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November 2006 Calendar Asterisks appear next to saintsí names - see Celebrating Saints

November 1 All Saints (All Hallows)

If ducks do slide at Hollantide,
At Christmas they will swim;
If ducks do swim at Hollantide,
At Christmas they will slide.

On allhallow-day cut a chip from the beech tree;
If it be dry the winter will prove warm.

All the gods of the world were worshipped on this day from sunrise to sunset, goes an Irish saying. [Kightly] The Celtic Coligny calendar designates these three nights as the end of summer (which begins on Beltane, May 1st), the time when flocks are moved to the winter pastures, the beginning of the dark half of the year. The time of the last harvest, of apples and nuts, which are used for divination. The dead are honored with offerings of food: soul cakes in England, fava beans in Italy. In Mexico, offerings include bread, fruit, sweets, wax candles, flowers, liquors, cigarettes, mole, pulque, tamales. The candles burning in pumpkins, gourds or turnips light the way for the dead to return.

The Catholic feast day of All Saints was celebrated on the Sunday after Pentecost, until 609 or 610, when Pope Boniface dedicated the Pantheon to Saint Mary and martyrs on May 18th and that became the new date. This is interesting as there are other feasts of the dead in May, including the Roman Lemuria (May 9) and Memorial Day was long associated with the dead also. The date of November 1st was established in the eighth and ninth centuries.

The Irish and Scotch call this date Samhain and Samhuin and honor the dead by lighting bonfires. This is seen as the start of the dark half of the year, and since the Celts began their days at dusk, it is thus the start of the new year. In Ireland, this day is known as the feast of Moingfhionn, a demoness whose name means Whitehair, perhaps a representative of the coming winter and the old age of the year.

M. Martin, writing in 1716, tells of a curious custom of the inhabitants of one of the islands off Lewis, which took place on this day. All of the inhabitants came together at the church, bringing with them a peck of malt, to brew ale. At night, one man then waded into the sea with a cup of this ale and offered it to a sea-god addressed as Shorrey, asking for his blessings upon their crops. Afterwards they went into the church and watched a single candle burning, until at a signal, the candle was put out and all adjourned to the fields where they drank the rest of the ale and sang and danced. It was many years, according to M. Martin, before the ministers in Lewis "could persuade the vulgar Natives to abandon this ridiculous piece of Superstition."

Blackburn, Bonnie & Leofranc Holford-Strevens, The Oxford Companion to the Year, Oxford University Press 1999
Kightly, Charles,
The Perpetual Almanack of Folklore, Thames and Hudson 1987

November 1 Pomona
The feast day of a Roman goddess whose name means fruit. She is associated with all fruits, especially those that can be preserved, particularly apples, which are important symbols at this time of the year. Among the last fruits to be harvested, they are used in drinks (wassail, cider) and divination (see Halloween), and are emblems of both love and death.

November 1 and 2
According to the Pennsylvania Dutch, the weather on these two days predicts the weather for the next six weeks. If the weather is fine, there will be six more weeks of sun. But if cold and unpleasant, winter will begin.

Yoder, Don, Groundhog's Day

Maypole DanceAll Souls

November 2 All Souls

Weather Report, November 2
All Souls', blustery and chill. I hear them before I see them, six lines scribbling across the white sky. I look up at the tiny crosses beating above me. The pain is new each year, and I'm surprised, even though I expect it the sudden cold, the geese passing over.
From Dakota by Kathleen Norris

I love Kathleen Norris' simple but striking evocation of the mood of November 2nd. The melancholy of the geese passing overhead, warns of the arrival of winter and resonates with the image of the Wild Hunt, the horde of wandering souls that flew through the winter night sky, sometimes disguised as swans or wild geese or the wind. In Scandinavia, they were led by Odin, in England by Herne the Hunter, but in earlier times, in the Mediterranean they were led by goddesses.

