Thursday, 11 November 2010

Martinmas

As one correspondent has said, in Britain it's easy to overlook the fact that November 11th is the Feast of St Martin of Tours. For most people, today is Armistice Day, marked again publicly with a two minute silence at 11 a.m. , although it is  perhaps appropriate, given St Martin's own history, that the Great War should have ended on his feast day in 1918.

Traditionally, goose is eaten today. In the middle ages in northern Europe Martinmas was the time of year at which livestock was killed and salted to last over the winter. Oddly, that aspect of Martinmas has a reference in Daphne du Maurier's extraordinary 'Jungian' novel 'The House on the Strand,' which manages to combine hallucinogenic time travel and drug addiction with descriptions of medieval customs, Cornish local history and even a visitation by Bishop Grandisson of Exeter.

In Britain St Martin's name lived on, long after popular devotion to him had been done to death at the reformation, in  the 'St Martin's Summer,' that short period of relatively warm, calm weather we sometimes see here at the end of autumn and, regrettably, now usually referred to by the nonsensical name (for the British anyway) of  'Indian Summer,' which is just about acceptable if you live in New England, I suppose.
But there's no St Martin's Summer for us this year - winds, rain, the whole miserable package - although it is considerably milder than it was yesterday, and is that a patch of blue sky I can see?




Wall relief in  the Church of Saint Martin des Tilleuls, in the Vendee


O God, who seest that by reason of our weakness
we cannot but fall:
mercifully grant; that by the intercession of blessed Martin,
thy Confessor and Bishop,
we may be defended againat all adversities.
Through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord,
who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit,
 ever one God world without end.
        The English Missal

1 comment:

  1. Bishop Grandisson? Is this Fr Hunwicke's blog?

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