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Chasing the Wild Goose

"To Pastures New" Jamie Guthrie (June 1859 – 1930)

Goose Day (Michaelmas)

Sep 29

Other Scottish Country Dances for this Day

Today's Musings, History & Folklore

"Nay, if thy wits run the wild-goose chase, I have done, for thou hast more of the wild-goose in one of thy wits than, I am sure, I have in my whole five."

~ Mercutio, Romeo and Juliet, Act II, Scene IV

Been on a "wild goose chase" lately? The origin of this phrase stems back to the 1500s from a popular type of horse race in which riders had to follow a lead rider through an unpredictable course, generating formations reminiscent of geese flying in formation. Goose Day is linked to Michaelmas by a food legend involving Elizabeth I. Supposedly, on the Michaelmas of 1588, Elizabeth was dining on some roast goose, one her favourite meals, when she was brought news of England's victory over the Spanish Armada. Ecstatic, the Queen decreed that goose should be eaten on the holiday every year. If chasing or procuring a goose for Michaelmas seems like a bit too much effort, there's always goose-watching or the making of St. Michael's Bannocks (Struan Micheil). This traditional Scottish recipe bread was typically made from all the different grains of the harvest. The original formula, according to an old hymn, "The Blessing of The Struan," includes a number of interesting and questionable ingredients such as dandelion, smooth garlic, carle-doddies (ribwort plantain) and cail peach, foxglove (not recommended!) , and marigold! Traditional recipe (without flowers) included!

Chasing the Wild Goose

September 29th is Michaelmas, also sometimes known as Goose Day.  


Some traditional foods and ritruals associated with the feast of St. Michael and the Archangels are the bringing in of carrots, cooking of a roast goose, St. Michael's Struan (also known as St. Michael's Bannocks or Cakes), and picking of blackberries.

The custom of baking a special bread or cake, called Struan Micheil, St Michael's bannock, or Michaelmas Bannock on the eve of the Feast of Saint Michael the Archangel is thought to have originated in the Hebrides.

The bread was made from equal parts of barley, oats, and rye without using any metal implements. 

Strùthan or struan is traditionally made of a mixture of meal from cereals grown on the land, such as oats barley and rye, and moistened with ewes milk.  The struan is baked by the eldest daughter under close supervision of her mother.  If the cake broke in the turning it was a token of bad luck.  A broken struan is never eaten.​  For a traditional recipe said to come from the Hebrides, try here.

Some other customs associated with The Eve of St Michael are the bringing in the carrots and the stealing the horses.

The Sunday before Michaelmas the women would harvest carrots while saying a rhyme.  It was considered particularly lucky to pull up a two pronged carrot.

In the meantime, whether or not goose is on the menu, you can chase the wild goose with a Scottish Country Dance using the wild geese formation, or fly along with them in a spectacular video, just chase the goose below with a click.

Chasing the Wild Goose

Click the dance cribs or description below to link to a printable version of the dance!

Chasing the Wild Goose

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WELCOME TO An Entertainment Site for Scottish Country Dancers - Enjoy the curated selection of theme-related dances for celebrations and holidays, or find a dance associated with a special calendar day, or EVEN your own birthday!  

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