Monday, September 22, 2008

Modern Reeves?

Today is Autumn Equinox, the official beginning of Fall and one of the two calendar days with equal amounts of sunlight and darkness. As Christianity spread throughout Europe, the pagan celebration of the Autumn Equinox was mixed with the feast of St. Michael the Archangel. St. Michael was seen as a protector against dark forces, and so it was appropriate to celebrate his feast on the day marking the transition to longer hours of darkness. Although St. Michael’s feast (Michaelmas) is now celebrated on September 29th, its connection to the Equinox remains, for both are celebrations of harvest and new beginnings.

Michaelmas, was recognized as both a day of obligation and a quarter day. It was one of the four days during the year that rents were collected, accounts rendered, new leases commenced, and annual dues paid. A Michaelmas custom worth noting is the election of a reeve from among the local serfs. The reeve’s duty was to oversee the completion of the harvest and account for any deficiencies to the landowner out of his own pocket. (Understandably, this was not a popular office.) Although we no longer live in an agrarian society, it seems to me that a reeve could be a useful corporate addition these days.

For more on the history of Michaelmas including some tasty-looking recipes, click here. The blackberry crumble certainly looks good!


Jim Chen said...

But Kelly, we do have reeves. We just call them sheriffs. Herewith the linguistic formula: Shire + reeve = sheriff.

Kelly J. Bozanic said...

I do love etymology! Thanks!

Jim Chen said...

And now this post has been linked at The Cardinal Lawyer.