Michaelmas (pronounced “mick-el-muss”) is one of the four seasonal festivals we celebrate on our Waldorf calendar. It is named for the biblical hero, Michael (meaning “Who is like God” in Hebrew). Other examples of this figure can be found in many cultures throughout time and history. Some examples include Indra (Indian), Zardust (Persian), Marduk (Babylonian), and Phoebus Apollo (Greek), all known as the conquerors of the powers of darkness and warriors of courage; figures who challenge us to develop strong, brave free will. Thus, Michaelmas is a festival of wills. This celebration takes place in autumn when the day and the night are of equal length. Here in the northern hemisphere, each day will become shorter. We seek to strengthen ourselves against the sadness and fear that may come with the growing darkness outside. It is a time to renew our aim to be truthful, compassionate neighbors to one another and conquer any inner challenges that turn our efforts away from these goals.
At our school, the students often hear stories of St. George, the brave knight who courageously tamed the dragon with the help of Michael. Children, teachers, and parents often join in raking leaves, cleaning our playgrounds, polishing apples and baking bread. We also perform a Michaelmas play which all parents are encouraged to attend.
If you wish to dig more deeply into what Steiner said about Michaelmas, here is a link to a free online book called Michaelmas, an Introductory Reader. It is a collection of lectures and comments that Rudolf Steiner said about this time of year.
Here is a link to a storybook geared for grade school children about the story of St. George and the Dragon written by Margaret Hodges.