NOVEMBER 22ND – MARTINMAS OLD STYLE – HIRING FAIRS

Three men for hire (wikipedia)

In the East Riding of Yorkshire hiring fairs were held around this time. It was also called Pack-Rag Day as servants carried their clothes to their new place of work.

A hiring fair is how Gabriel Oak is hired by Batheseba Everdene in ‘Far From the Madding Crowd’ by Thomas Harding. They were often also held at Michaelmas.

NOVEMBER 21st – BEGINNING OF THE MONTH OF FRIMAIRE

The frosty month of the French revolutionary calendar.

The rational calendar (which we will deal with later in another post) divided the year into 12 30 day months, plus 5 days for end of year festivities. Leap year every 4 years.

Weeks were 10 days long, 3 per month. Days were named first day, second day up to tenth day. There were ten hours in a day, 100 minutes per hour, and 100 seconds per minute. But this last part didn’t last very long, french people really objected to their day being mucked up.

Revolutionary period pocket watch

The Revolutionary Year was adopted in 1793  but began retrospectively from September 22nd, 1792 when the Republic was proclaimed.

My French correspondent tells me that, therefore, the First Republic started on: Le premier Vendémiaire de l’an 1.

Napoleon gave it up in 1806.

NOVEMBER 17TH – 20TH ACCESSION OF QUEEN ELIZABETH I

Black and white drawing of Queen Elizabeth I with a copy of her signature below it
Queen Elizabeth

November 17th

was celebrated with bonfires and bell-ringing. In London lighted fire-barrels were rolled along Cheapside. It was, in a way, the precursor to Guy Fawkes Day. Protestants celebrated it with such joy as it was the end of the reign of her sister Queen Mary I who had over 250 Protestants burnt at the stake.

November 18th

Good time to make sausages as the slaughter of cattle before winter meant there was a lot of meat and guts around. (A Random Fact: it took 200,000 cattle guts to make gasbags for the Zeppelins that bombed London in World War 1.

November 19th

Night-fowling in season. Gervase Markham’s Hunger’s Prevention tells you to go to a stubble field when the air is mild and the moon not shining. Take a dolorous low bell, and net.

Spread the net over the stubble where there may be fowl, ring the bell, light fires of dry straw, and the fowl will fly and become entangled in the net.

November 20th – Feast of St Edmund of East Anglia.

He was killed with an arrow by Vikings in 869 and became a saint. Well, in fact he was tied to a tree, shot full of arrows and then beheaded. The head was found and still talking and he was, with St Edward the Confession, the saint of the monarchy. They could explain to St Peter why the King had to undertake actions which might be strictly against the Ten Commandments.

St Edmund Lombard Street (church at bottom left)

Also the day to grow garlic

Set garlic and beans, at St Edmund the King.

Garlic with soft cheese ‘stauncheth’ catarrh and so is good against hoarseness.

NOVEMBER 13 – 16TH – TIME TO LAY IN STOCK OF FIREWOOD; CLEAN PRIVIES SWEEP CHIMNEY

Yarrow – image by CongerDesign

Nov 13th – Time to gather yarrow which is often still flowering. It was used for wounds, inflammations, hair lose, tooth-ache and good for those who cannot hold their water.

November 14th Firewood

Beechwood fires burn bright and clear
If the logs be kept a year
Oaken Logs if dry and old
Keep away the winter’s cold
Chestnut’s only good they say
If for years ’tis laid away
But ash-wood green or ash-wood brown
Are fit for a King with a golden Crown
Elm she burns like the churchyard mould
Even the flames are cold
Birch and pine-wood burn too fast
Blaze too bright and do not last
But ash wet of ash dry
A Queen may warm her slippers by.

November 15th Exercise

Leaping is an exercise very commendable and healthful for the body.

The Compleat Gentleman 1634

November 16th

Foul privies are now to be cleaned.

The chimney all sooty would now be made clearn.

Five Hundred Points of Good Husbandry. 1573

NOVEMBER 12 EPULUM JOVIS THE CAPITOLINE CULT

Capitoline Triad – Museum of Guidonia (Wikipedia)

This was the second festival in the year dedicated to the three most important deities in the Roman pantheon. Jupiter the Sky God, God of Justice, God of Rome. His wife and sister, ‘Queen’ Juno protector of women. Minerva, Daughter of Jupiter. Goddess of Wisdom and Craft.

The main Temple was in Rome on the Capitoline Hill known as aedes Iovis Optimi Maximi Capitolini (“Temple of Jupiter Best and Greatest on the Capitoline”). Similar temples spread throughout the Roman world, normally with a triple cella (inner sanctum) to allow separation of worship.

