Richmond Waldorf School celebrates many festivals throughout the year that demonstrate and deepen our values to make a positive impact on the world.
Late September brings us Michaelmas season! Michaelmas falls during the harvest season, midway between the northern hemisphere’s summer and winter solstices. Although Michaelmas is not commonly celebrated in North America, it is an important festival in Waldorf schools throughout the world. As J Fleming from Shining Mountain Waldorf School explains, “Saint Michael is an archangel mentioned in the Bible, Apocrypha and Koran. He appears as a spiritual figure and protector of humankind, inspiring strength, courage and will throughout history. The motif of a conqueror of the dragon can be seen in much Chinese art, in Apollo and the serpent, in Krishna slaying demons, and in the story of Saint George and the dragon.” Michael gives human beings the courage to meet the trials of the present and the confidence to look to the challenges of the future without fear.
Our own Ms. Deboarah Boes reflects that in school, the children hear stories about brave knights who overpower the dragon with swords of light, or children who gather their courage to encounter what is difficult and overcome fear to help others or the earth. In terms that the children can understand, these stories and verses give the message that they have the ability to stand in equanimity in the face of life’s challenges. That every moment is one of decision in how they act and they can choose to act with courage, imbue all they do with care, and call on their own inner power or will to persevere.
As we reflect on the meaning of Michaelmas this year, we see an ever-pressing need to face today’s challenges with strong hearts and minds. Each of us has a gift to bring to the world. We seek to recognize and appreciate each other’s gifts, and encourage one other toward our full potential. Michaelmas reminds us that as the sunlight decreases, we can shine our inner light and courageously do what is right, even if it is hard.
This year, since we are unable to gather and share in the spirit together, we hope to inspire you to shine your inner light and to share your gifts with others in your own way.
Dragon Bread is a traditional activity at RWS for both grades and Early Childhood students. We’d love you to give it a try this weekend with your child and see how much fun it can be to bake something together. Maybe make two and share with a neighbor!
1-1/2 cups warm water
2-3 cups unbleached or whole wheat flour
1 tbsp. dry active yeast (I use one packet)
2 tbsp. Oil
¼ cup honey or raw (turbinado) sugar
¼ cup soy flour (or more Whole Wheat)
2 tsp. grated orange rind (optional)
2 cups WW pastry flour (or unbleached white/ww flour)
1-1/2 tsp. salt
¼ tsp. anise seed (optional)
A few almonds, raisins, and red licorice (optional for decorating)
Place warm water in a bowl and add the yeast. Sprinkle the sugar over it. (If the water is warm and not hot or cold, the yeast will bubble up.) Let stand 5-10 minutes.
Slowly add the flours, salt and oil, mixing as you go. When the mixture pulls away from the side of the bowl, you can place it on a floured surface and knead it.
Place in an oiled bowl and cover to let it rise to double its size. Punch it down and put on a floured surface again, knead it and shape it (braids, loaf ). Oil the pan it will go in and place it in to rise one more time.
If making a particular shape such as a braid, a dragon, tree, etc., you can place it on a piece of parchment paper on a cookie sheet instead. If you’d like, you could add almonds for the scales and raisins for the eyes. Placing aluminum foil, rolled up, around it, will help keep the shape you desire while it rises one more time.
Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. (If making a smaller form, check it at 30 minutes.) It is done if it sounds hollow when you tap the bottom of the loaf.) The final optional decorative touch is red licorice for the dragon’s tongue.
Songs of Michaelmas
In autumn Saint Michael with sword and with shield,
Passes over meadow and orchard and field
He’s on the path to battle ‘gast darkness and strife
He is the heavenly warrior, protector of life
The harvest let us gather with Micahel’s aid;
The light he sheddeth fails not, nor does it fade
And when the corn is cut and the meadows are bare
We’ll don Saint Michael’s armour and onward will fare.
We are Saint Michael’s warriors with strong heart and mind;
We forge our way through darkness Stain Michael to find
And there he stands in glory; Saint Michael to find.
And there he stands in glory; Saint Micahel we pray,
Lead us on to battle and show us thy way
Brave and True
Brave and true I will be
Each good deed sets me free.
Each kind word makes me strong.
I will fight for the right,
I will conquer the wrong.
Earth grows dark and fear is lurking,
O St. Michael, Heaven’s knight,
Go before us know and lead us,
Out of darkness, into light
Make a Difference in our City
Richmond Waldorf School believe that schools should awaken social responsibility, service to community, and stewardship of the earth. In the spirit of the Michaelmas season, now is the perfect time to step up into action. Especially in these times, we are called to not only reflect, but also to act. We each have our own gifts, abilities, and interests, and we hope you will take it upon yourself to find a way to help others this time of year.
Need some help with where to start? Check out HandsOn, a Richmond-based nonprofit that connects volunteers to projects that need help! https://www.handsonrva.org/
We specifically loved the DIY Volunteer opportunities for local schools and nonprofits that need our help. Things like snack bags, cold weather supplies, and cards are great for students! Or get some fresh air and make a difference by participating in a James River clean up or picking up litter in your neighborhood.