The Wild Horde itself was a complex phenomenon whose origins lose themselves partly in the prehistoric past. There was the assembly of ghosts under the leadership of a female divinity, Hecate or Artemis in ancient Greece, Diana or Herodias, the mother of Salome, in the Latin West. This gathering of feminine spirits which later swelled into the crowd of evil hags at the witch sabbath was well known to the theologians of the first millenium who in vain flung their anathema against it…

As usual the effort was in vain. For as late as 1484 the Austrian Sephanius Lanzkranna reports in his 'hymmelstrasse' about the exploits of the Demon Dyana, whom he identifies with the local demons Frawe Percht and Frawe Holt. Herodias herself rides to the present day with the Wild Horde in large parts of Italy and in the Eastern Alps…Ritual performances meant to embody ghosts of the defunct--a feature not mentioned by writers of the first millenium--have survived over a large part of the eastern Alps under the name of Perchta, a feminine demon in whom the spirit of the Carnival is incarnated. [Bernheimer]

Bernheimer points out that the masculine Wild Horde, led by Odin, Holler, Gwyn ap Nudd, etc. is a more or less Teutonic phenomenon while the feminine one seems to be of Mediterranean origin. It may be the northern male-led horde grew out of the Southern female-led one.

In his book, Ecstasies, in which he explores the imagery of the witches' sabbath, Carlos Ginzburg describes evidence for an early shamanic cult, centered around a goddess of abundance and the dead. She was known by many names: Herodiade, Diana, Habondia (Abundance), Richessa and the Good Goddess (Bona Dea whose festival the Romans celebrated on December 1st). Her devotees said they flew with her through the night sky, entering the houses of the rich to feast; Ginzburg suggest these journeys were undertaken in trance.

The Cathars, who developed a unique Christian religion which flourished in Southern France in the 11th and 12th centuries until wiped out as heresy by a Crusade in the 13th century, believed that this was the day when the souls of those who died during the year entered into a place of rest. Before this day, they wandered around the earth, from church to church. Angels chose from this flock those ready to be admitted to the place of rest. The living could influence the selection by saying Masses for the dead, paying off their debts and giving gifts to the poor.

This is similar to the tradition of English tradition of going from house to house, gathering ingredients for soul-cakes. Sometimes these were left out for the poor to eat, sometimes given to the priest to pay for Masses for the souls of the dead, sometimes they were given to those professionals who took on the sins of the dead, as in this passage quoted by Kightly:

In the County of Hereford was an old Custom at Funerals, to hire poor people, who were to take upon them all the Sins of the part deceased. One of them I remember (he was a long, lean, lamentable poor rascal). The manner was that when a Corpse was brought out of the house and laid on the Bier; a Loaf of bread was brought out and delivered to the Sin-eater over the corps, as also a Mazer-bowl full of beer, which he was to drink up, and sixpence in money, in consideration whereof he took upon him all the Sins of the Defunct, and freed him (or her) from Walking after they were dead.
John Aubrey, Remains of Gentilism 168

During the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church tried to replace the idea of ghosts wandering around the night sky with that of souls who went straight to Heaven, Hell or Purgatory upon death and thus could not be contacted by those spiritual practitioners whose role it was to pass along messages from one world to another.

With this development, the link was broken between people and their ancestors, who could no longer be prayed to or invited to return to provide advice. The dead saints replaced the ancestors as the subject of prayers and other-worldly assistance. The only dead still presumed to have contact with the living were evil spirits who still roamed the earth. They were not the sort you wanted to encounter on a dark night, thus the association of All Hallow's Eve with ghosts and terror.

Much of this information appeared first in "The Sun Moon Calendar" by Waverly Fitzgerald in The Beltane Papers, Issue #11. For more information about The Beltane Papers, see thebeltanepapers.net. For a fascinating look at medieval life and the Cathars in particular, read Montaillou by LeRoy Ladurie, a portrait of life in one small village extracted from Inquisition trial documents.

