Senchas muici fhéili Martain ‘The story of the Martinmas pig’

  • Irish
  • prose

Short Irish anecdote which gives an origin story for the monastic custom of slaughtering pigs on the eve of St Martin‘s feast-day (Martinmas, celebrated on 11 November). St Patrick is said have received the monastic tonsure from St Martin and to have instituted the custom in his honour.

The slaughter and consumption of a pig on or near St Martin‘s feast-day is not unique to Ireland and is also referred to, for instance, in Miguel de Cervantes‘ Don Quixote. O'Davoren's glossary explains lupait as a term for the young pig that is killed at Martinmas. Cf. legal and literary references to pigs slaughtered around the time of Samain.
ff. 108vb.27–vb.37
rubric: ‘Senchus muici fhéili Martain ind so síss’
beg. ‘Martan isé tuc berradh manaigh ar Patraic’
Foll. by scribal note (printed by Ó Cuív, but not by Stokes).
  • Irish
prose (primary)
Textual relationships
Related: Scéla Pátraic ⁊ Luigdech meic LóegairiScéla Pátraic ⁊ Luigdech meic LóegairiMedieval Irish legend about St Patrick, Lugaid son of Lóegaire mac Néill, king of Tara, and Michael the archangel. It is an aetiological anecdote which serves to account for the custom of ‘St Michael’s portion’ at Michaelmas, when sheep would be slaughtered to provide for the poor.




feastdayscalendrical events
id. 26882
Saint PatrickSaint Patrick
(fl. 5th century)
St Patrick
No short description available
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Martin of ToursMartin of Tours
(fl. 4th century)
bishop of Tours and saint. His vita and related writings by Martin’s younger contemporary Sulpicius Severus were highly influential in early medieval Europe, furnishing models for hagiographic writing about many other saints.
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Animal slaughterAnimal slaughter


Primary sources Text editions and/or modern translations – in whole or in part – along with publications containing additions and corrections, if known. Diplomatic editions, facsimiles and digital image reproductions of the manuscripts are not always listed here but may be found in entries for the relevant manuscripts. For historical purposes, early editions, transcriptions and translations are not excluded, even if their reliability does not meet modern standards.

[ed.] [tr.] Stokes, Whitley, The tripartite Life of Patrick: with other documents relating to that saint, 2 vols, vol. 2, Rerum Britannicarum Medii Aevi Scriptores, 89.2, London: Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1887.
Internet Archive: <link>, <link> Internet Archive: <link>

Secondary sources (select)

Kenney, James F., “Chapter IV: The monastic churches, their founders and traditions: I. The primitive foundations”, in: James F. Kenney, The sources for the early history of Ireland: an introduction and guide. Volume 1: ecclesiastical, Revised ed., 11, New York: Octagon, 1966. 288–371.
348, 350
Dennis Groenewegen
Page created
March 2021, last updated: August 2023