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Harvest Home and the Muckle Supper

Once the backbreaking hard work that surrounded the harvest had finally ended, the obligatory celebrations began.

These originally took the form of a feat known as the "Muckle Supper" but in later years this came to be replaced by the "Harvest Home" celebrations.

The derivation of the word "muckle" deserves closer examination as on first examination it would appear to refer simply to the size of the celebration - "muckle" meaning "big" or "large".

However, the Orcadian antiquarian Ernest Marwick had a plausible theory that the muckle in the "Muckle Supper" was actually have been a corruption of the "Feast of St Michael", "Mikkel" being the Norse equivalent to "Michael".

A fact that adds credence to this idea is that in Orkney a sheep was often slaughtered for the Muckle Supper. This closely parallels an old Norse Michaelmas tradition in which the head of the household would slaughter a sheep and secretly share it out among his workers.

Whatever the derivation of the name, at some point the harvest celebrations ceased to be referred to as the "Muckle Supper" and the term "Harvest Home" became more widespread.

Harvest Homes are still widespread in the islands today, with each district and island holding their own celebrations in honour of a successful harvest.

Section Contents
Casting the Heuks
The Last Sheaf
The Straw Dog - "The Bikko"
Straw Figures and "Last Man" Capers
The Harvest Bannock
The "Ritual Bannock" Connection
Offerings to Nature
Harvest Home and Muckle Supper

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