Bernheimer, Richard,
Wild Men of the Middle Ages: A Study in Art, Sentiment and Demonology, Octagon 1970
Ginzburg, Carlos (translated by Raymond Rosenthal),
Ecstasies: Deciphering the Witches' Sabbath, Pantheon 1991
Kightly, Charles,
The Perpetual Almanack of Folklore, Thames and Hudson 1987
Ladurie, Roy (translated by Barbara Bray),
Montaillou, George Braziller 1978
Norris, Kathleen,
Dakota: A Spiritual Geography, Houghton Mifflin 1993.Spicer, Dorothy Gladys, Yearbook of English Festivals, NY:HW Wilson & Company 1954

November 2 Daylight Savings Time ends
Click here for an interesting article on the effects of Daylight Savings Time.

November 2 Fish Harvest Festival
In an ancient tradition established by the Fishmongers' Company which goes back to the time of Henry II, people bring 39 different kinds of fish, representing the 39 different articles of religion, to St Dunstan's-in-the-East, in London's Lower Thames Street to be blessed on the Sunday nearest All Souls' Day.  

Spicer, Dorothy Gladys, Yearbook of English Festivals, NY:HW Wilson & Company 1954 

November 3 St Hubert
St. Hubert was a worldly young Belgian nobleman who liked to hunt. One day while engaged in his favorite pursuit, he met a stag in the forest with a shining cross between its antlers. He immediately converted and became the patron of dogs and the chase. He is also invoked against rabies.

Hunting season opens on his day. Belgians bring specially prepared breads to a Mass held in his honor. The blessed bread is taken home, where a sacred sign is made over it, and it is then eaten. Pieces are fed to dogs, horses and other animals to protect them from rabies. St. Hubert seems to have inherited some customs and qualities associated with Odin and other male divinities who led the hunt and oversaw the activities of the dead.

A good day to honor your canine friends

November 3 St Martin de Porres
This Catholic saint was the son of a Spanish knight and a Panamanian woman of Indian or Negro descent. He was trained as a barber but became a Dominican monk at the age of 15. He was known for his tending of the poor and sick, especially Negro slaves, and abandoned dogs and cats. He is the patron saint of racial harmony, as well as the patron saint of Italian hairdressers and barbers.

A good day to get your hair cut (by an Italian!) or do something that promotes racial harmony.

Blackburn, Bonnie & Leofranc Holford-Strevens, The Oxford Companion to the Year, Oxford University Press 1999

November 3 Five Mountain Spirits 
The sixth day of the tenth Chinese lunar month honors the Five Mountain Spirits. 

Blackburn, Bonnie & Leofranc Holford-Strevens, Oxford Companion to the Year, Oxford University Press 1999 

November 4 Election Day

November 5 Guy Fawkes Day
The bonfires of Celtic Samhain found a new secular and political meaning in the 17th century when Parliament proclaimed a celebration to honor the foiling of a Popish plot to blow up Parliament contrived by the Catholic Guy Fawkes who was hanged in 1606. Like the American 4th of July (a secular summer solstice), this celebration with its bonfires, fireworks and burning of an effigy reflects the symbols of Samhain.

In earlier times, Orion first appeared in the northern sky at about this time (now he shows up later, in December). Can it be that he represents the male god associated with hunting and death?

In England, youngsters dress up and go around begging for wood for the bonfire and pennies for "the Guy," a custom, similar to that of a-souling, both precursors of the American custom of trick-or-treating. They chant verses like:

Guy, guy, guy
Poke him in the eye,
Put him on the bonfire,
And there let him die.

Spicer lists bonfires, parkin (a cake made from oatmeal, molasses and ginger) and treacle (toffee) as the three essential elements of Guy Fawkes day for British youngsters. So essential is the parkin that in some places, November 5 is called Parkin Day.

Elizabeth Goudge evokes the danger and drama of Guy Fawkes as it was celebrated on the island of Guernsey around the turn of the century, during the Foresters Ride when men roamed in gangs after dark, riding from house to house on horseback, carrying flaming torches and begging for (or demanding) contributions:

…the splendour and terror of their passing was a grand, almost elemental thing, sweeping all before it, like one of the great autumn storms from the sea…. The steady approach of galloping horses in the dark, gunshots and men shouting, clattering hooves on the cobbles and hard fists battering on the door. Then a man's voice shouting: "Open M'sieur! Open, M'dame! Des sous! Des sous!" The opening of the door and the sight of plunging horses, blazing torches and white teeth grinning in blackened faces. Then shouts and laughter and the chink of coins passing from hand to hand, and the light flashing and winking upon gay ribbons and the bright tankards of ale handed up to refresh the thirsty. Then a few shouted farewells, a few more gunshots, and galloping hoots dying away in the darkness.

