Interesting to see the way the seasonal imagery is so simply associated with
the mood of the timing of Martinmass:
"Martinmass" by John Clare written on 11 Nov 1841.
‘Tis Martinmass from rig to rig
Ploughed fields and meadow lands are blea
In hedge and field each restless twig
Is dancing on the naked tree
Flags in the dykes are bleached and brown
Docks by its sides are dry and dead
All but the ivy-boughs are brown
Upon each leaning dotterel’s head
Crimsoned with awes the awthorns bend
O’er meadow-dykes and rising floods
The wild geese seek the reedy fen
And dark the storm comes o’er the woods
The crowds of lapwings load the air
With buzes of a thousand wings
There flocks of starnels too repair
When morning o’er the valley springs
The context of a feast prior to a fast is articulated by comments at same site:
"In medieval Europe, St. Martin’s day (Martinmas) was a carnival-like feast
because it preceded the Nativity Fast—- something that disappeared in the
West after the Renaissance. The Nativity Fast is still observed in the East;
it is like a little lent: shorter and not quite as strict."
"St Martin’s Day is traditionally the day for slaughtering hogs in Spain
(and other parts of Europe, too, I believe). The day itself and several days
afterwards are the “matanza,” the slaughter, and this is also the time when
people make sausages, blood pudding, etc. There is a saying associated with
the day that I have always liked, in a vindictive sort of way. It is often
used when talking about offensive politicians and others of that stripe: “A
cada cerdo le llega su San Martin,” literally, “To every pig comes his St.
Martin’s Day.” In other words, sooner or later, this person is going to get
what’s coming to him."
But as to any connection to a Celtic system? About all there is to be found
appears to be the appropriate feast meat, as it *happens to* fall at the mi
gam slaughter, but the context is Christian and the meaning is internal to
On Mon, 2 Aug 2010 19:34:59 +0000, Bernard Morgan
<[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>I cannot say that Irish folklore is unchanging. Yet if I was to accept the
that there is no value in the Irish folklore tradition, then I should throw
away my copy of Máire MacNeill ''The Festival of Lughnasa”. Being it is a
collection of Irish folklore…. Yet as with MacNeill’s collection folktales
the St Martin tales are repetitive in nature. I cannot give a geographical
distribution of these tales to see if they are localized, but at the same
time I find no miller must grind his corn nor no wheel be moved in the
Western Isles on St Martin’s day.
>We knew from written sources (sauch as the 10th century “Tripartite Life of
Patrick”) that Martinmass was important blood day in the early medieval
period. (I understand eating meat was a rarity in the past.)
>Early medieval sources also provide us with a murdered god who had power
over the corn (i.e. barley) crop. "Let their ploughing be on a Tuesday, and
their casting seed into the field on a Tuesday, and their reaping on a
Tuesday" the secret as relived by Bres to his murderer Lugh.
>(Robert Graves makes a claim that Lleu is Amaethon (farmer god) in
comparing lines of a poem.)
>Now the St Martin and milling is harder. The earliest connection I found is
reference to a 17th Danish account of the Devil grounding a miller between
mill stones of St Martin’s Day. While an undated French tale has St Martin
cheating the Devil in a trade of mills on St Martin’s Day. But then again I
haven’t come across Continental references of Calleach-like figure (until I
reach the Slavs, who also have a Vegetation god that meets a gruesome death
at Harvest time).
>It is not hard to imagine that personification of the barley/corn crop, for
we have by the Scottish Reformation period (i.e. 16th century) a version Sir
John Barleycorn in such a mode.
>And as such a character is well known amongst their fellow Indo-Europeans,
I would be hard pressed to understand what such a figure as a Green-man
would not be known of in Gaeldom?
>What would nice and I doubt exists is further reasearch into the
distribution and history of Gaelic St Martin tales...
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