As the days grow shorter and the crisp air hearkens the coming of the dark winter months, some Steiner-inspired kindergartens and preschools prepare to celebrate Michaelmas. Stories are told of fearsome dragons, brave knights, benevolent kings and heroic princesses. Children eat dragon bread and dye silken capes with goldenrod. They explore the roles of warrior, princess and dragon in their play. Something about these age-old themes spark their imaginations and tales of epic battles between good and evil are treasured by many young children.
The youngest children also feel the increasing darkness of the season. They wake in the morning to find only darkness and call out for their parents to come to their side, to bring some light. The very, very young child (birth to around three years) still dwells within her parents’ spiritual embrace and is just beginning to develop a sense of “self.” She has yet to refer to herself as “I.” When babies take their first steps, they begin to feel the separation between child and mother more strongly. At times, this developing sense of self can be joyful and at other times it can be frightening.
For the littlest children, who are away from their parents and in my care, I like to tell my own tale of light shining in the darkness. Since the youngest children have not yet had the life experience to mentally illustrate elaborate tales of knights and dragons, I choose to tell a tale they can more readily receive. Our story is told orally at the beginning of rest time. Once they have been tucked in their beds and a little lantern is lit in the darkened room, I play the lyre and share the story of Odelay…
Odelay and the Great Storm
Long, long ago, in a land far, far away, there lived a little girl named Odelay. Odelay lived at the top of a tall, tall mountain in a cozy little cabin with her parents. Odelay’s mother always told her, “Dear little one, remember you are never alone. For there are always angels around to guide and protect you. If ever you should feel alone or afraid, all you have to do is sing this verse, and your guardian angel will help you.” And then she sang, “Holy Angel, come and guide me. From the darkness to the lightness. And be with me.” When Odelay heard this she was no longer afraid. One day her mother needed to go into the village to gather winter supplies, while her father was in the nearby forest chopping wood for their fireplace.
Odelay stayed home in their cozy little cabin. She played with her dolls. She even swept the floor. When she grew hungry, she fixed herself a tasty dinner of bread with honey butter, cheese, an apple and a glass of goat’s milk. And when Father Sun began to set in the sky, she knew just what to do. She called the fire fairies and asked for their help and then she carefully lit all of the lanterns in the house.
A little while later, North Wind began to blow, rattling at her windowpane. Yet Odelay was not afraid. Later still, North Wind blew even louder. Still Odelay was not afraid. Then North Wind blew so loud and so hard, he blew the window right open and the candles right out. But Odelay knew what to do. She shut the window tight and then she searched for the matches to light the lanterns again. But they were hard to find in the darkness.
Lightening flashed and thunder crashed. Then Odelay started to sing, quietly at first, though her voice grew stronger as she sang, “Holy angel, come and guide me. From the darkness to the lightness. And be with me.”
Just then, a beautiful angel made all out of light appeared before Odelay’s very eyes. The angel smiled at Odelay and then she lit the candles with light from her very own body. Once again, the angel smiled at Odelay. And then, as quickly as she had appeared, the angel was gone. Little Odelay was not afraid any more for she knew that what her mother told her was true, “There are always angels around to guide and protect you.”
The angel then found Odelay’s parents sitting in a cave on the mountainside, waiting out the storm. She returned Odelay’s parents safely home again. They hugged and kissed and sang together, “Holy angel, come and guide me. From the darkness to the lightness. And be with me.”
“Holy Angel”, by Rachel Hanson Myers, shared with permission. Thank you!
Odelay and the Great Storm by Jaimmie Stugard
© 2012 by Jaimmie Stugard with adaptations by Cynthia Aldinger.
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Jaimmie Stugard has been a caregiver at the Milwaukee LifeWays for nearly ten years. She is grateful that she is able to bring her own little ones with her to LifeWays each day. She is also the music teacher in the Wisconsin LifeWays Training.
We thank you for stopping by to enjoy this article. If you would like to share your experiences working with children in a LifeWays home or center, please feel free to contact Mara Spiropoulos at firstname.lastname@example.org. She would be thrilled to work with you to share your wisdom and experiences on the LifeWays blog.