Elizabeth Goudge, Make-Believe

November 6 St Leonard's Ride
In Bavaria, people dress up in native costume and decorate their horses in preparation for a festive procession in honor of St Leonard, the patron of cattle. They march with their cattle in the procession, led by white horses, while singing and cracking whips. It is possible this date was once associated with a cattle sacrifice.

St Leonard is also the patron of women in childbirth, because it was said that when the wife of the King went into labor suddenly while hunting in the woods, St Leonard came out of his hermit's cell to pray for her and she was safely delivered. He is also the patron of prisoners, and when invoked by those who have been unjustly imprisoned, he brings about their freedom.

Blackburn, Bonnie and Leofranc Holford-Strevens, Oxford Companion to the Year, Oxford University Press, 1999
Spicer, Gladys Dorothy,
The Book of Festivals, The Womans Press 1937


November 8 St Michael and All Angels
This Orthodox holiday honors Michael and Gabriel in particular, as angels of death. In Thrace, on the eve of the holiday, people hid their shoes in hopes that Michael would overlook their existence. According to an Albanian story, Michael once gave in to the pleas of a family and did not carry off the soul he had been sent to fetch. God deafened him with a thunderbolt so he would never be swayed by prayers again.

In Ethiopia, people travel to churches that bear St. Michael's name, where the Michael tabot (holy ark) is carried out of the church in a ceremony which includes chanting and dancing. People also bathe in hot springs and drink holy water that has been blessed in Michael's name.

See his image and learn more about St. Michael at this website:

Blackburn, Bonnie and Leofranc Holford-Strevens, Oxford Companion to the Year, Oxford University Press, 1999
Levine, Donald N,
Wax and Gold: Tradition and Innovation in Ethiopian Culture, University of Chicago Press 1965

November 10 Weather Prognostication
If the 10. day be cloudy, it denunciates a wet; if dry, a sharp winter. (Stevenson)

Blackburn, Bonnie and Leofranc Holford-Strevens, Oxford Companion to the Year, Oxford University Press, 1999

November 10 Goddess of Reason
As part of their effort to develop a rational and thoroughly secular calendar, the French Revolutionaries instituted a festival honoring the Goddess of Reason, whose part was played by a beautiful young woman dressed in a white gown, a blue mantle and a red Phrygian cap. She was carried in procession into Notre Dame and received her worshippers crowned with oak leaves.

November 10 St Martin's Eve
St. Martin, like St. Nicholas, brings gifts to children, entering homes via the chimney. In Belgium, children are told to stand with their faces to the wall and the saint throws apples and nuts into the room. In Bruges, and other places, children march carrying lighted paper lanterns, singing St. Martin songs and asking for gifts of nuts and apples. In the Netherlands, children build bonfires in his honor. After singing and dancing around them, they go from house to house, carrying lighted Chinese lanterns and candles stuck inside turnips, singing about how St. Martin needs wood for a fire because he's cold. They use the pennies they receive to buy treats. In Estonia, children wear masks and costumes as they go from door to door, chanting, "Please let us in because Mardi's fingers and toes are cold." If invited in, they are rewarded with apples, nuts, cookies and raising bread.

In Dusseldorf, on the eve of his feast, St. Martin leads a procession of children, some carrying lighted pumpkins, through the streets at night, rites which probably originated as "an early Thanksgiving feast in honor of Freya," says Spicer. St. Martin rides a white horse like Frey and Odin.

