Friday, September 29, 2006

Michaelmas time

Autumn is, hands down, my favorite time of year. I'm all about wearing warm clothes, raking leaves, and eating pumpkin pie. It's also the time of my birth, though September 11 is no longer such an auspicious day.

I'm still new enough to the East Coast that I cannot help but make constant comparisons with California, where I grew up. The parts of California where I lived, Los Angeles and Sacramento, do not have autumn really. Summer extends far into October with only slight cooling and the threat of rain by Hallowe'en.

By contrast, we are in the thick of autumn here. Leaves are turning more colorful by the day, temperatures have dropped precipitously, and the chipmunks, sparrows and yellow jackets have a new urgency in their activities.

In anthroposophical circles, now is the time of Michaelmas, where images of the Archangel fighting the dragon abound. We think about courage in the face of the year's dying away, and of the spirit conquering the forces of materialism. The shining, pure, upright, courageous hero overcomes the dark, sullied, cowering dragon.

In my children I see the picture of the will transforming substance: they love nothing more than to dig in the earth, break sticks into firewood for the gnomes, and to hear stories about brave knights conquering evil foes. It's a challenge to balance teaching about non-violence and to support their need for heroic archetypes.

So, last autumn we talked about how Michael doesn't really kill the dragon, he tames him and shows him the way to goodness, truth and beauty. A bit heavy for little ones, but they seem to take in what they can and digest it in their own time. The image of transformation is a strong one in early childhood, as the child transforms his whole self through growth and maturation.

This year SillyBilly for the first time has expressed fears of monsters and witches. We talked about how monsters and mean witches hate beauty and kindness and love. So, we do a little transformation of our home from daily mess to evening neatness, to help keep the monsters at bay. And I explained about good witches who help people with medicines made from herbs.

For me, talking about these things with my children is a little like autumn itself: a little of this and a little of that. On the one hand we have knights and wise women, on the other we have dragons and monsters. The air is chilly but the sun is bright.

These are the words to one of our favorite Michaelmas songs:

When I conquer within me fear and wrath,
Michael in heaven casts the dragon forth.

Firmly on the earth I stand,
Michael's sword within my hand.
When I conquer fear the dragon's chains I tightly bind,
Michael's light within my mind.
When I thrust against the monster's pride,
Michael is at my side.


bill said...

Thanks so much for sharing this. I've been looking for information about traditional fall music, esp. Michaelmas songs. Your entry gave me hope that I might find some.

~Bill from Tampa

Anonymous said...

I'd love to get the tune that this song is sung to, sot that we may teach it to our group next week.
Jennifer in VA

Henitsirk said...

Hi Jennifer, the music and lyrics can be found in The Waldorf Song Book, by Brien Masters and published by Floris Books. You can purchase it online at, I believe.