In Latvia festival, Abjumidas — began the autumn season. Abjumidas was celebrated to honour the god Jumis. He was the pagan god of harvest and fertility and he was celebrated during autumn equinox between 22–24th of September.
October first is Mikeli or the day of St.Michael was named after both a Catholic saint and the archangel Michael. It is very likely that originally Mikeli was a nature spirit. In Latvian folk belief, St.Michael was the receiver of souls. Before the arrival of Christianity in Latvia that was the job of the god Jumis.
In both Finland and in Latvia Mikeli was the “gate to winter” and all the farm work had to be finished by Mikeli.
In Latvia people believed into the dividing time, a period in autumn when all the spirits of the dead wandered on the earth. Velu Laiks means the time of the dead and it was followed by Ledus likes the time of the ice. After Ledus likes it was safe to walk on ice.
Maritini also is known as Martindiena was celebrated on November 10th. In Finland day is known as Martinpäivä and in Estonia as Mardipäev. Martini was named after the Catholic St.Martin of Tours or Martin Luther, the founder of Lutheranism. Day of St.Martin is celebrated all over Europe but the holiday itself is way older and the name of it is based on the French word morti and Latin mori meaning death. In pre-Christian times in Latvia Martini was celebrated to honour the horse god Martinš. He was a dual god. In the springtime, he would turn into god Usinš.
During the night of Martini young ladies threw their skirts to the floor before going to bed and in the dream, their future spouse would pick it up.
There must have been many kinds of rituals to celebrate this special day. One that I found was a protection ritual for the horses where a rooster was sacrificed. On the eve of Martini horse´s mouth was touched with the rooster and then it was lifted towards the sun. Blood of the rooster was dropped to the horse oats. Latvians worshipped the sun goddess Saule so lifting the rooster towards the sun was a sacrificial gift for the goddess. On the next day, the left-back food of the horse was painted with blood. The dead rooster was smudged in the stable and was put inside the bread and carried around the building to drive away from the evil spirit. The rooster was a surrogate victim.
Fortunately, this custom is not practised in modern Latvia.
Festivities included masquerade parades, sleigh riding, dances and preparing lots of food. There was also martiparades going on around Martini. Big martis were grown-ups and small martis were children. Marti´s were people who painted their faces and dressed up as spirits of the dead. These parades were common in other countries as well like Austria, Germany, Finland, Holland, Sweden and Estonia.
If you enjoy reading my content, consider subscribing to my feed. Also, if you are not a Medium member and you would like to gain unlimited access to the platform, consider using my referral link right here to sign up. It’s $5 a month and you get unlimited access to my articles and many others like mine. Thanks