In London a temple was discovered to the west of the first Forum (built AD 75). There is no clue as to its dedication but the Capitoline Cult has been suggested as well as for the Cult of the Emperor.

NOVEMBER 11TH MARTINMAS – FESTIVAL OF WINTER’S BEGINNING

Statue of St Martin at Ligugé

So, this is All Saints Day, Old style also known as St Martin’s Day.

Father Francis Weiser in the Handbook of Christian Feasts and Customs (quoted at https://onepeterfive.com/forgotten-customs-of-martinmas-and-st-martins-lent/) suggests this was the thanksgiving of Medieval Europe.

It was a holiday in Germany, France, Holland, England and in central Europe. People first went to Mass and observed the rest of the day with games, dances, parades, and a festive dinner, the main feature of the meal being the traditional roast goose (Martin’s goose). With the goose dinner they drank “Saint Martin’s wine,” which was the first lot of wine made from the grapes of the recent harvest. Martinmas was the festival commemorating filled barns and stocked larders.

It was also the time of year when lime plaster was renewed, because lime needs to be kept moist when renewed. It takes three to four days to form the calcite crystals that make it waterproof.

Martin of Tours was a soldier in the Roman Army who would not fight because of his Christian belief. When he met a beggar he cut in half his cloak and gave half to the beggar. He rose in the hierarchy of the Gallic Church and became Bishop of Tours. He is one of the very few early saints not to be martyred. He is the saint of soldiers, beggars and the oppressed. He stands for upholding your beliefs and helping those in need.

According to legend his barge on the River Loire was accompanied by flowers and birds and a late warm patch is called a St Martin Summer. It can also be called a Halloween Summer. Normally, though this is when it begins to feel really wintry.

Early 20th Century Image of Trafalgar Sq. St Martin’s is in top right hand corner

St Martin was very famous in London and there are two famous Churches dedicated to him with possible early origins. St Martin’s in the Fields, near Trafalgar Sq has been the site of excavations and finds which show a very early settlement there, with early sarcophagi. It is the one place where a convincing case can be made for continuity between the Roman and the Anglo-Saxon period. It is likely, or at least possible, that the Church was founded soon after St Martin’s death. A settlement grew up near it, and this expanded to become Lundenwic, the successor settlement to Londinium.

Old Print of London c1540 showing St Pauls, with St Martin's by the wall to the left of the photo
Old Print of London c1540 showing St Pauls, with St Martin’s by the wall to the left of the photo

St Martins Within, is just inside the Roman Gate at Ludgate, many early churches are found at or indeed above Gates, But this one has legendary links to burial places for King Lud, and for King Cadwallo, (Cadwallon ap Cadfan,) one of the last British Kings to have any chance of recovering Britain from the Anglo Saxons. He was said to have been buried here in a statue of a Bronze Horseman, and to protect London.

St Martin was also the saint of Travellers and this might explain the location of the Church near the gate. Although there is nothing but legendary ‘evidence’. It would make sense for an early church to be built near Ludgate, as St Pauls was founded in 604AD. Although the City might have been mostly empty, the presence of St Pauls means that Ludgate was most likely still in use or at least restored around this period.

NOVEMBER 10TH – MARTINMAS EVE – HALLOWEEN OLD STYLE

Skating on thin ice

St Martin was one of the most important in the Medieval Calendar of Saints. We will have a look at him tomorrow on his Saint’s Day.

But it is also Halloween or it would be if the Calendar had not been change in 1752. So for traditionalists this is the actual Halloween. It gives another chance to look into the future and to celebrate Halloween traditions.

If Martinmas ice will bear a duck
Then look for a winter of slush and muck.

i.e. it will be a mild winter. From my experience this will only have any validity if used in the North.

Today is also for Kali, Indian destroyer of Evil, and also for the Fate, the Norns, the Furies, the Morrigan and Persephone.

NOVEMBER 9TH FATTENING PIGS FOR MARTINMAS SLAUGHTER

Gervase Markham (1682) says ‘…feed them for the first week with Barley sodden till it breaks; then feed them with raw malt from the floor; then for a week after give them dry Peas or Beans to harden their flesh. Let their drink be the washings of Ale-barrels and Sweet Whey. This manner of feeding breeds the whitest, fastest, and best flesh that maybe….’

NOVEMBER 8TH Saints Day for the 4 Crowned Martyrs

The Four Crowned Martyrs.

Crowned Martyrs

Sculptors Claudius, Castorius, Symphorian, and Nicostratus refused to carve a ‘graven image’ of Aesculapius (the greco-roman god of Medicine). They were condemned in the reign of Diocletian, placed in lead barrels, and drowned in the Danube.  

Patrons of sculptors, stonemasons, stonecutters; against fever; cattle