There’s pork with spiced apples
for Old Michaelmas Day
when the apple boughs
still bear their fruit,
and blackberries glisten invitingly,
though legend has it they’re not
to be picked after Michaelmas
when the Devil claims them.
What difference a fortnight
between Michaelmas Day
and Old Michaelmas Day
as climate shifts and all dates
are called into question,
when fire and flood mock
the seasons and weather
slides out of line, out of time?
Does the Devil stalk the land
or Gwyn ap Nudd with a band
of devils that he once held,
keeping them in the Otherworld?
Yet there’s pork with spiced apples
for Old Michaelmas Day, berries
to pick, and Gwyn’s bitter sloes,
as we mark the time to Winter.
Legend has it that blackberries belong to the Devil and should not be picked after a certain date, which varies, but is often cited as Michaelmas Day (29th September) or Old Michaelmas Day (10th or 11th October) and is sometimes put as late as Halloween or Samhain at the end of October. Was it the Devil or some older native deity – Gwynn ap Nudd who haunts the mists of Autumn or the Cailleach who brings the Winter – who originally inspired this story?
In the Middle Welsh tale of Culhwch and Olwen it is said that Gwyn ap Nudd “cannot be spared to hunt Twrch Trwyth because he holds all the devils of Annwn within him lest the world be destroyed”.