I love autumn. The riot of auburn colours, the crunch of freshly fallen leaves under foot, the subtle shift in tone as the season progresses and the tender flickers of warmth that whispered of the summer just gone are supplanted by the fingertip brush of the winter to come.
Just like other season’s autumn comes with its own set of long established superstitions. Many are bound closely with nature and harvest time reflecting the trials and anxieties of our ancestors who depended on a successful harvest in order to survive the barren months ahead.
The harvest it’s self was an indicator of how harsh the winter may be. An abundance of fruit such as apples was believed to signal a milder season, a poor crop meant harsh times on the horizon. Onions are also believed to herald the winter weather, if the autumn crop was thin skinned then there was a warm winter ahead, the thicker the skin the colder the winter.
Animals also acted as portents for the winter weather. If you’re out walking anywhere with a duck population keep an eye on their migration, according to superstition the later in the season they depart the later winter will be.
Other superstitions are closer to home, a cherry tree flowering in autumn was said to be a sign of death coming for a member of the owner’s family and the demise of the tree its self, a red rose in autumn was an indication of a wedding around the corner.
Superstitions often have a practical application. In the case of blackberries according to folk law Lucifer fell from heaven on Old Michaelmas day (10th October) and landed on a blackberry bush, incensed he cursed the bush making the fruit inedible beyond that date. It is actually sensible to avoid picking blackberry fruit beyond this point of the year as it may be mildewed and dangerous to eat.
Useful to know as Halloween approaches that keeping a blackberry bush by your front door prevents vampires from entering your home as they are distracted by the compulsion to count the fruit.
In medieval times people believed that witches could transform themselves into the most autumnal of animals the hedgehog and a bounty was placed on their heads. Fortunately today we celebrate this shy animal as a gardener’s friend but sadly that has not prevented their decline and they are now considered a vulnerable species.
Another seasonal superstition suggests that carrying a conker can alleviate ailments including headaches and joint pain possibly due to the medicinal qualities present in the conker.
On a windy autumn day keep colds at bay by catching a falling leaf and keeping it safe until the first signs of spring. If you want a lucky year ahead then try to catch a dozen leaves as superstition says that a month of good fortune will follow for every one gathered. What better excuse for getting out amongst the canapé this season!
Community Engagement Officer