The Feast of the Archangels, or the Feast of Saint Michael and All Angels, In medieval England, Michaelmas marked the ending and beginning of the husbandman’s year, George C. Homans observes: “at that time harvest was over, and the bailiff or reeve of the manor would be making out the accounts for the year.”
In British and Irish tradition, the quarter days were the four dates in each year on which servants were hired, school terms started, and rents were due. They fell on four religious festivals roughly three months apart and close to the two solstices and two equinoxes. The quarter days have been observed at least since the Middle Ages, and they ensured that debts and unresolved lawsuits were not allowed to linger on. Accounts had to be settled, a reckoning had to be made and publicly recorded on the quarter days.
One of the few flowers left around at this time of year is the Michaelmas daisy (also known as asters). Hence the rhyme: “The Michaelmas daisies, among dead weeds, Bloom for St Michael’s valorous deeds …”
In Ireland, pilgrimages to holy wells associated with St Michael took place, with pilgrims taking a drink from the holy water from the well. In Tramore, County Waterford, a procession with an effigy of St Michael, called the Micilín, was brought through the town to the shore to mark the end of the fishing season.
Old Michaelmas Day falls on 11 October (10 October according to some sources – the dates are the result of the shift from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar so the gap widens by a day every century except the current one). It is said that the Devil fell out of Heaven on this date, and fell into a blackberry bush, cursing the fruit as he fell. According to an old legend, blackberries should not be picked after this date. In Yorkshire, it is said that the devil spat on them. In Cornwall, the saying goes that the devil urinated on them.
In Irish folklore, clear weather on Michaelmas was a portent of a long winter, “Michaelmas Day be bright and clear there will be two ‘Winters’ in the year.”