The Treasure of Michaelmas
The autumn winds blow open the gate
O Michael for you we wait
We follow you, show us the way
With joy we greet the autumn day!
The above is a simple circle song/game we use in the classroom to acknowledge a festival uniquely celebrated in Waldorf Schools, Michaelmas. It was traditionally celebrated as the feast of St. Michael Archangel (on or around September 29th) for hundreds of years, but fell by the wayside as holidays became more and more commercialized. Michaelmas, and its surrounding time frame, known as Michaelmastide (mid-September through mid-October) celebrates the human capacity to overcome great adversity.
Rudolf Steiner found that the impulse of courage and will unique to Michaelmas is very important for our time, that it addresses within us a powerful archetype that we would need to access in order to face the world today. The archetype is that of the knight defeating a marauding dragon with the help of the wisdom of a mysterious lady.
- The knight represents our will and courage
- The dragon represents a terrifying yet necessary task
- The lady and shooting stars represent the wisdom we need to succeed
Let us not confuse the idea of the Michaelmas dragon with the Oriental dragon, or today’s desire to plushcoat the frightening. Let us instead recognize the Michaelmas dragon as one who indeed is quite a dangerous foe in need of being fully encountered, much like the situations we must address more and more frequently as times become more complicated. The knight and the lady represent the perfect balance of male and female energy needed to address a difficult task and succeed.
Of course, in our early childhood classrooms it would be entirely inappropriate to discuss these meanings or intellectualize the impulse of the season. So instead, the teachers become fully immersed in the essence of Michaelmas in their meditations, the result often being that any situations which may be lurking in the classroom have an opportunity to raise their heads and be gently but thoroughly addressed. This creates a healthier class and more positive social interactions between the children. This inward celebration of Michaelmas is a deep and powerful working in early childhood, for the child is in a developmental stage of modeling what he or she experiences. If a child experiences a capable adult addressing difficult tasks with grace and balance, he or she will hold that example in the heart and access it for the rest of his or her life.
What greater gift could we possibly give our children than this profound example of grace, determination, balance, and wisdom in the face of seemingly insurmountable difficulty? Indeed, it is the precious gift that all Waldorf Schools hope to impart in their students: the treasure of Michaelmas.
by Tracey Buchanan