Download the article: The Chariot of Michael
by Dorit Winter
This article appeared in And Who Shall Teach the Teachers? The Christ Impulse in Waldorf Education published by the Pedagogical Section Council of North America, and is published here with permission from the Pedagogical Section Council.
Is Michaelmas a Christian Festival? Yes and no.
“During the Middle Ages, Michaelmas was a great religious feast and many popular traditions grew up around the day, which coincided with the harvest in much of Western Europe.”1 It is still a Feast Day in the church, but there is hardly any awareness of the day’s significance, or even of its existence, in our culture at large. By comparison to Easter or Christmas, it is invisible.
Is Michaelmas connected to what Rudolf Steiner calls the Christ Impulse? Most emphatically yes.
It is this disparity which causes so much hesitancy in our schools. We celebrate the day with gusto. Typically, the entire school is involved. If we are in a rural school, we delight in the outdoor drama, sometimes complete with a real horse and rider. In many of our schools, there is a play, or playlet, often carried by the Second Grade, often complete with animated dragon which necessitates a somewhat simplified version of what we are celebrating. The second grade curriculum includes saints. The children’s Michaelmas production revolves around St. George. Sometimes there is genuine confusion, and there is reference to Saint Michael. But Michael is not a saint. Saints are human beings, albeit special human beings, who through their own striving, have purified their lower nature. In anthroposophical circles, the name of Michael is pronounced with the emphasis on the last syllable, to remind us that he is not just Michael, but a spiritual being, an Archangel. He shares the last syllable of his name with other heavenly beings: Raphael, Gabriel, Uriel, and even Elohim.
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