed

Returning home the father would carve the lamb and the struain. Each person would get a piece of bread and meat for each hand and say the hymn of Michael the Victorious

There would be a distribution of gifts food in the community.

The Pilgrimage- a cavalcade sunwise around the grave yard with prayers, would take place with everyone dressed up and exchanging gifts, especially carrots from the women and ribbons and brooches from the men.

There would be a dance in the evening- with special songs and dances and more gifts between the young men and women

Struans were made in symbolic shapes including a three sided shield synonymous with St. Michael but also a triangle with corners cut off which is believed to be a pre-Christian symbol related to Goddess worship eg Beira and Bride.