Today is Michaelmas, the golden autumn feast of St Michael and All Angels. It falls at perhaps the most beautiful time of the year, on the cusp between the last glow of fiery summer and the yellow-gold ‘fallowing’ leaves of autumn; the wings of Michael and his angels seem to flutter in harmony with the unleaving of the trees. ‘Michaelmas’ has been the English name for the feast since at least the eleventh century, and it’s a lovely one in every context: Michaelmas daisies, Michaelmas fairs, Michaelmas moons, and more. (Terms, too.) The Anglo-Saxon poem the Menologium alliteratively calls it the ‘high-angel’s tide in harvest’, i.e. ‘the archangel’s day in autumn’:
Hwæt, we weorðiað wide geond eorðan
heahengles tiid on hærfeste,
Michaheles, swa þæt menigo wat,
fif nihtum ufor… emnihtes dæg.
Lo, we honour widely throughout the earth
the high-angel’s tide in harvest,
Michael, as the multitude know,
five nights after the equinox day.
St Michael is particularly associated with heights, and churches on hills and in high places were very often dedicated to him. Dragon-slayer, guardian of humanity, and bearer of the scales of divine justice, St Michael was an immensely popular figure in the Middle Ages, and in this post are four pieces about St Michael by medieval English writers…
Today is Michaelmas, the great autumn feast of St Michael the Archangel – guardian of high places, weigher of souls, heavenly warrior against the forces of evil. St Michael in some medieval art, poems, and prayers: https://t.co/UxIhZ84HYs pic.twitter.com/GCUA7QrDlQ
— Eleanor Parker (@ClerkofOxford) September 29, 2020