Dragon and Archangel Michael from 2009
It’s Michaelmas time again, one of my favorite times of year. Over the years, as I’ve engaged in our Waldorf school’s Michaelmas Festival, I’ve come to see Michaelmas as a truly enlivening and uplifting event that reaffirms my faith in humanity’s goodness. Michaelmas happens each year at a time when I find myself noticing nature turning toward dryness and decay. I notice all the upheaval in the world, both personal and global. It’s not that such things don’t happen at other times of the year, but something about this season makes them more poignant for me. As the nights grow longer and the year begins to die, my own dragons surface and start making noise that cannot be ignored. And so, I pay them some attention.
We all have faced some dragons recently! Ian faced the Tough Mudder and emerged victorious, having worked so hard to prepare both physically and mentally. Asher has faced down his own fears about being in a new school. Lucas is wrestling with new expectations on him now that he is older, and finding that sometimes he wants to quit piano and sometimes he doesn’t—for playing requires discipline and fortitude and stick-to-itiveness. My own issues revolve around some beloved family members, and their ill health is weighing on my mind. (Oh, and fear of failure. And fear of success. Money woes. All those old standbys are still present, too.)
Our Michaelmas nature table display, with handmade figures
For me, the Michaelmas festival reminds us that we all have a part of us that lurks in the murk, with our dragons—fears, angers, resentments, jealousies, laziness, etc.—as bitter (and sometimes comfortable) companions. Our societal dragons are fear, hate, bigotry, greed, and isolationism. And yet despite our foibles and in the middle of our challenges, we keep striving, working for the good. We shine our lights into our days and nights and work to make the world brighter in small ways and in big.
With Michaelmas, we have our metaphor of plucking up our courage and going out on the field to meet our dragons head-on. Though we are frightened, we call them by name and take a good hard look at them in the sunlight. And in doing so, we shrink them and corral them, tame them or banish them, or simply bring them under our better control. When we face reality with honesty and bravery, we are imbued with light and can use this strength daily in our interactions will all people.
But let me be clear, dragons are mighty teachers, too. Our dark sides can be a source of inspiration, power, and mystery. The fertile soil of our inner darkness must be balanced and harnessed by the light in us, that we may live healthy, happy lives and do soulful work.
Asher is experiencing in Kindergarten the story of a simple boy, George, who acts out of bravery and righteousness to help others and in doing so overcomes fear and darkness. He retold the story to me yesterday with great gusto. The older Kindergarten children are making their wooden swords of righteousness. They are dyeing silken capes with golden light. They are preparing themselves to be bold and good in the world.
Lucas’s 2010 modeling clay scene of Archangel Michael battling the dragon within a ring of fire
Lucas’s class, the fourth grade, are making shields. In the Michaelmas festival this Friday, they will protect the villagers when the dragon arrives. Their great courage will shield the innocent from harm.
So, if you’re curious about this festival, here are some other places you can look. I hope that it might inspire you as it has inspired me.
My post about Honoring Our Dragons.
A Michaelmas craft the boys and I enjoyed last year.
Last year’s family Michaelmas celebration at home. How might you make a dragon dinner?
Third graders making dragon breads at Sacramento Waldorf School
Here are some other wonderful Michaelmas links for you to explore:
Read this one. I promise you won’t be disappointed: Barbara Klocek’s article about Michaelmas in the Kindergarten. (Mrs. Klocek was one of Lucas’s Kindergarten teachers.)
Lots of info about Saint Michael and Michaelmas here.
Carrie’s 2009 post about Michaelmas on the Parenting Passageway is here.
A great post about building a dragon with a sixth grade Waldorf class is found on The Waldorf Way blog.
A new article about Michaelmas “The Festival of Human Becoming” by Danielle Epifani on The Wonder of Childhood online magazine.
Mamaroots has a tutorial for making stick dragons
Rocking Granola has a great list of more resources here.