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

NOVEMBER 6TH BHAI DOOJ 3RD DAY OF DIWALI

Goddess Lakshmi (Wikipedia)

Bhai Dooj is the day sisters and brothers celebrate a meal together to eat their favourite disches. often including their favourite dishes/sweets.

It is part of Diwali which is a 5 day festival of lights. It honors Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and consists of lamps, fireworks and gatherings to exchange gifts and enjoy food together, honoring community and the new year (which started on November 5th).

REMEMBER, REMEMBER, THE 5TH OF NOVEMBER

Old print showing the plotters for the Gunpowder plot
The Plotters

Soon, after the discovery of the Gunpowder plot, Parliament legislated for a annual commemoration of the Plot. The date was chosen as it was the anniversary of finding Guys Fawkes with a lantern next to piles of barrels of Gunpowder. Fireworks and bonfires were clearly appropriate given that it has been estimated that the amount of gunpowder would have killed the king, the Royal Family, the House of Lords and the House of Commons and devastated a huge area around Westminster. But some suggest that the nature of the commemoration draws some elements from Halloween – use of bonfires and dressing up. Halloween was frowned upon by puritans who also supported Guy Fawkes Day as it was anti-catholic.

Guy Fawkes Lantern at the Ashmolean Museum

Banner in Lewes

The anti-catholic element of the celebration has not been important in Britain (except in certain places). Irish friends are amazed we still celebrate it, but more the vast majority of people in Britain it is really just Fireworks night, nothing to do with anti-catholic sentiment. Traces of the anti-catholic nature of it do continue in places like Lewes which is one of the most traditional Fireworks Nights. This consists of clubs who organise a parade through the town, and then the burning of an effigy of the Pope and more recently other unpopular figures on the contemporary scene. Click here for more on Lewes.

Procession in Lewes

Ottery St Mary continues the tradition of using Tar Barrels. These are wooden barrels in which tar and tinder are set on fire. The Barrels are either rolled through the Town, or down a hill, or, as in Ottery, carried on the shoulders of volunteers. This has a pedigree which goes back before 1605 as there are references to tar barrels and displays in Protestant processions to celebrate the accession to the throne of Edward VI and Elizabeth 1

Tar Barrels in Ottery St Mary

The King was given the credit for deciphering the warning given in a letter, written to William Parker, 13th Baron Morley, 4th Baron Monteagle at his house in Hoxton, London which warned against turning up at Parliament but was not explicit as to the nature of the threat.

Letter Lord Monteagle passed on to King James 1

NOVEMBER 4TH – PREPARING FOR GUY FAWKES DAY & AND THE HORNED GOD.

Felicity Cloake The Guardian

Ginger cake is the traditional accompaniment to a cold night watching the Fireworks. There is a good recipe in Markham’s The English Housewife of 1683. But I’m suggesting you use this recipe from the Guardian for Parkin Cake. Traditional in Yorkshire.

Collecting for the Bonfire would continue:

A stick and a stake
For King George’s sake
Will you please to give us a faggot
If you won’t give us one, we’ll steal you two
The better for we and the worse for you.

Children create a ‘Guy’ named after Guy Fawkes who was discovered on 5th November in a cellar under Parliament by a pile of barrels of gunpowder. The children take the guys around collecting money to buy fireworks. When I was young we spent our money exclusively on ‘bangers’ not pretty fountains and candles nor rockets. One stunt was to cycle through the streets and to put a banger into the handle bars which would act as a rocket launcher.

London picture Collecting for the Guy

Today is dedicated to hunting gods such as Herne, the Horned God, Cernunnos and Pan.

Herne the Hunter first appears in Shakespeare:

There is an old tale goes, that Herne the
Hunter
(sometime a keeper here in Windsor Forest)
Doth all the winter-time, at still midnight
Walk round about an oak, with great ragg’d horns;
And there he blasts the tree, and takes the cattle,
And makes milch-kine yield blood, and shakes a chain
In a most hideous and dreadful manner.
You have heard of such a spirit, and well you know
The superstitious idle-headed eld
Receiv’d, and did deliver to our age
This tale of Herne the Hunter for a truth.

William Shakespeare, The Merry Wives of Windsor, Act 4, scene 4

But he is linked to the Forest God, the Horned One, the Green Man and the Celtic God Cernunnos. This name Cernunnos comes from karnon which means “horn” or “antler”, and may be the source of the name ‘Cerne’. (note that the Cerne Abbas Giant has just been redated from the Celtic to 17th Century.)