Michaelmas has long turned into one of my very favorite holidays!! If this festival is new or unfamiliar to you, please read on about this day. September 29th is the special day!
Michaelmas is an autumn festival that to me really opens up the season for the awakening of our souls as the weather gets colder, the light recedes, and we look toward strengthening our own inner reserves, our own inner strength. I LOVE this time of year! After the expansiveness of summer (which I personally often find exhausting, LOL), I am so happy to have the cooler weather return and to be more meditative and inward.
Michaelmas, as you can probably guess, is named for Saint Michael. Michael was one of the four archangels, and is the angel who threw Lucifer out of Heaven. He is the Angel of Courage, the Angel of the Fight Against Evil. Take courage for the long, cold winter from Saint Michael! Saint Michael usually is painted as riding a white steer, carrying a heavenly sword, and slaying a dragon. Sometimes he is portrayed as carrying scales, because he also has the task of weighing the souls of men.
The Wikipedia definition cites where Michael fits into Christianity, Islam and the Jewish religions (and more,) here:
“Michael (Hebrew: מִיכָאֵל, Micha’el or Mîkhā’ēl; Greek: Μιχαήλ, Mikhaḗl; Latin: Michael or Míchaël; Arabic: میکائیل, Mikā’īl) is an archangel in Jewish, Christian and Islamic tradition. He is viewed as the field commander of the Army of God. He is mentioned by name in the Book of Daniel, the Book of Jude and the Book of Revelation. In the book of Daniel, Michael appears as “one of the chief princes” who in Daniel‘s vision comes to the angel Gabriel‘s aid in his contest with the angel of Persia (Dobiel), and is also described there as the advocate of Israel and “great prince who stands up for the children of your [Daniel's] people”.
The Talmudic tradition rendered Michael’s name as meaning “who is like El?”, – so Michael could consequently mean “One who is like God.” But its being a question is alternatively understood as a rhetorical question, implying that no one is like God.”
If you would like to read more, here is the link to the full entry: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_%28archangel%29
There are all sorts of things one can look at for this time to celebrate. We would never explain to small children all I just wrote about Saint Michael, the joy of the festivals with a small child is the DOING, not the explaining!
Some ways to celebrate and lead up to the festival:
- Start learning Michaelmas songs and verses. Try Autumn Wynstones and many other traditional Waldorf books for ideas. You may also have hymns or music within your own religious path.
- Look for Michaelmas Daisies. Here is a picture: http://www.bestgarden.net/Photo_Album/Pages/Aster_novi-belgii.htm
- Have Harvest Foods. (This used to include roasting a goose – tell me, my European readers, does it still??)
- Tell stories about Saint Michael or St. George. St. George is the Earthly counterpart to Saint Michael – you could make Saint George tunics (white pillowcases with red crosses sewn on). Swords and shields are also customary, which makes some Waldorf teachers and parents nervous. Here is a link of how one Waldorf Kindergarten teacher dealt with this in her classroom: http://www.waldorflibrary.org/Journal_Articles/GW4007.pdf
- Stories could include “The Kite” from “Festivals, Families and Food”, any number of Kindergarten Stories from that pink book “An Overview of the Waldorf Kindergarten.” For younger children, Melisa Nielsen has a story in her “Before the Journey” book and Suzanne Down has a lovely story called “Little Boy Knight” in her book “Autumn Tales.” Reg Down has put his Michaelmas story from the Tiptoes Lightly stories on his website here: http://www.tiptoes-lightly.net/DOWNLOADS/tales_FESTIVAL/The%20Most%20Beautiful%20Dragon%20in%20the%20Whole%20World.pdf
- I believe there is also a story of St. George on-line at Main Lesson that would be lovely for the Second Grader studying Saints and Heroes. There are also two stories by Irene Johanson in the book “Stories for the Festivals of the Year”, available from Bob and Nancy’s Bookshop or Rudolf Steiner College Bookstore. If you are religious, perhaps you could read from your own religious texts.
- You could dye capes from marigolds for the big day.
- You could make a Courage Salve from Calendulas.
- You could do something that requires bravery that day – a hike, an obstacle course? How about a scavenger hunt for Dragon Tears?
- Making dragon bread is very traditional. There is a lovely bread recipe and corresponding story in the festival book “All Year Round”.
- You can make Michaelmas Candles, see page 143 of “All Year Round”
- Crafting “shooting stars” and dragons are also traditional. Try this link: http://www.waldorflibrary.org/Journal_Articles/GW3211.pdf
- You could make a mobile with a dragon and an angel representation on it.
Start early, go slow and add things year by year – it does not all have to happen this year! There should plenty of preparation and work leading up to a festival as well, festivals are not a one-day celebration!
Use this time for your own inner work, what do you need to strengthen? What resolve will you need as you head into fall?