Michaelmas Thoughts on “The Festival Of Human Becoming”
Though much is changing, I stand strong
And in the darkness, shine.
For sleep, the plants and creatures long
But I have work divine.
For sun-seeds golden I’ll be sowing,
Warmly from my heart’s depth’s glowing,
Into winter’s icy flowing.
Michael Hedley Burton
Autumn is a time of transition often signified through a return to school.
Families and children find themselves contracting from the routines, or joyous lack thereof, in Summer’s expansion and light. Through this process we may experience an inner shift- kindling a desire to prepare and find order. We feel this in the sun’s waning light, industrious squirrels, and the quiet landscapes of beaches, country, and farms.
Reaching up into the heavens, if we are lucky, we may catch glimpse of a shooting star or perhaps a shower. Here we awaken to the archetype of Michael.
The festival of Michael comes round at the cardinal point of the Autumnal Equinox and is the first festival of the school year to be celebrated in Waldorf families, and communities. One of the lesser known events, it represents balance, judgment, courage, and strength in times of change, and it’s significance can be powerful.
Many stories are told of stars sent by the archangel, carrying the iron element to earth. With this, each individual has an opportunity to forge a metaphorical sword for which to aid in our quest of ‘human becoming’.
Michaelmas leads us towards a point of contraction in the year finding it’s full expression in winter. Once again, we are then carried through rhythmic assurance, from our inner growing light, out to a cosmic expansion of light.
In Autumn we find a moment of balance highlighted by, and expressed, in the Equinox. We bring in the harvest of summer’s fruit, take stock, and evaluate whether our larders and pantries are full.
Parents may be delighted to embark on a star search observing in nature, seedpods which have ripened to fruition, and are found tucked away in apples, persimmons, pears. And lest we forget, these stars too, continue to live in tidepools, beneath lapping waters all the year through.
For many a return to Fall may bring confusion, transition, and fear of cold, darkening days. Here Michael offers courage and strength towards an inner resolve which might simply, and most poignantly be found in our children, and in our relationships with them.
If we consider the various stages of their development as we do the Seasons: joy in new birth, a loose tooth, an adolescent body (Spring); celebration in their expanding capabilities: first steps, first words, first job (Summer); and reverence in recognizing their divine human light (Winter), then Michaelmas could be seen as a time where perceptions and experiences are laid out in an objective way. It is both a season of harvest, as well as a time to cultivate fertile soil for the future. A time where we, as individuals, can seek the courage to evaluate what is there. For some this may find itself in renewed social action. In Waldorf communities it is often a look at technological influences, and for parents of young children, it may be an opportunity to consider where our insecurities in parenting, and in our children’s futures lie.
Through reflection, we can come to an understanding that our children rely on, and learn from our own courage, strength, and balance, as a guide for how to become. “We all have our dragons, our own lower, less noble aspects.”* Fear, doubt, and confusion are not the least of these when coming to parenting for the first time- or any time.
From overcoming fear in teaching our children to sleep, to sending them off to school, allowing them the chance to feel and express themselves as free individuals in the world- where, when, and how, is the task of the parent. Through renewing our faith in the world, and in summoning strength, clarity, and courage, in the face of fear, doubt, and confusion, we offer our children the possibility of creating an inner landscape of resources that will allow them the opportunity to grow into strong courageous beings themselves.
How can we as parents take up the task of parenting when we so often feel brought to our knees in doing so? How can we find clarity and resolve in our decisions so as to impart a sense of security and order in the world for our children? Can we as parents find the courage in balanced perception and be confident in carrying it out? In not abandoning our children to make decisions for themselves, but in stepping up to the challenges we face in our parenting, inner and outer resources become available.
Michaelmas is not solely about courage and strength, but the ability to see, and judge what is true in the world, as well as within ourselves in relation to our families, children and communities for the future.
In closing I leave with you with two passages, one from Carrie Dentler and one from Steve Spitalny as they inspired my reflections on Michaelmas this year:
“Tune into your own heart: am I guiding my child through fear of the world or through knowing the world is a good place with good things in it and good people? Never naïve, but also knowing that things are good and people triumph even in the worst of circumstances.”
“Michaelmas is a reminder of this process of the becoming human being as we strive toward our full human potential.”*
(*) Steve Spitalny Michaelmas: The Festival of Human Becoming- Santa Cruz Waldorf School
Carrie Dentler Fearless Parenting: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2011/09/04/fearless-parenting/
Special Thanks to Christine Natale for her insights and storytelling inspirations.
Danielle Epifani is a writer, artist, teacher and director of Margaret’s Garden. She is a graduate from the Bay Area Center For Waldorf Teacher Training and Lifeways North America. She has been working with children and families for 10 years in her home nursery and mixed age kindergarten located in Berkeley CA. She is mother to Armando now 12 years old. Visit her website http://www.margaretsgarden.org/ and Facebook Page:Waldorf Early Childhood- Margaret’s Garden
Copyright 2011 Danielle Epifani www.margaretsgarden.org and The Wonder of Childhood