If you are like me grew up in a non western tradition, that didn’t observe Michaelmas, you might be wondering what it is and what the significance of this festival is? I was first introduced to even the name of Michaelmas just three years ago when my son joined the local Waldorf School and the teacher mentioned it. I had no idea what it was, to my understanding, it is a beautiful way to bring our children’s attention to the change of seasons from summer to autumn.
September 29, midway between the northern hemisphere's summer and winter solstices, the ancient festival of Michaelmas is celebrated. As the days start to get shorter and warmth starts to fade, Mother Nature provides a last gift of the season, harvest ripens and we get to enjoy the last few days of warmth until the next spring.
Michael is an archangel, the heavenly warrior, attributed with many heroic deeds, the most remarkable of which is casting a group of seditious angels, led by Lucifer, out of the heavenly realm. Michael chose not to slay these fallen angels; rather, he used his inner forces and his sword of iron to hold them within his control in their earthly forms: dragons. Viewed through this lens, the meaning is a simple one: as summer wanes and the days grow darker, as the Perseid meteor shower spreads glowing iron throughout the night sky, we recapitulate the battle between light and darkness, between good and evil, between Michael and the dragon. The dragon is not an external reality, but a metaphor for our own human challenges, the fear and wrath which live inside of all mortals as a potentially evil force. As the autumn nights fall upon us, we must summon the courage and fortitude to influence these forces which live within us and direct them towards a higher purpose.
Celebrating Michaelmas at Home
If you are not part of a Waldorf community, here are some ideas for observing the festival and the season at home:
- Create a Seasonal Nature Table depicting St. George and the Dragon. You could display autumn leaves, small pumpkins and gourds to represent the harvest. Or you could display the Black Knight with Red Horse, Dragon, Cave, and Large Angel wooden figures from Ostheimer of Germany. Orange and red play silks can represent the colors of fall and the courage of St. Michael.
- Bake Dragon Bread.This is a loaf of bread shaped like a dragon. You will find a recipe with accompanying story at