In Poland, people say that snowflakes signal the arrival of St. Martin on his white horse. Little horseshoe-shaped cookies are eaten in his honor. In Germany children are given special breads (Martinsmannchen) shaped like a man holding a clay pipe. Italians eat a buttery cookie shaped like the saint on horseback. These traditions suggest an ancient merging in folk consciousness with Odin and before him the Horned God who rules the winter months, the season of death and the hunt.

In Ireland, it was considered unlucky to travel on St. Martin's Eve or St. Martin's Day. Women were also not allowed to spin on this day, a taboo on wheels turning reminiscent of the bans observed on other winter holidays (see St. Catherine November 25). This seems to have been an ominous time in Ireland, perhaps acquiring the qualities of Halloween (November 11 is Old Style Halloween). The blood of newly-killed cocks was applied to door posts. Cloth dipped in the blood was stored in the rafter and used to control bleeding if someone was wounded during the year. In some places, blood was sprinkled in the corners of all the rooms.

In Germany, Martinmas fires were lit, in areas along the Rhine and the Moselle. By dancing around these fires, you could rid yourself of character defects and atone for mistakes.

O'Farrell, Padraic, Superstitions of the Irish Country People, Cork & Dublin: Mercier Press 1982
Russ, Jennifer M, German Festivals and Customs, Owald Wolff 1982
Spicer, Gladys Dorothy, The Book of Festivals, The Womans Press 1937

November 11 Martinmas
If there is hard weather now, winter will be mild. But more common is a spell of fine weather, called "St. Martin's Little Summer." In fact, l'estate di San Martino is the Italian expression for an Indian summer.

Traditionally this is the day for slaughtering the animals that will not be carried through the winter, typically geese or pigs, culminating in a feast of fresh meat. In fact, there is a proverb that says: His Martinmas will come, as it does to every hog.

November 11 was once a sort of new year, when schools and parliament opened, municipal elections were held, leases signed and farm contracts renewed. Perhaps this explains why the American Election Day falls early in November and the Lord Mayor is sworn in on November 9th in London.

Italians celebrate San Martino in ways similar to American Halloween. In Calabria, boys used to go out banging old tambourines and ringing cowbells. In some places, they did a lot of drinking and put on masks. Pietro Toschi, the early 20th century anthropologist, remembered boys sneaking out to draw cuckold's horns on houses. In Abruzzo, it was the custom to scoop out a pumpkin, light a candle inside, plant two red horns on top and place it outside the door of the man with the most lascivious wife in town.

The French launch their Beaujolais Nouveau on St. Martin's Day, since he is the patron of wine growers, beggars and tavern keepers, because he shared his cloak with a poor drunkard. Eleanor Graham records a British Martinmas saying:

If you raise your glass
At Martinmas
Wine will be yours
Throughout the year.

Geese in the barnyard

The holiday is similar to Thanksgiving with its emphasis on late harvest foods, especially meat dishes, and as an occasion for family reunions (see November 22 as well). In Latvia, people feast on roast goose and sauerkraut. Goose is also the traditional entrée in France and England. In Sweden, the Marten Gas (Martin Goose) feast includes roast goose, stuffed with apples and prunes, sauerkraut, green cabbage and blood soup (made from the wings, blood, neck, heart and liver of the goose, plus dried apples, prunes, ginger, pepper, vinegar, sugar and wine--Helen Farias comments that this sounds like a ritual meal).

In Estonia, turnips (one of the few winter vegetables) are a favorite food, along with viljandi kama, a kind of meal comprised of about 15 different grains and dried vegetables (rye, peas, lima beans, wheat) ground together and mixed with sour milk, sugar and cream. In Sweden the customary food is hash made from the heart and liver of a cow or pig, plus boneless pork and lots of herbs. In the Swiss Jura region, people eat grelatte, an aspic of pigs' trotters, tail, head and ears with knuckle of ham and accompanied by a meat and leek. For Italians the feast incorporates roast turkey, chestnuts and wine. Waverley Root quotes a Venetian saying which translates, "The turkey has a destiny which ends on San Martino's day." In Portugal, St. Martin's feast is roasted chestnuts, red wine and a freshly butchered pig.

