Living Arts Weekly: Michaelmas- A Festival Dedicated to Inner Work

September 17, 2023 

Michaelmas~ A Festival Dedicated to Inner Work by Shanah Ahmadi

Here at Rose Rock School in Oklahoma, we are preparing for our Autumn festival—Michaelmas. Likewise, many of you may be similarly engaged in this work in your homes and communities. Festival preparation includes outward preparation—like the creation of a Circle or a Story that will uphold the spiritual impulse of the festival. However, in order to artistically render a gift for the children in our care, we first need to waken to the gesture of the season within ourselves.

So, what are the gestures of Autumn…of Michaelmas in particular? Michaelmas is named after St. Michael–an archangel acknowledged in the Judeo-Christian and Muslim religions.  An archetypal figure for courage and justice, St. Michael is commonly depicted with a sword and scales.  There are many stories about St. Michael bravely defeating wickedness to promote the greater good.  A typical story recounts St. Michael slaying or taming a dragon, so that the dragon could no longer obscure goodness and truth.

So, how is the St. Michael archetype akin to Autumn? Well, when we look around us outdoors, we may notice the days getting shorter and the nights becoming longer. We may feel an unfamiliar chill in the wind, along with the rustle of dead leaves. This increasing dark and cold can bid us to kindle our courage. The Equinox has an inherent quality of justice, or balance, as nature precisely equalizes the length of the day and night. When we look closely, we can also witness a balance of growth and decay in the Autumn.  Even as the acorns fall from the trees (many to be devoured by squirrels and birds), there is the hope of rebirth hidden inside the shells. Lastly, similar to the falling nuts and leaves, there is a grounding quality to the Autumn. Michael’s sword, used for dealing with the dragon, is said to be made meteoric iron—sometimes thought of as fallen stars.

What can Michaelmas mean for each of us? We may feel a heaviness—our falling…our failing. Though, we can hold this image of Michael gathering up the fallen stars and forging a sword help with the hardest work—our inner work. Perhaps we will find the bravery to meet an uncomfortable situation with integrity and resolve.  Maybe we will seek to restore the balance in our lives–to get quality sleep, complete an overdue project, find time for relaxation.  Perhaps we will encounter a darkness within ourselves that harkens a transformation—a slaying or taming. The chances to find courage and balance are unlimited.

This week’s article is written by LifeWays’ Board President and Representative Site Director, Shanah Ahmadi. She is also the Director and founder of the Rose Rock School and LifeWays Representative Center in Norman, Oklahoma.