Sunday, September 23, 2007

Michaelmas: September 29


From a German manuscript, circa 1300

Next Saturday, September 29, is the feast of Michaelmas. The day commemorates the archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael and their victory in casting the dragon (that is, the Devil) out of Heaven. Some universities in the United Kingdom use Michaelmas as the name of the first school term, too.

Lucia's school holds a Michaelmas festival every year to welcome the arrival of Autumn. Grownups and older children press fresh apple cider, bake bread and cook hearty root vegetable soups. Outside, the school-yard hosts a number of different games with the theme of "defeating the dragon." Unless the weather is absolutely miserable, families and friends share picnic blankets and eat dinner together. Lucia is looking forward to wearing the new apple-print dress for Michaelmas that I made at her request.


The old apple dress (now too small in the bodice)

Lucia's teacher sent out an email this morning with a description of the Michaelmas festival in the Waldorf school tradition:

Michaelmas is an old European harvest festival that is celebrated in Waldorf schools around the Western World. The story behind the festival is, briefly, that a dragon wanders the earth, devastating life on earth. St. George, with the help of the Archangel Michael, defeats the dragon, bringing peace to the earth and its inhabitants. The dragon can be seen in the process of the earth (in most places including Seattle in most years) at this time of year when the crops are ripe and mostly harvested, the rains have not fallen for months, the earth is dried and scorched and it seems as though the rains and winter will never come again. In the past people had to wonder at this time if the crops still growing would be brought in before the rains fell, if what they harvested would last through the long winter- who would survive? Who would not? In addition to this, autumn is often the time when our own inner dragons, who have been slumbering away during the lazy and fun days of summer, rear their ugly heads again. It is with the courage and might of Michael that we conquer our own inner dragons that we may go into the solitude and slumber of the winter in tact and with a certain amount of inner peace.

I looked online for various ways in which to celebrate Michaelmas with food, and decided that while we wouldn't cook a goose this year, I could make something with blackberries (tradition has it that the Devil landed on blackberry brambles after he was kicked out of Heaven, thereby rendering the fruit inedible) and something akin to a St. Michael's bannock. I appreciate Michaelmas as the festival to mark the beginning of Autumn. I can tell that people are itching for some sort of celebration by the proliferation of Halloween candy that appeared right after Labor Day. If you are so inclined, I encourage you to create a Michaelmas party of your own. And yes, all you Oktoberfest fans, I'm sure beer as well as hard cider will be fitting beverages for the grownups.


Aster novi-belgii, a.k.a. Michaelmas daisies

This post was updated at 8:00 am.

13 comments:

Lone Star Ma said...

Lovely post! I like dragons so much that I hesitate to associate them with evil, but angels are lovely, too.

Alkelda the Gleeful said...

LSM: Michael O'Brien's book A Landscape With Dragons deals with that very issue. While there are a lot of points in the book with which I do not agree (there's a tendency to say, "This author does thus and do with her work, therefore all of her work is suspect"), the book did get me thinking more about respecting archetypes and symbols in mythology and folklore. As an armchair anthropologist, howerver, I would not go so far as to say that the different symbols are "universal" (i.e. global). An owl, for example, represents one thing in one culture, and another thing altogether in another culture.

galetea said...

I must just share a lovely hearty soup recipe from "The Witch's Kitchen" that I love to make at the first sign of cold weather!

Chilli Soup

1/2 lb ground beef
2 sliced onions
2 finely chopped red chilli peppers
2 sliced cloves of garlic
1 large red pepper
3 tsp paprika powder
1 tin of kidney beans (I'm not a bean fan, so I make it sans beans)
1 can of tomatoes
1 pint of water

Fry up the beef and onions until the beef is fully cooked. Add the chilli peppers, garlic and red pepper and cook gently for a further 5 minutes. Add paprika, beans, tomatoes and water. Bring it to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes.

This is an AWESOME autumn soup!!

Lone Star Ma said...

Does that mean angels are not lovely in some cultures?(:

I definitely agree, and, really, I think things can be archetypal for individuals in ways that have little to do with cultural traditions at all. The subconscious is a weird, wild place.

I believe it is in a Madeleine L'Engle book where a character warns another that true evil always comes as an Angel of the Light. I have often thought of that since reading it. I do not really believe in a force of evil like Lucifer, but it does seem to me that the really harmful things are always done in the name of Great Good. I think I like my angels best like the Cherubim in A Wind In The Door! Not exactly sure how I got from Michaelmas to here...

Lone Star Ma said...

Reading reviews of that book, it kind of sounds like I am probably just the sort the author is worried about...I have little of black and white to offer. Comes, I think, of years in social work...

Alkelda the Gleeful said...

LSM: I got a little depressed reading the book, actually. It started to be a case of, "Which book that I love is this author going to reject next?" But as I said before, it did get me to thinking about having consistent symbols.

Galetea: Thanks for that stew recipe. I like beans, but I'm not a big pepper fan, so that's what I'd omit. Red peppers are lots better than green peppers, but I'd rather have no peppers at all.

Yorkshire Pudding said...

See the photo. Don't you think Lucia's fringe is a tad too long? Why you can't even see her face any more! Poor little mite! Her fringe is being neglected while mama prances all around Washington State pursuing her literary career. Bad mama! Bad!

Alkelda the Gleeful said...

YP: I wondered if anyone would notice Lucia's Cousin It hairdo. I figured if anyone would, it'd be you!

diana said...

I loved this posting and think this event is wonderful!

I really don't care too much for O'Brien's work, but think you might enjoy Sandra Meisel's take on the subject. She is a Catholic literary expert: http://www.catholic.com/thisrock/1991/9108fea1.asp

One quote:Dragons adore the Christ Child in a fourteenth-century French treatise, The Life of Our Blessed Savior Jesus Christ. The infant Jesus blesses them for honoring the divine command "Praise the Lord from the Earth ye dragons" (Ps. 148:7). Mermaids, giants, sphinxes, chimeras, and other fabulous creatures from pagan myth and folklore have decorated churches and other vehicles of religious art.

diana said...

Galetea: I must try your recipe!

diana said...

Lone Star Ma;

I think that it may mean that if the Devil should come to you, he will come to you as a beautiful thing, not ugly or distasteful. I have heard that he would come to you as your best friend!

Alkelda the Gleeful said...

Diana: I will check out Sandra Meisel's work. Thanks for the link.

Lone Star Ma said...

Or your patriotism, or your preacher...