Saint Michael and the Archangels
September 29th is the Feast Day of the Archangels, Saints Michael, Raphael and Gabriel. The New Age movement talks a lot about angels but these are the three main ones mentioned in the Catholic Church. We must not forget that when the devil fell to earth he took a third of the angels with him and also that they can masquerade as angels of light. Many people seek to experience connection with an angel in some way or have experienced angels, perhaps in the form of a guardian angel who has protected them from some sort of danger or they have felt the spiritual comfort of an angel when going through a particularly difficult time.
In the Church tradition, Saint Michael was the Archangel who fought against the devil and his demons for God and all His followers. He is supposed to protect us from the snares of the enemy like Mary, the mother of Jesus who also is able to tread on the serpent’s head and keep us from harm, the serpent being that old enemy the devil.
Archangels are found in a number of traditions including Judaism and Islam. Saint Michael is mentioned in Scripture five times, and always in a warlike character; namely, thrice by Daniel as fighting for the Jewish church against Persia; once by St. Jude as fighting With the devil about the body of Moses; and once by St. John as fighting at the head of his angelic troops against the dragon and his host.
Saint Gabriel was previously remembered in March and Saint Raphael in October until it was revised in 1970 and the three combined. Saint Gabriel was a messenger, telling Zechariah of the birth of his son John the Baptist and Mary that she would carry the Son of God, Jesus the Messiah. He also appeared in the Book Of Daniel explaining Daniel’s visions. In Islam it is said that it was Gabriel that delivered the Quran to Mohammed.
Saint Raphael is the healing angel who helped Tobias and his father in the Old Testament. Raphael means ‘It is God who heals’. Raphael is mentioned in the Book of Enoch: "And again the Lord said to Raphael: 'Bind Azazel hand and foot, and cast him into the darkness: and make an opening in the desert, which is in Dudael, and cast him therein. And place upon him rough and jagged rocks, and cover him with darkness, and let him abide there forever, and cover his face that he may not see light. And on the day of the great judgment he shall be cast into the fire."
Raphael is also the Patron Saint of: apothecaries; blind people; bodily ills; WI, druggists; eye problems; guardian angels; happy meetings; insanity; lovers; mental illness; nightmares, nurses; pharmacists; physicians; shepherds; sick people; travellers and young people.
In some Jewish traditions and Christian apocryphal scriptures Uriel is listed as the fourth Archangel, saving John the Baptist from the slaughter of the innocents by Herod and reuniting him and his family with Jesus after their flight to Egypt. He is supposed to stand at the Gate of Eden with a fiery sword.
Originally September 29th was just the feast day of St Michael (and all the angels added later) and thus called Michaelmas Day and we have the well known plant which flowers at this time of year – the Michaelmas Daisy. The Michaelmas Daisy, which flowers late in the growing season between late August and early October, provides colour and warmth to gardens at a time when the majority of flowers are coming to an end.“The Michaelmas Daisies, among dede weeds,
Bloom for St Michael's valorous deeds.
And seems the last of flowers that stood,
Till the feast of St. Simon and St. Jude.” – Traditional verse
(The Feast of St. Simon and Jude is 28 October)
Saint Michael’s Day was close to the Autumn Equinox and one of the ‘quarter days’. Rents were usually due and bills paid on a ‘quarter day’. The other three being Lady Day in March, Midsummer in August and Christmas following the seasons of the year. Some of the old Missals will show the quarter days in them. They are spaced three months apart, on religious festivals, usually close to the solstices or equinoxes. They were the four dates on which servants were hired, rents due or leases begun. It used to be said that harvest had to be completed by Michaelmas, almost like the marking of the end of the productive season and the beginning of the new cycle of farming. It was the time at which new servants were hired or land was exchanged and debts were paid. This is how it came to be for Michaelmas to be the time for electing magistrates and also the beginning of legal and university terms.
This time of year is the beginning of the year for many religions including Judaism, rather than January, which follow the agricultural year, the end of the harvest signalling the end of one year and the start of the next. Traditionally 24th September was when harvesting began in Medieval England but it often started as early as 1st August. On the 1st August farmers used to give loaves of bread to the Church, before the Reformation to celebrate the start of the harvest.
Traditionally, in the British Isles, a well fattened goose, fed on the stubble from the fields after the harvest, is eaten as protection against financial need in the family for the next year; and as the saying goes:“Eat a goose on Michaelmas Day,
Want not for money all the year”.
Sometimes the day was also known as “Goose Day” and goose fairs were held. Even now, the famous Nottingham Goose Fair is still held on or around the 3rd of October. In British folklore, Old Michaelmas Day was on 10th October, after the calendar reform in 1752, and was the last day that blackberries should be picked. It is said that on this day, when Lucifer was expelled from Heaven, he fell from the skies, straight onto a blackberry bush. He then cursed the fruit, scorched them with his fiery breath, spat and stamped on them and made them unfit for consumption! And so the Irish proverb goes:
“On Michaelmas Day the devil puts his foot on blackberries”.
Soon I will have a lovely show of blackberries in my front garden, but once the sun has gone they will soon be fading fast, losing their shiny bloom, as the length of the days are fading fast now too.
Another weather lore says that
“If St Michael’s day brings many acorns, Christmas will cover the fields with snow.”
We did see quite a few acorns on our walk through the woods at the weekend, so I’m guessing we will see some snow this Christmas then!