Michaelmas

Carrot Sunday

Sep 27

Other Scottish Country Dances for this Day

Carrot Sunday
Michaelmas
World Rivers Day
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Today's Musings, History & Folklore

"Fork joyful, joyful, joyful,
Fork of great carrot to me,
Endowment of carrot surpassing upon me,
Joy of great carrot to me."

~ Traditional Incantation on finding a lucky forked carrot

Michaelmas is coming! The afternoon of the Sunday immediately preceding St Michael’s Day on September 29 is known as ‘Domhnach Curran’ – Carrot Sunday. Though modern grocers tend to discard the odd forked carrot, ritual and custom of past times dictated that a split or forked carrot pulled from the ground on Carrot Sunday was a sign of good fortune for women or girls, auguring fertility and prosperousness for the finder's family and her progeny. Carrots are an ancient food crop, of which there are two main types of carrots: Eastern carrots have purple or yellow roots. They bolt easily and are most commonly found where carrots are believed to have first originated (Afghanistan, Russia, Iran, and India). Western carrots are more favored today; they have orange, red or white roots and might have originated in Turkey, as a mutation of the Eastern carrot. Herbalists believed carrot seeds capable of curing kidney stones, pleurisy, and infertility; a poultice of carrots was used to treat animal bites and cancerous lesions. Carrots have also been used in sweet cakes since the medieval period, during which time sweeteners were scarce and expensive, while carrots, which contain more sugar than any other vegetable besides the sugar beet, were much easier to come by for sweet desserts. Although the earliest carrot cake recipe dates to 1927, Carrot Cake became one of the top food fads in the 1970s and appeared on many restaurant dessert menus in the United States. 🥕 🥕 🥕

Michaelmas

Carrots were and are an important food crop in Scotland and have been part of ancient fertility rites which became mixed with early Christian practices. 


The afternoon of the Sunday immediately preceding St Michael’s Day is known as ‘Domhnach Curran’ – Carrot Sunday.  In times past women and girls would go to the fields and plains of the townland to procure carrots.


In the Carmina Gadelica, 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, he writes about the carrots ritual:


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 ‘earasaid’ 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.


***


Carrots have been used in sweet cakes since the medieval period, during which time sweeteners were scarce and expensive, while carrots, which contain more sugar than any other vegetable besides the sugar beet, were much easier to come by for sweet desserts.


The origins of carrot cake are disputed. Recipes for carrot cake occur as early as 1827, but it did not become popular in Great Britain until the rationing during the Second World War made other cake sweeteners scarce.


By the early 1960s, carrot cakes were commonly available in restaurants and cafeterias in the United States.  And though first a novelty item, carrot cake soon became a standard dessert, reaching the top five food fads status in the 1970s. 


For an incredibly delicious gluten-free carrot cake recipe, click the lucky forked carrots!

Michaelmas
Michaelmas

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