Today is Michaelmas and I am giving a tea for new parents at our school. I'm a little bit intimidated at the idea of talking about festivals from a Waldorf perspective. But, sometimes, I know, it's good to hear a parent's perspective. Since I'm intimidated to talk about it to new parents, I thought "why not go all the way and be really intimidated--put it on the blog." So, here are my thoughts. A long, post with few photos--just what I don't like :)
Every Friday the children in our school gather for an assembly. Right now, one of the songs they are singing is a round:
Round and round the earth is turning
turning always into morning
and from morning round to night.
I've been thinking about this song--the movement and circling of the earth that it reveals. It's simple to see how the seasons move round and round, but there's another way to look at it as well--as a rhythm of inbreath and outbreath.
The teachers (and I in the summer anyway) work hard at helping children through the day to have activities that allow the children to expand out, and move back inward in a rhythmic way. So, too, one could say do the seasons and the earth.
At the Spring Equinox, or Easter, one could say that there is the beginning of an outbreath, a lightening--a time when the earth expands and the soul expands, breaths, lightens. The Fall Equinox, at Michaelmas, the opposite happens--there is a turning, a coming back (almost a dying in nature), an anticipation of the inward work that will spiral in through the Advent season. Often, in order for the best inner work to happen, there has to be an obstacle, an encounter that can help us define what our inner work needs to be. It takes courage and strength to truly meet that obstacle.
For me, that's the picture of the Michaelmas festival--courage, strength, will. Will--a term that I define as the almost unconscious energy it takes to make yourself do something you don't want to do.
So, at our school right now, I see this season coming forth in verses such as one the Kindergarten is doing right now: "I am a blacksmith, strong and true. Best of work I always do. All day long my hammers go, slinging, clanging, clanging, so,.." In first grade: "We will work, with our will. With our strength. And our skill til the sword shines bright!" In 6th grade: "Beware the Jabberwock, my son! The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!" Many classes are also working on a math block--a subject where you have to work things through.
A picture of Michaelmas can be seen in "St. George and the Dragon." The children are performing this play today. St. George encounters and tames the dragon with the help of the Angel Michael.
After the play is our Harvest Festival--also a season of celebrating strength. At the Harvest Festival we not only celebrate with foods and harvest activities such as pressing cider, but we also play games of strength and skill such as obstacle courses and relay races.
How to bring this important season home to children? I personally think that a strong connection to the seasons as they both turn and move inward/outward is important for our own inner work. Making a nature table is a way to reflect what is going on outside, inside. My nature table actually resides on my dining table and is constantly changing as the world outside our door changes. We're making these little nut people at our tea today.
In addition to having a nature table that reflects change, I think that engaging children in outdoor chores that celebrates their strength is another way to connect them to this season. Learning to chop wood, or build a bird feeder, or rake leaves all provide that energetic engagement with nature that will somehow leave a space inside them for the quiet, almost unconscious soul-work of the darker days.
It's a big day. My children are very excited. They wonder if the dragon will blow smoke this year (a fire extinguisher in his nose). They look forward to racing and running hard. And, they look forward to a big glass of cider they have pressed themselves.
Enjoy the season.