According to an old legend, blackberries should not be picked after this date. This is because, so folklore goes, Satan was banished from Heaven on this day, fell into a blackberry bush and cursed the brambles as he fell into them. Michaelmas, the Feast of St Michael the Archangel (also the Feast of SS Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael or the Feast of Michael and All Angels) is a day in the Christian calendar which occurs on 29 September. Because it falls near the equinox, it is associated with the beginning of autumn and the shortening of days.
In ancient Ireland, it was the Anglo-Normans and the establishment of their customs that gave Michelmas its place on the Irish calendar. In several towns, Michaelmas was the day to elect a mayor, tradition says that the Mayor of Dublin could not be sworn in until after his counterpart in Drogheda. Where this custom came from, no one seems to know. In Waterford, they would hold a procession to the beach and cast an effigy of St. Michael into the sea as a symbolic protest against the loss of earnings.
There are traditionally four “quarter days” in a year (Lady Day (25th March), Midsummer (24th June), Michaelmas (29th September) and Christmas (25th December)). They are spaced three months apart, on religious festivals, usually close to the solstices or equinoxes. They were the four dates on which servants were hired, rents due or leases begun. It used to be said that harvest had to be completed by Michaelmas, almost like the marking of the end of the productive season and the beginning of the new cycle of farming. It was the time at which new servants were hired or land was exchanged and debts were paid. This is how it came to be for Michaelmas to be the time for electing magistrates and also the beginning of legal and university terms.
St Michael is one of the principal angelic warriors, protector against the dark of the night and the Archangel who fought against Satan and his evil angels. As Michaelmas is the time that the darker nights and colder days begin – the edge into winter – the celebration of Michaelmas is associated with encouraging protection during these dark months. It was believed that negative forces were stronger in darkness and so families would require stronger defences during the later months of the year.