Michaelmas: The Inner Work

Michaelmas is celebrated in the Western Church and in Waldorf Schools on September 29. In Waldorf Schools these days this festival is celebrated with themes of bravery and courage, of the idea of slaying dragons as a physical embodiment of overcoming challenges.

The season of Michaelmas, for me, really lasts from a few weeks before Michaelmas until a week or so before Halloween.  In honor of this occasion, I have been reading the words of Rudolf Steiner from his lectures  collected and entitled, “Michaelmas and the Soul- Forces of Man”  In the fourth lecture, he relates the four major festivals of the year:  Michaelmas, Christmas, Easter and St. John’s.  He says, “ Easter: death, then resurrection; Michaelmas: resurrection of the soul, then death. This makes of the Michael Festival a reversed Easter Festival. Easter commemorates for us the Resurrection of Christ from death; but in the Michael Festival we must feel with all the intensity of our soul: In order not to sleep in a half-dead state that will dim my self-consciousness between death and a new birth, but rather, to be able to pass through the portal of death in full alertness, I must rouse my soul through my inner forces before I die. First, resurrection of the soul — then death, so that in death that resurrection can be achieved which man celebrates within himself.”

You can read these four lectures for yourself here:  http://wn.rsarchive.org/Lectures/MichSoul/MiSoul_index.html  There is also this really interesting collection of articles, lectures, verses and stories all about Michaelmas available in  Waldorf Journal Project #15, edited by David Mitchell.  You can find that here:   http://www.waldorflibrary.org/Journal_Articles/WJP15.pdf

I love this festival as one that illuminates the soul into the winter, takes up the challenges in front of us as we wind our way ahead in the dark to help us find that small space of courage and bravery that lets us know we are not defeated yet. We have not given up yet. Imagine a humanity where this was the theme before us of overcoming, of bringing new into the world. I may be attacked along the way of this new birth and new bringing, but I am not decimated. I can move forward.

There is a very old Polish legend about St. Michael converting his sword into a lyre. A lyre is often seen as an instrument that works to harmonize the threefold capacities of mankind: thinking, feeling, and willing. The strings of St. Michael’s lyre will be made from the valiant thoughts of mankind. You can see a version of this legend here: http://lyreassociation.org/blog/2017/12/5/st-michael-the-crescent-moon-and-the-lyre#:~:text=Michael%20will%20stand%20on%20the%20crescent.%20As%20a,He%20will%20perform%20his%20office%20as%20%E2%80%9Cheavenly%20lyrist.%22

These are lovely spiritual ideas to bring forth in our inner work this month.

Here are some physical, tangible ideas for celebrating Michaelmas with your children from young to teens.

We have done all sort of things over years past:

  • Made felted shooting star balls
  • Made dragon bread
  • Dyed capes and sashes either golden yellow with natural dyes or red
  • Had obstacle courses
  • Hunted for “dragon tears”
  • Made dragons out of felt
  • Made dragons out of thin modeling material and put it on candles
  • Made blackberry crisp
  • Had puppet shows with older children presenting for younger children
  • Had music and verses specific to Michaelmas
  • We have made Calendula Courage Salve.
  • In accordance with our religious tradition, we have shared stories of angels and verses and prayers about angels from The Bible and other sources of tradition within our church.
  • We have told many stories of St. Michael and the Star Children, Little Boy Knight, St. George and the Dragon.  There are so many wonderful stories and legends!

Other ideas:

**Stress doing good for others during this four-week period.  In the book, “Festivals With Children,” Brigitte Barz talks about bringing a balancing scale into the children’s space with dark stones on one side and helping the child choose a task each day to  help the archangel.  In this way, different stones can be added to the other side of the balance and hopefully by Michaelmas, the scale will be in complete balance.

**Make kites to fly.  This has been associated with Michaelmas for some time.

**Make a dragon out of clay or modeling beeswax

**Decorate a candle with a Michaelmas theme with the thin modeling candle wax.

**Tell fairy tales to the grades-aged children that fit into Michaelmas:  The Devil With The Three Golden Hairs, The Drummer, The Crystal Ball, The Two Brothers, Sleeping Beauty are all suggested.

**For children ages 9 and up, find Christine Natale’s story “The Golden Soldier”.  You can find Christine’s work here.

**For even older children, Parsifal is read in eleventh grade, so those 16 or so may enjoy this tale.

**Tell stories about St. George, a brave knight, who is a human symbol of this conflict of slaying and taming dragons; the personification of carrying inner light at a time when the outward light is diminishing

** For tiny children, try Suzanne Down’s story “The Brave Little Knight” or  the story “The Far Country” in the back of the book “All Year Round” for those five and up.

**Make plans to make “dragon bread” or a Michaelmas Harvest Loaf.  There is a story to go with this in the book “All Year Long”

**Learn Michaelmas songs.    There are some good ones in the Wynstones Autumn Book and yes, also on You Tube!

Most of all, if you are a parent, I urge you to pray and meditate over your children and their growth toward goodness, kindness, beauty, truth, responsibility and duty, and most of all self-control and compassion towards others.  It is a wonderful time for spiritual growth as a family in whatever way this is meaningful to you all as we will be heading into a season of Light for the world.

Thinking thoughts of courage and bravery,

Carrie