One of our traditions borrowed from Waldorf schools in Europe is the celebration of the Festival of St. Michael, or Michaelmas. The legendary origin of the holiday, which accompanies lengthening nights and the cold of autumn, is the victory of St. Michael, patron saint of mariners and horses, over the powers of darkness, symbolized by the evil dragon. Folklore in England holds that the devilish dragon landed in bramble bushes, and that one should not pick blackberries after Michaelmas!
In our school we look to the Michaelmas festival to stir teachers to inspire the students with stories both old and new of human courage and initiative. We do not have to look far to see that the world is crying out for new ways of thinking and living, new forms for working and for social life, and for leadership, political and otherwise. The world is transforming around us at tremendous speed and, as bold as those in the forefront of change can be, often more boldness is demonstrated by the tenacity with which the old dying world tries to hold on and resist the new at all costs.
The Michaelmas festival reminds us to honor the courage that we see around us every day in noble acts, large and small. The courage to stand up for someone who struggles, or to look for the good in others, or to strive for something more.
As teachers we recognize the Michaelic courage of the Shining Mountain parents who have stood up against the old dying forms of education and chosen a schooling of the future, one that seeks to awaken the true, radiant individual in each of our students, nurturing that vision into reality. We also recognize it in each other and are grateful to have such colleagues, who could have chosen other work for themselves but have dedicated themselves to a future which honors that which is human in each of us. And we are grateful for the Michaelic students who enter our school each year, having chosen it in the depths of their souls, and those that graduate, determined to shine their particular lights of courage into the darkness of a troubled, trembling world.
Michaelmas is more than a date, more than a season. It is an urgent force, calling forth our deepest energies to seek out that which is good and true in all of us, and encouraging it to grow and flourish. Just as nature only appears to be dying but will return again in spring, so will deeds of courage, large and small, only seem to be insignificant or fleeting, but will surely help to launch a bold new world which yearns to emerge and shine.
By David Blair (1952 – 2013) Beloved Faculty Member