Martinmas: Saints, Spiders’ Webs, Pagan Pasts and Prophylactics

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Available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 4.0 International Licence

Publication Details

The Irish Times, [online] https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/heritage/martinmas-saints-spiders-webs-pagan-pasts-and-prophylactics-1.4404711


Martinmas, or St Martin’s Day falls on November 11th, sometimes known as Old Halloween. The late Brendan McWilliams (1944-2007), who penned the regular Weather Eye column in The Irish Times, had a wonderful way of marrying folklore, history, literature and science with his principal profession as a meteorologist. In 2006, to coincide with the Feast of St Martin, he wove a tale of Roman legions, Christianity, and the etymology of fine early-morning spiders’ webs – which I had previously associated solely with prophylactics. In 2018, when the second cohort of students on the Masters in Gastronomy and Food Studies at TU Dublin were deciding on themes for their “global in the local” group dining project, one team, inspired by a Swedish student in their group, prepared a meal of spicy blood soup followed by roast goose. This article discusses the food traditions and folklore associated with Martinmas in Ireland.