Saturday, 26 September 2015

Links and things for Là Fhèill Mìcheil

I accidentally typed "kinks" and things in the title there, which would put an altogether different tone on the rest of this post...

But anyway, as usual, let's start off with a video from Gaol Naofa's Youtube channel:

Which gives a short introduction to the festival as well as some ideas for things to do. I've done a more in-depth article over on Tairis, along with a short piece going over some practical ways of celebrating:
Given the associations of St Michael and horses and the sea, along with the harvest theme, there are a number of deities that could be connected with the festival, and Kathryn wrote a bit about that on her blog. She also did the meme we posted on the GN Facebook page on Monday:

Photo collage from original images by efilpera (horses) and Duarte JH (field)
Along with the adaptation of the prayer, which you can find in full on the Gaol Naofa website's new meme page.

As far as things to do go, the big one is making a Strùthan Mhìcheil, or Michaelmas struan, which is a specially made bannock that's coated with a kind of caudle. I've posted a recipe for it on Tairis, which is taken from Margaret Shaw's Folksongs and Folklore of Uist. The Ceolas website has a more scone-like version, which I'm going to try tomorrow, hopefully (I prefer to use golden syrup as opposed to treacle, personally, though). An offering can be made of some of the strùthan, perhaps as you "beat the bounds" of your property, if you're able.

In the run up to the festival you could also try going out to look for some wild carrots (also known as Queen Anne's Lace), which are traditionally gathered at this time of year, although they may not grow in your area (and they're considered a problem in some parts of the US so it's probably not a good idea to grow them yourself). If you do go looking for them, it's important to be cautious because they're easily confused with poison hemlock (conium maculatum) and a couple of other plants. If you'd rather play it safe then the more usual orange variety of domesticated carrots (or more specialist variants, like purple or white ones) could be harvested (or obtained by other means) instead.

Of course, a good party is always a great way to celebrate any festival, and as Carmichael notes (two links up) there's a traditional dance that's done to the tune of Cailleach an Dùdain ('The Old Woman of the Mill-Dust'). Here's an example of the tune with a peurt-a-beul accompanying it:

The Carmichael Watson Project Blog has some interesting commentary on it, and also notes that the last sheaf of the harvest is often woven into a doll called the Cailleach. As winter approaches, she's certainly making her presence felt as she prepares to resume her wintry reign, and let's not forget that she also has associations with the equinox in Ireland, at Sliabh na Caillighe (Loughcrew), where Cairn T is oriented to the equinox sunrise.

That's about all I can think of at the minute, but check back on the Gaol Naofa Facebook page for another related meme on Monday...