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Michael (mīˈkəl) [Heb.,=who is like God?], archangel prominent in Christian, Jewish, and Muslim traditions. In the Bible and early Jewish literature, Michael is one of the angels of God's presence. He is depicted as a warrior-prince leading the celestial armies against wicked forces and as Israel's guardian angel. The intermediary between God and Moses on Mt. Sinai, Michael also confronts the devil over Moses' right of proper burial. In Christian tradition he is the angel with the sword. Michael is venerated in the Roman Catholic and Eastern churches. His feast (jointly with the other archangels) is Michaelmas, Sept. 29; it is the anniversary of the dedication of a Roman basilica to him. On May 8 he is honored for his apparition (492?) on Monte Gargano, Italy. He is supposed to have appeared to Joan of Arc and on the site of Mont-Saint-Michel.
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Michaelmas (St. Michael's Day, Feast of St. Michael and All Angels)

Type of Holiday: Religious (Christian)
Date of Observation: September 29 in the West, November 8 in the East
Where Celebrated: Europe, Norway, Russia, United States, and by Christians all over the world
Symbols and Customs: Blackberries, Dragon, Goose, Scales
Related Holidays: Autumn Equinox


Michaelmas is part of the Christian religious tradition. The word Christian refers to a follower of Christ, a title derived from the Greek word meaning Messiah or Anointed One. The Christ of Christianity is Jesus of Nazareth, a man born between 7 and 4 B . C . E . in the region of Palestine. According to Christian teaching, Jesus was killed by Roman authorities using a form of execution called crucifixion (a term meaning he was nailed to a cross and hung from it until he died) in about the year C . E . After his death, he rose back to life. His death and resurrection provide a way by which people can be reconciled with God. In remembrance of Jesus' death and resurrection, the cross serves as a fundamental symbol in Christianity.

With nearly two billion believers in countries around the globe, Christianity is the largest of the world's religions. There is no one central authority for all of Christianity. The pope (the bishop of Rome) is the authority for the Roman Catholic Church, but other sects look to other authorities. Orthodox communities look to patriarchs and emphasize doctrinal agreement and traditional practice. Protestant communities focus on individual conscience. The Roman Catholic and Protestant churches are often referred to as the Western Church, while the Orthodox churches may also be called the Eastern Church. All three main branches of Christianity acknowledge the authority of Christian scriptures, a compilation of writings assembled into a document called the Bible. Methods of biblical interpretation vary among the different Christian sects.

Michael, the leader of the heavenly host of angels, is an important figure in the Christian, Jewish, and Muslim religious traditions; he even has a counterpart among the Babylonian and Persian angels. The Jews think of Michael as the special guardian of Israel. In Christianity, it is Michael who will sound the last trumpet on Judgment Day and escort the souls of the faithful departed into the presence of God. Sometimes he is represented as the only archangel, and sometimes as the head of a fraternity of archangels that includes Gabriel, Raphael, and others.

The veneration of St. Michael the Archangel dates back to very early times. He was the patron saint of the sick among the early Christians, and a church bearing his name existed in fourth-century Constantinople (for which reason the Eastern Church celebrates the Feast of St. Michael on November 8). In the fifth century, a basilica was dedicated to St. Michael on September 29 in the Via Salaria, about six miles from Rome. His feast day, originally celebrated only at this church, gradually spread to a number of holy places under his patronage. By the Middle Ages, the archangel Michael was widely revered throughout the Christian world, including Russia. He became even more popular after supposedly appearing in a vision on the top of Monte Gargano in Apulia, southern Italy, during the reign of Pope Gelasius I in the late fifth century. It is probably because of this that he came to be regarded as the angel of mountains. Many of the churches and chapels dedicated to him were erected on the tops of hills or mountains in western Europe. The French monastery known as Mont-Saint-Michel, located off the Normandy coast, is probably the most famous. Up until the seventeenth century, the red velvet buckler worn by Michael in his fight against Satan was displayed there (see DRAGON ).

In England, where it is known as Michaelmas, St. Michael's Day was one of the four "quarter days" on which rents were due and contracts affecting houses and property were assumed or terminated. It is also associated with the opening of the fall term at public schools and universities. Michaelmas

In the mountains of Norway, Mikkelsmesse is the time of year when cows and goats are herded down from the mountain pastures to the valley farms. Dancing, singing, and feasting generally follow.



Arriving as it did at the end of the harvest season, St. Michael's Day was a natural time to overindulge in eating and drinking. Perhaps to give people something to blame for the way they felt the next morning, a legend developed that blackberries were poisoned on the eve of this day because Satan stepped on them. Anyone who felt ill after a St. Michael's Day feast could always lay the blame on eating the poisoned berries.

In some places it is still considered very unlucky to eat blackberries on or after Michaelmas because the devil spits on them to get even with St. Michael, who was responsible for getting him thrown out of heaven (see DRAGON ).


Perhaps the best-known story concerning St. Michael the archangel comes from the Book of Revelation. There was a war in heaven during which Michael and the other angels fought against a dragon with seven heads, also known as Satan or the devil. Michael won, and the dragon was cast out, along with the angels who had fought beside him.

