“It is true that spring is fair, and it is a fine capacity of the human soul to perceive the beauty of the spring, the growing, sprouting, burgeoning life. But to be able to perceive also when the leaves fade and take on their fall coloring, when the animals creep away — to be able to feel how in the sensible which is dying away, the gleaming, shining, soul-spiritual element arises — to be able to perceive how with the yellowing of the leaves there is a descent of the springing and sprouting life, but how the sensible becomes yellow in order that the spiritual can live in the yellowing as such — to be able to perceive how in the falling of the leaves the ascent of the spirit takes place, how the spiritual is the counter-manifestation of the fading sense-perceptible; this should as a perceptive feeling for the spirit — ensoul the human being in autumn! Then he would prepare himself in the right way precisely for Christmastide.” Rudolph Steiner
Michaelmas was introduced to our family by the Chicago Waldorf School when Cole started parent-child classes thirteen years ago.
The festival of Michaelmas occurs on September 29, and is named for St. Michael, known as the protector of humanity, who inspires qualities of courage, initiative and steadfastness. The Celtic tradition celebrated Michaelmas as a way to mark the autumnal equinox – the end of harvest time and the turning of the weather and seasons. In the Christian tradition, St. Michael fights and slays a dragon. Simple put, the dragon is a metaphor for the devil and the temptation to be led towards sin.
As we move away from the more expansiveness of summer, the weather turns cooler, the days grow shorter, and we stop and honor St Michael, allowing his strength to help strengthen our will and move us into a more reflective and meditative state as we move towards winter.
When Cole learned the story of Michaelmas, I added: a dragon, a knight, (as a pretend St. Michael) and a princess to our season’s table. Thirteen years later, we still use the same figures to celebrate Michaelmas. These days, they sit on our dining room buffet, but Cole (shhhh….) still enjoys acting out the story of St. Michael and the dragon.
St. Michael is supposed to defeat the dragon and save the princess (bad dragon, good princess) but some years, Cole has recreated the story to show empathy for the dragon. One year, the dragon charged and ate goody-two-shoes St. Michael, leaving the Princess and the dragon to live happily ever after. Another year, the dragon ate both the Princess and St. Michael and lived happily ever after. One year, they simply all agreed to get along. As Cole acted out the Michaelmas story in his own unique way each year, perhaps he was discovering how the world is seldom as black or white as St. Michael may have believed. Maybe he was exploring the idea of learning to get along with our darker side rather than attempting to defeat it altogether. What can I say? Joe and I were both students of Carl Jung. The Christian ideal of defeating the dragon was never going to be the only option presented to Cole.
On Michaelmas, we are invited to wonder what resolve we will need as we head into fall? What areas of ourselves do we to need to strengthen? What fears do we need to face, and what initiatives will begin? How will we celebrate the upcoming holidays with our families in ways that honor the old traditions while creating new ones.
I hope you will share your thoughts, feeling, resolves, and initiatives in the comment section.
Glad you were in my Odd neighborhood. Feel free to hang around with us any time. Odd Loves Company and odd loves you and you and you!! I would love to hear from you in the comment section of this blog, or on Facebook or Twitter!
Here is another kind of Dragon story–Joe’s Dragon Love Forever- posted it in March, 2011.
Happy Michaelmas, Joe! We missed you as we made these pans of Kuchen for Michaelmas today. We missed you bunches.