blackberries


blackberries
   There is a widespread *taboo against picking blackberries after a specified date, sometimes given as Michaelmas (29 September), sometimes as 10 October - which, allowing for the eleven-day calendar shift of 1752, is the same thing. It is said that from then on the berries taste bad because the * Devil has damaged them. Polite versions say he has struck them, kicked them, waved a club over them, or trampled them; less polite ones, that he has spat or pissed on them, which is likely to be the original idea, since blackberries become watery and sour once frost has got at them. The link with Michaelmas is because this feast celebrates the battle in Heaven when Michael the Archangel drove Satan out and hurled him down to earth (Revelations 12); perhaps the joke implies that he landed in a bramble bush, but this is not made explicit.
   Brambles send out long shoots which root themselves at the tip, forming an arch. To crawl under this was a cure for various illnesses - most frequently whooping cough, as Aubrey noted (Remaines, p. 187), but occasionally hernia, boils, or rheumatism. Horses or cattle injured by a *shrew were also dragged under a bramble arch (Opie and Tatem, 1989: 29, 37; Vickery, 1995: 45-9).

A Dictionary of English folklore. . 2014.

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