Scottish Harvest Customs

I often bring more material than I am able to use on my tours- since this is the last day of September I will post the research I did earlier this month on Scottish harvest customs. It is mainly Scottish because in Ireland the harvest happens earlier at Lughnasadh- August 1st or 2nd.

First I will note that the 8th of September is the Nativity of the Virgin Mary, and on that week’s tour we did indeed see a statue of Mary had been placed near the high altar at the Cathedral.

On the 14th or the 21st- the Autumnal Equinox- Nutting Day is observed- the day “the Devil goes a-nutting” Young people gather nuts, some avoid doing so lest the Devil abduct them! Nuts are associated with fertility so some girls avoid gathering them so as not to get pregnant. ┬áIt is also the end of the blackberry picking season- it’s believed that when the archangel Michael kicked the Devil out of heaven, he landed in bramble bush. Mold found on blackberries is his spit.

The main September harvest celebration is on the 28th- Michaelmas Eve- bonfires are lit, roast lamb is eaten. In Scotland Michael is the patron of fishermen and horsemen. Struan Micheil is traditionally made and eaten- a cake made of sheep’s milk, eggs, butter and grain, decorated with a cross. A piece is thrown on the fire to placate the Devil.

the 29th- Michaelmas Day

Irish customs for Michaelmas come from the English- giving geese as gifts, even to the poor, plucking their down for pillows, apple picking, cider-making and hunting season begins and fishing ends.

In Scotland, wild carrots are dug up and given as gifts. Another tradition is to visit the graves of relatives on horseback- this is called circuiting. Horse-racing and other athletic events take place.


Chronicle of Celtic Folk Customs by Brian Day