St. Martin's emblem is a globe of fire or a goose [Matthews]. Carol Field in her book on Italian cooking mentions the theory of Alfred Cattabiani, an Italian folklorist, who believed that San Martino is like the Celtic New Year and geese are the symbolic messengers to the other world. Domestic geese, sacred and untouchable accompanied pagans and pilgrims to their sanctuaries.

Legend says that St. Martin tried to hide in a flock of geese, because he felt unworthy of being made Bishop of Tours but the geese cackled and gave him away. The goose (or turkey) that is eaten for the feast can also be used as part of a weather prognostication. Once the meat is eaten off, the breast-bone can be examined. If it's fair and clear, winter is likely to be cold and rigid and full of hard frosts. But if it is thick and dark, the winter will be full of snow, rain and sleet, but warmer in temperature.

Blackburn, Bonnie and Leofranc Holford-Strevens, Oxford Companion to the Year, Oxford University Press, 1999
Cutileiro, Jose,
A Portugese Rural Society, Clarendon 1971
Farias, Helen and Anna Wulfsong, "Festal Foods: Samhain,"
The Beltane Papers, Issue #8, 1995
Field, Carol
, Celebrating Italy, Morrow 1990
Graham, Eleanor,
Happy Holidays, Dutton 1933
Matthews, Caitlin,
Celtic Book of Days, Destiny Books 1995
Root, Waverley,
The Food of Italy, Vintage 1992

November 11 St Mennas
There are two Saints named Mennas, one an Egyptian camel driver who converted to Christianity and was killed during third century during the persecution under Diocletian. Pilgrims visited his shrine, at Karm Abu Mina, southwest of Alexandria, and brought away little terracotta bottles of holy water which have been found in all countries bordering the Mediterranean (according toAttwater). The other St Menas is a Greek who became a hermit in the Abruzzi and died in the sixth century.

St Mennas, like St Anthony, has the ability to find lost and stolen objects. Shepherds invoke him for help finding lost sheep. Shepherd's wives don't use scissors on this day but wind a thread around them as a charm to stop up the mouth of the wolf. The same action also stops the mouth of the village gossip.

A Greek proverb has winter speak: "I send word of my coming on St Mennas' Day and I arrive on St. Philip's Day." ." [I cannot identify this St. Philip although there is a Saint Philip canonized by the Russian Orthodox church whose feast day is January 9th.]

Attwater, Donald,
The Penguin Dictionary of Saints, Penguin Books 1983


November 12 Hollantide
November 12th would be the date of Halloween in the Old Style calendar. On the Isle of Man, young women stayed up all night, singing songs and playing games to determine their marriage prospects. Each girl dug a hole (apparently at night) and looked in it during the day, hoping to find a worm in it. In another game, each girl was blindfolded and dipped her hand into one of four saucers which contained oatmeal (wealth), salt (widowhood), water (marriage) or nothing (spinsterhood).

Blackburn, Bonnie and Leofranc Holford-Strevens, Oxford Companion to the Year, Oxford University Press, 1999

November 15 Shichi-Go-San
This Japanese festival, whose name means Seven-Five-Three honors three year old children, five-year old sons and seven year old daughters. Parents bring their children, dressed in their best, to a temple or to the special shrine where they were registered at birth. The children receive sacks of pink candy called "thousand-year candy," which brings good luck and a long life. Often the children carry special toy dogs, black-and-white with big eyes and red collars, that are considered good-luck guardians.

Kiyooka, Chiyono Sugimoto, Chiyo's Return, Doubleday 1936, pp. 305-307
Larson, Joan Pross,
Visit with Us in Japan, Prentice Hall 1964, p. 65

November 15 Feronia
Not much is known about this mysterious fire goddess who was honored by the Romans on this day (in earlier times, on the full moon). But her symbolism is found throughout the holiday season--see Saint Catherine (November 25).

November 15 St Leopold
Leopold is the patron saint of Austria where this day is called Goose Day. It was the occasion for a harvest festival with roast goose and the drinking of the new wine.

More November Holidays


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