Michael by raphael

St. Michael the Archangel

Michaelmas - Michaeles maesse (Michael's Mass)[1] - was a feast celebrated on September 30 in the 6th century, than on the day before in the 8th century, in honor of St. Michael the Archangel. The feast primarily honored St. Michael the Archangel - the Commander of the Heavenly Hosts, Protector of Christians, Patron of the Catholic Church, and Angel of Justice - and secondly honored all the hosts of angels under his command. Later, the festival was changed to the Feast of the Archangels Sts. Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael in honor of the three archangels named in the Sacred Scriptures. However, the date of the feast was not moved from September 29. It should also be noted that Michaelmas is not to be confused with the other feast day, Apparition of St. Michael, which was held on May 8, in honor of the victory that the Lombards won over the Neapolitans that day by the intercession of St. Michael and - more famously - in honor the apparition of St. Michael at Mount Gargano that same day.[2]


Michaelmas was celebrated as a Holy Day of Obligation in the Middle Ages.[3] It was customary to celebrate the day with processions, feasts, and great hospitality. Michael's shrines would sell "bread, pastries, fruit, fish, birds, cakes, venizens" - a great feast for the pilgrims, who had to climb up high places in order to reach the shrines, which always faced the sea.[4] In the 18th century a number of Holy Days of Obligation were abolished, among them Michaelmas.[5]


In Ireland, people prayed for St. Michael's intercession against sickness. They would also eat a goose, a sheep, or a pig and the Michaelmas pie in a feast of thanksgiving for the Archangel's intercession.[6]

In Scotland both St. Michael's bannock and St. Michael's cake were invented on Michaelmas, and were customarily eaten on this day.[7]

In Perillos and Comminges people would take an egg, wrap it in ivory and plunge it into boiling water, than throw it up into the air. If someone caught the egg without breaking the shell, it was a sign of good luck. Another ritual was "burning the Michaelmas", where people would light a fire and leap about it, in celebration of St. Michael's victory over Lucifer and struggle against Hell.[8]


A few superstitions surrounded Michaelmas. Among them were:

  • the belief that gathering blackberries on the feast was unlucky[9]
  • the belief amongst maidens that putting crab apples in a loft to spell out the initials of their supposed lover and waiting for old Michaelmas (October 11) would show them where true love was[10]
  • the Irish belief that finding a ring in a Michaelmas pie meant one would have an early marriage[11]
  • the Germanic belief that one could divine the weather from the breastbones of the Michaelmas goose[12]

The latter superstition spread to America when German immigrants arrived, and for a long time the belief was still believed by the Dutch in Pennsylvania.[13]


Michaelmas Goose Originally this was a stubble goose, i.e., a Greylag Goose.

Michaelmas Pie Scroll down to Michaelmas Pie, contributed by Aideen.

St. Michael's Cake

St. Michael's Bannock

Pop CultureEdit

Michaelmas daisy is a wild aster that blooms around the time of the feast.[14]

Michaelmas blackbird is another name for the Ring Ouzel.[15]

Michaelmas term is the name for the first term of the achedemic year.[16]