In Renaissance paintings, St. Michael is often shown dressed as a warrior, with wings on his shoulders and a dragon under his foot, symbolic of his victory over the powers of evil and darkness.


In rural England, where Michaelmas was the day on which tenant farmers paid their rents, it was customary to include in the payment "one goose fit for the lord's dinner." Although there is no question that geese were plentiful at this time of year, the goose has always played an important role in folklore and mythology. There were sacred geese in the Greek temples, and the geese from the Roman temple of Juno are credited with saving Rome from the invasion of the Gauls in the fourth century B . C . E . The Chinese, the Hindus, and the North American Indians also held the goose in high regard.

The custom of bringing a goose to the landlord at Michaelmas in hopes of making him more lenient gave rise to the superstition that eating goose on this day will prevent worries about money for an entire year. Goose is also eaten in Ireland on St. Michael's Day, supposedly as an act of gratitude for a miracle of St. Patrick's that was performed with the help of the archangel. Queen Elizabeth I is said to have been eating her Michaelmas goose when she received the good news about the defeat of the Spanish Armada.


The archangel Michael is frequently shown carrying a pair of scales, a symbol of his responsibility for "weighing" souls after they are released from death.


Bellenir, Karen. Religious Holidays and Calendars. 3rd ed. Detroit: Omnigraphics, 2004. Brewster, H. Pomeroy. Saints and Festivals of the Christian Church. 1904. Reprint. Detroit: Omnigraphics, 1990. Chambers, Robert. The Book of Days. 2 vols. 1862-64. Reprint. Detroit: Omnigraphics, 1990. Christianson, Stephen G., and Jane M. Hatch. The American Book of Days. 4th ed. New York: H.W. Wilson, 2000. Dunkling, Leslie. A Dictionary of Days. New York: Facts on File, 1988. Harper, Howard V. Days and Customs of All Faiths. 1957. Reprint. Detroit: Omnigraphics, 1990. Henderson, Helene, ed. Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary. 3rd ed. Detroit: Omnigraphics, 2005. Leach, Maria, ed. Funk & Wagnalls Standard Dictionary of Folklore, Mythology & Leg- end. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1984. MacDonald, Margaret R., ed. The Folklore of World Holidays. Detroit: Gale Research, 1992. Urlin, Ethel L. Festivals, Holy Days, and Saints' Days. 1915. Reprint. Detroit: Omnigraphics, 1992.


New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia www.newadvent.org/cathen/10275b.htm Michaelmas
Holiday Symbols and Customs, 4th ed. © Omnigraphics, Inc. 2009


September 29 in the West; November 8 in the East
The Feast of the Archangel Michael, or the Day of St. Michael and All Angels, is a traditional feast day in the Roman Catholic, Anglican Communion, and Orthodox churches. The cult of St. Michael, traditionally regarded as the leader of the heavenly host of angels, probably originated in the East, then spread to the West by the fifth century. The Roman Catholic feast honors the archangels Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, while in the East and the Anglican communion, Michael and all the angels are honored.
Churches dedicated to Michael can be found in Asia and throughout coastal Europe, usually in places where Michael is reputed to have saved the community from the threat of a monster or giant. The ninth-century abbey Mont St. Michel, off the coast of Normandy, France, once held the shield worn by Michael in his fight against the dragon.
There is an old saying that if you eat goose on Michaelmas you won't have to worry about money for a year. When tenants paid their rent on this day ( see Quarter Days), it was customary to include "one goose fit for the lord's dinner." Feasting on goose dinners is still part of the Michaelmas tradition, particularly in Ireland.
BkDays-1864, vol. II, p. 387
BkFest-1937, p. 153
DaysCustFaith-1957, p. 242
DictFolkMyth-1984, pp. 504, 716
FestSaintDays-1915, p. 180
FestWestEur-1958, p. 155
FolkWrldHol-1999, p. 571
OxYear-1999, pp. 391, 392, 410
RelHolCal-2004, p. 101
SaintFestCh-1904, p. 428

Celebrated in: Norway

Michaelmas (Norway)
September 29
In Norway, Mikkelsmesse is the time of year when cows and goats are herded down from the mountain farms, or saeters, to the valley homesteads. Almost all farms of any importance have saeters, which are similar to summer camps and are normally operated by women. Cattle and other animals are put out to pasture in the lush mountain meadows, and, traditionally, the girls—usually the eldest daughters of the family—milk and tend the animals and make butter, goat's cheese, and other dairy products for sale or for use on the farms throughout the winter. When the girls return to their family homes in late September with their tubs of butter and well-fed animals wearing garlands of flowers, it is an occasion for dancing, singing, and feasting.
FestWestEur-1958, p. 155

Celebrated in: Norway

Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary, Fourth Edition. © 2010 by Omnigraphics, Inc.


daisy traditional symbol of farewell. [Flower Symbolism: Jobes, 407]
Allusions—Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.