by Janene Ping, with references from an article by Steve Spitalny from Lilipoh magazine
Festivals are held to inscribe into the human soul a feeling of union and community, both with fellow human beings and the world. They are a nodal point of inner connection to the infinite – a remembrance of spiritual origin. With preparation and anticipation, they culminate in outward celebration where we are invited to step out of the usual daily work and routine to create meaningful experience in which we honor what it means to be human graced by the gift of life.
In Waldorf education we share many festivals with our students and community. Michaelmas is one of these. The tradition of Michaelmas has roots in the Old Testament. Daniel names the Archangel Michael as the leader and guide of the Israelites. In the book of Revelations, Michael battles the dragon. But the essential archetype of this figure has appeared in the mythology of many cultures for many centuries. Ancient Oriental writings describe Indra. The Bhagavad-Gita speaks of Mithra. The ancient Babylonians tell of Marduk, who slew Tiamat the dragon and created heaven and earth from his body. The Michael archetype is of overcoming or transforming the evil that is faced through intelligence, courage, and strength. Other examples of this archetypal impulse in literature that inspire us can be found in the characters of the Greek Perseus, the English St. George, and the American legend of John Henry, to name a few.
In the festival of Michaelmas we seek knowledge and activity that is the essence of the human potential of self-development. We, as human beings, have the possibility of personal transformation. We all have our own dragons, our lower, less noble aspects. Our egotism, greed, and selfishness can consume us and rise up as a destructive force in the world. At Michaelmas time we seek to face our dragons with courage, gain self-knowledge, and strive towards the transformation of that which enslaves us. The realm of the spirit is, perhaps, where true freedom reigns. We are connected to the spirit through our inner activity of thinking, contemplating, praying, and meditating. Practice of these activities brings clarity and perspective that inspires our interaction with others and our deeds in the world. We seek to be the change, to create the beautiful and just world we all know is possible, to act and not just react when life brings challenge.
Michaelmas is midway between the Summer and Winter Solstices, during harvest season. The iron-filled fruits of nature are ripe, as the days grow shorter and the plant world seems to die. As the sunlight decreases, can we keep our inner light alive, harvest the fruits and gifts of our own striving, and honor the qualities of others? At the Michaelmas festival, we seek to overcome our antipathy and self-centeredness, and meet each human being with interest and recognition as fellow human beings; this is what we celebrate.
Michealmas is September 29th and marks a season of this inner focus as we seek to strengthen ourselves to meet the approaching Winter. Hawthorne Valley School has traditionally carried this festival with a work-day in service to our community and with an all-school pageant. Our work-day is a time when all the children in the lower and middle grades join together in multi-age groups to help others. The work taken on by these groups includes: helping the farmers harvest in the fields, stacking firewood for elderly neighbors, making soup for the sick, and singing in local nursing homes. The pageant honors stories that exemplify courage. This year, the students will bring a story in which the destructiveness of the dragon is transformed when each of us, in community, joins hands to help the other.
Please enjoy the photos above from our Michaelmas Pageant held on Monday October 2nd on the playing field of the school. All members of the audience had an active part in the transformation of the Dragon; only when we all reached out to the other and joined hands in the circle at the end of the pageant was the Dragon transformed.