Let’s all go a-nutting... for today, September 14 is Nutting Day, or the Devil’s Nutting Day, when it was traditional for people to gather nuts from the woods – normally hazelnuts (which are also known as cobnuts or filberts), but I think any other sort of nut could be collected as well.
At any rate, hazelnuts collected today were considered to be magical, and if you found two nuts on one stem it was believed to keep toothache away, as well as safeguarding you from rheumatism and witches’ spells. Indeed, hazel trees have long been associated with wisdom and protection, especially in Celtic lore, and for Mother Julian of Norwich hazelnuts represented God's love for the world (a friend has written about this on her website at http://www.anamcaraspirituality.org). Additionally, the nuts and branches have been used for dowsing and divination.
Anyway, there must have been practical reasons for collecting hazelnuts now. I suppose they were perfectly ripe and in tip-tip condition, ready to be stored for people and animals to eat during the winter, when food was scarce. I’m not sure if there is a connection between nutting and the fact that today is Holy Rood Day, a major Christian festival in Medieval times - somehow nutting sounds much more ancient and pagan.
Rood was the old English for cross or rod, and Holy Rood Day (or Holy Cross Day as it is sometimes known) was supposed to commemorate the discovery of the ‘True Cross of Christ’ by St Helena, the mother of the Emperor Constantine but, as is so often the case with these religious festivals, the facts seem to vary, depending on which church or source you look at. One school of thought insists the church built by Constantine to house the cross his mother found held its first service on September 14; others claim it marks the day when a fragment of the cross was returned after it was plundered from Jerusalem.
There were other legends and customs connected with the day, which held a special significance for bobbin lacemakers, as it meant they could now work by candlelight, a dispensation that lasted right the way through autumn and winter until Shrove Tuesday.
Should you wish to celebrate the occasion you bake a nut roast, or eat chocolate covered nuts... since chocolate gives me migraine I intend to eat some yogurt-coated nuts I have been keeping for a treat.