Michaelmas is a little-known festival. We celebrate it because it epitomizes an important aspect of Waldorf education. The celebration of Michaelmas commemorates the archangel Michael, and the archetype he represents.
In the Hebrew Bible, Daniel names Michael as leader of the Israelites. In the Book of Revelations, Michael battles the dragon. This archetype has appeared in the mythology of many cultures for many centuries. Ancient Eastern texts describe Indra. The ancient Babylonians tell of Marduk, who slew Tiamat the dragon and created heaven and earth from his body. There are many examples of human beings acting out of a Michaelic impulse – the Greek myth of Perseus, the English St. George and the American legend of John Henry, to name a few. The Michaelic archetype is one who overcomes or transforms evil through intelligence, courage, and strength. Michael displays the activity that is the essence of the human being —self development. We, as human beings, have the possibility of personal transformation. We all have our own dragons, our own lower, less noble aspects. Our egotism, greed and selfishness can be overcome as we evolve as individuals. Michaelmas is a reminder of this process of the becoming human being as we strive toward our full human potential.
Michaelmas falls midway between the northern hemisphere’s summer and winter solstices, during the harvest season. The iron-filled fruits of nature ripen as the days grow shorter and the plant world seems to die. As the sunlight decreases, can we keep our inner light alive, and harvest the fruits and gifts of our own and each other’s development?
Waldorf education echoes the essence of Michaelmas. Each and every one of us has a gift to bring to the world. Can we learn to recognize and have interest in each other’s gifts, and encourage each other toward our full potential? Being human is not merely physical qualities related to skin and bones, but is essentially the process of individual spiritual transformation leading humanity toward its future evolution. Overcoming our antipathy and self-centeredness, and meeting each human being with interest and recognition as a fellow human being: this is what Michaelmas celebrates. It is a festival of what is truly human. Our school celebrates Michaelmas with a “Festival of Courage” for the Grade school, which features a variety of fun and challenging activities for students and an annual Saturday picnic and pot luck including the entire school community.