Carrots – Scotlands most important food
If someone were to ask you a question about naming the most important Scottish foods – one would rattle off; haggis, turnips (neeps) and tatties (potatoes), herring, and then if anyone knew about Scotlands hedgerows and wet agricultural lands –
blackberries, apples and probably oats and barley – BUT – what IF we have it all totally wrong ????
What If CARROTS are one of the most essential foods to the Scottish and Gaelic heartland ? and somehow we have either forgotten about this fact or Carrots have literally gone ‘underground’ as a sacred Scottish food. Carrots are part of the ancient fertility religion in Celtic lands and Gaelic Scotland – part of the Old Ways that have been partly obscured and thinly veiled with the Christian ideology of St Columba..
The Carmina Gadelica is a collection of prayers, hymns, charms, incantations, blessings, runes, and other literary-folkloric poems and songs collected and translated by amateur folklorist Alexander Carmichael (1832–1912) in the Gaelic-speaking regions of Scotland between 1855 and 1910.
St Michael is spoken of as ‘brian Michael,’ god Michael, probably secretly a renaming of the old Celtic (Druidic) Gods e.g. Dagdha or Lugh.
In Christian teaching the Angels are not to be worshipped as gods, so its very likely that in the same Celtic pantheon as Brigid, Bride, Brigitte one would find references to the old gods of Celtia veiled with Christian ideas.
Certainly the Archangel Michael is a warrior prince and his battle with Lucifer, Samael etc in the Fall of Angels mentioned in The Antiquities of the Jews by Josephus Flavius marks him out to be the general of the Host of Heaven.
It is this militarism which is mixed into and confused with the History of the Celts with their Book of Invasions and the legends of the giants – the Tuatha De Dannan and their magical weapons who came to these shores having been dispossessed and fallen from elsewhere.
Whereas the Anunnaki/ De Dannan may have been quick to assume the title of god, e.g. Angus Og, certainly the Archangel Michael was not on the same side as the fallen giants and their progeny mentioned in the Book of Enoch.
Also note the fertility rituals and practises connected with St Michaels day on the 29th of September and the harvesting of Carrots – and their secret meanings !!
Are these beliefs therefore really all about the Archangel Michael who would never claim to be a god ?
Nor would St Michael regard Scottish fertility rituals with carrots as substance by which the souls of mankind can achieve the path to Heaven.
Forget Haggis, Neeps and Tatties – its Scottish Carrots that are central to the Scottish cycle of birth, growth and death and just as Burns night gave praise to the Haggis on January the 25th it was St Michaels Day on September the 29th when the power of Carrots manifests in Scotland.
Praises to this pseudo-Michael quoted from the Carmina Gadelica collection.
Thou wert the warrior of courage
Going on the journey of prophecy,
Thou wouldst not travel on a cripple,
Thou didst take the steed of the god Michael,
He was without bit in his mouth,
Thou didst ride him on the wing,
Thou didst leap over the knowledge of Nature.
St Michael is the Neptune of the Gael. He is the patron saint of the sea, and of maritime lands, of boats and boatmen, of horses and horsemen throughout the West. As patron saint of the sea St Michael had temples dedicated to him round the coast wherever Celts were situated. Examples of these are Mount St Michael in Brittany and in Cornwall, and Aird Michael in South and in North List, and elsewhere. Probably Milton had this phase of St Michael’s character in view. As patron saint of the land St Michael is represented riding a milk-white steed, a three-pronged spear in his right hand and a three-cornered shield in his left. The shield is inscribed ‘Quis ut Deus,’ a literal translation of the Hebrew Mi-cha-el. Britannia is substituted for the archangel on sea and St George on land.
On the 29th of September a festival in honour of St Michael is held throughout the Western Coasts and Isles. This is much the most imposing pageant and much the most popular demonstration of the Celtic year. Many causes conduce to this–causes which move the minds and the hearts of the people to their utmost tension. To the young the Day is a day of promise, to the old a day of fulfilment, to the aged a day of retrospect. It is a day when pagan cult and Christian doctrine meet and mingle like the lights and shadows on their own Highland hills.
The Eve of St Michael is the eve of bringing in the carrots, of baking the struan,’ of killing the lamb, of stealing the horses. The Day of St Michael is the Day of the early mass, the day of the sacrificial Iamb, the day of the oblation ‘struan,’ the day of the distribution of the Iamb, the day of the distribution of the ‘struan,’ the day of the pilgrimage to the burial-ground of their fathers, the day of the burial-ground service, the day of the burial-ground circuiting, the day of giving and receiving the carrots with their wishes and acknowledgments, and the day of the ‘oda’–the athletics of the men and the racing of the horses And the Night of Michael is the night of the dance and the song, of the merry-making, of the love-making, and of the love-gifts.
Several weeks previously the people begin to speak of St Michael’s Day, and to prepare for St Michael’s Festival. ‘Those concerned count whose turn it will be to guard the crops on St Michael’s Day and to circuit the townland on St Michael’s Night. The young men upon whom these duties fall arrange with old men to take their place on these occasions. As the time approaches the interest intensifies, culminating among the old in much bustle, and among the young in keen excitement.
Three plants which the people call carrots grow in Gist–the ‘daucus carota,’ the ‘daucus maritimus,’ and the ‘conium.’ ‘The ‘daucus carota’ is the original of the cultivated carrot. The ‘daucus maritimus is a long slender carrot, much like the parsnip in appearance and in flavour, and is rare in the British Isles. The ‘corium,’ hemlock, resembles the carrot, for which it is occasionally mistaken. It is hard, acrid, and poisonous.
Some days before the festival of St Michael the women and girls go to the fields and plains of the townland to procure carrots. The afternoon of the Sunday immediately preceding St Michael’s Day is specially devoted to this purpose, and on this account is known as ‘Domhnach Curran’–Carrot Sunday. When the soil is soft and friable, the carrots can be pulled out of the ground without digging. When, however, the soil is hard, a space is dug to give the hand access to the root. This space is made in the form of an equal-sided triangle, technically called ‘torcan,’ diminutive of ‘tore,’ a cleft. The instrument used is a small mattock of three prongs, called ‘tri-meurach,’ three-fingered, ‘sliopag.’ ‘sliobhag.’ The three-sided ‘torcan’ is meant to typify the three-sided shield, and the three-fingered ‘sliopag,’ the trident of St Michael, and possibly each to symbolise the Trinity. The many brightly-clad figures moving to and fro, in and out, like the figures in a kaleidoscope, are singularly pretty and picturesque. Each woman intones a rune to her own tune and time irrespective of those around her. The following fragment was intoned to me in a soft, subdued voice by a woman who had gathered carrots eighty years previously:–
Cleft fruitful, fruitful, fruitful,
Joy of carrots surpassing upon me,
Michael the brave endowing me,
Bride the fair be aiding me.
Progeny pre-eminent over every progeny,
Progeny on my womb,
Progeny pre-eminent over every progeny,
Progeny on my progeny.
Should a woman find a forked carrot, she breaks out into a more exultant strain that brings her neighbours round to see and to admire her luck,
Fork joyful, joyful, joyful,
Fork of great carrot to me,
Endowment of carrot surpassing upon me,
Joy of great carrot to me.
There is much rivalry among the women who shall have most and best carrots. They carry the carrots in a bag slung from the waist, called ‘crioslachan,’ little girdle, from ‘crios,’ a girdle. When the ‘earrasaid’ was worn, the carrots were carried in its ample folds. The women wash the carrots and tie them up in small bunches, each of which contains a ‘glac,’ handful, The bunches are tied with three-ply thread, generally scarlet, and put in pits near the houses and covered with sand till required.