November 11th - Martinmas in Co. Mayo

The Feast of St. Martin on 11th November is commonly known as Martinmas. On this day fowl usually was killed and the blood was sprinkled on the doors of the house while saying: ”In onóir do Dhia agus do Mháirtin” (In the Honour of God and St. Martin).

Sometimes the blood was put into a jam pot, then taken with a feather and shook around the walls. Every family used to kill an animal in order to exclude every kind of evil spirit from the house or dwelling where the sacrifice was sprinkled until the following Martinmas. Fowls were also given to poor neighbours to enable them to follow the custom.

The ritual of sprinkling blood on the doors indicates the ancient and Pagan origin of this custom.

Also farmers used to kill the pig around St. Martin in order to ensure a good supply of meat for the Winter and Christmas season. Black puddings were made from the pig’s blood and cooked. The blood was put into the pig’s intestines previously cleaned and purified under fresh clear water. The intestines, washed many times, were cut into pieces 9-10 inches long and filled with the pudding mixture which was made from blood, suet, oatmeal, salt and pepper. Then they were tied and boiled into a large pot.

Gifts of pork and pudding were given to neighbours and to the parish priest. The meat was put into wooden barrels with coarse salt and smoked by the smoke of the house’s fireplace afterwards.

Killing the pig was the last hard work before Christmas, after that families could take a rest.