Michaelmas: Contemplating Dragons

The children have been practicing this week for our Michaelmas celebration. The pageant is the same every year and each class plays a pivotal role in the story.

There are the littlest First Grade Gnomes and energetic Second Grade Meteors.

Third Grade portrays the elements, while the noble Fourth Grade contains the knights and St. Michael.

The hardworking Fifth Graders are the farmers and peasants, while the Sixth Grade gives life to the fearsome and fun dragon.

Finally, our Middle Schoolers provide the stirring music for the morning.

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With our senses full of the sights and sounds (and soup) of Michaelmas, it is easy to overlook the deeper meaning this festival holds within a Waldorf school.

Kristina Boving, Meadowbrook Grade 5 Class Teacher and Trustee of the Board, describes the introspective side of this exuberant celebration:

In Waldorf Education, we believe strongly in working with the influences of the natural world, noticing and celebrating the changes in the seasons. Now that fall is upon us, teachers and students are preparing for the festival of Michaelmas, which recognizes the figure of St. Michael. Little noted in modern times, Michael was a powerful figure in days of yore. Better known to us today is Michael’s association with St. George, the patron saint of England, as he fights the dragon.

This powerful image of Michael and his battle against a fearful dragon resonates with the autumn season on many levels. In summer, we are more active, diving into the great outdoors, and losing ourselves in the joy and revelry of long, warm days. Our part of the earth seems to be in a state of dreamy bliss. As fall approaches, and days grow cooler and shorter, nature starts to contract and settle in for a period of dormancy. We are influenced by this change as well. We too are beckoned to a more contemplative mode of being. Our power of thinking can grow clearer and we can become more self-aware, if we take the time to bring our thoughts to consciousness. This is the time to gather our forces to resist falling in too strongly with nature’s cycle of decay and death during the autumn and winter. This is the time to take our outer perceptions and draw them inward to a sustaining, and hope-giving inner experience. This is the time of year known in the Middle Ages as “vita contemplativa” as opposed to summer’s “vita activa”. Michael’s fight for goodness and beauty, and the hope that it brings us, can sustain us through this season.

It takes a strong will to focus on our inner lives, especially during the hustle and bustle of our modern lives. The image of Michael taming the dragon can be a guide for us, helping us re-focus on the essential, giving us courage to overcome fear and despair during the darkening days of autumn.