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Turning On the Heater–A Dragon Ceremony, by Esther Leisher

Here in Colorado, Autumn swept in with a snowy Bang this week!  I love this idea of making a fabulous ritual out of turning on the heater for the first time in the fall, with its imagery of the dragon warming us!        -Faith


Part I, The Dragon/Heater Celebration
from Esther Leisher
Family life, and life in general, is enormously enriched if we remember to create special moments. Those moments can be festivals or holidays that much of the world is celebrating, or they can be unique to your family. Some may be so simple that you hardly know what to call them. Here are some of the ideas I had for the celebration of everyday things–turning on the heater for winter, the first hike of spring, pulling the first carrot out of the garden, celebrating an abundance of sunflowers.

The Dragon/Heater Celebration
Something everyday can become magical through making it a ceremony. A special event might be turning on the heater for winter. When the days grow cold you could conquer the dragon with his flaming breath, put it in your heater (symbolically) and be grateful to it each time the heater/dragon comes on with a “Whoof.” Dragons want to use their power. Give them a place where their fiery breath can do the most good. A floor heater where you can sit in the dragon’s breath gives a dragon work to do. What you give in return is gratitude.

For conquering the dragon, everyone (including the grownups) might have a simple cloak and a wooden sword they have made themselves (more or less). Out in the yard, everyone is dressed as knights, with the dragon they helped to make now out of sight. Then with a horn blast or a clang, the dragon arrives on the scene (pulled by an adult). The young knights fight the dragon until it is subdued. You can lead this the first year, making it as simple or dramatic as you want. Even fierce whacking of the paper dragon doesn’t do much damage, and some children seem to need to show their strength. In our family, Paul had such a vivid memory from when he was a baby and was carried in a backpack on his father’s back during the ceremony, he needed no demonstration as a small child on what to do with dragons.

The dragon subdued, everyone joins in the triumphal march around the yard dragging the conquered dragon (made of graduated paper bags sewn or taped together, with red paper flames coming out of the mouth and green and orange spines down the back), perhaps singing “Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory of the Coming of the Lord (St. George?).” It is a wonderful triumphant song, otherwise known as “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” Modify songs to fit your needs. Art (in this case, songs) becomes an expression of your own experience. If you want a strong verse to say before the dragon appears — a nice opening before the clang — try “Forge Me With Fire.” Then comes the clang (one a pan lid?) or a horn’s “Toot tu tu.” We had a long, quaint, metal party horn that played only one note, but it blared in a satisfying way.

Once conquered, the paper dragon is placed near the heater and, with a “whoof,” enters the heater (Dad has just turned up the thermostat). The dragon is gone. He’s in the heater now! The now-empty dragon body is burned in the fireplace (or a metal bucket if you don’t have a fireplace). For dinner that night, you could have dragon-shaped lentil patties (lentil loaf recipe) with red ketchup and some “elixir” that gives strength to knights. Other yummy things would be appreciated as well. It can be a feast if you choose, with goblets and platters and even a hero tale (St. George and the dragon? Hercules and the snakes? Cuhulain?). By about four years old, children begin to need hero tales. If you don’t give them any brave knights or powerful warrior angels, they will have to make do with superman or spider man. They will, they must, find heroes.

This family festival can grow and grow and become so much fun. The children will want more elaborate costumes, more people and more tales as they get older. It will look more and more like a feast from the Middle Ages. And someday you may have your own “bard” who will sing or tell of heroes of old. Buy things if you don’t have time to make them. Do whatever your life requires. You can make special moments for your children without much preparation.

Here are some simple practical preparation ideas for the Dragon/Heater celebration. 

Cloaks, Tunics, Swords 
The simplest way I ever found for making cloaks was to buy some satin pillow cases — red, dark blue, green, purple — and some ¾” elastic, maybe half a yard per person. Cut the side seams so that it opens out into a long rectangle. Run the elastic through one of the ends where the fold-over is and tie or sew the ends of the elastic. Yes, the sides are rough where you cut it, but you aren’t going to wash it anyway, so it won’t fray. In moments you have a cloak. For a tunic, cut a hole for the head in the closed end of a cotton pillow case and open the seams part way on the sides for arm holes. A ribbon or rope becomes the belt. (I bought old belts at second hand stores, marvelous, elaborate ones, that served for plays as well as belts for tunics. Just cut them down a bit, or add a few extra holes to make them smaller)

It has been years since I did these things. I don’t know if you will find satin pillowcases that are not in a sheet set. You can get them by mail order, though. You can order cotton sateen pillowcases from Gaiam or Lands End. And, of course, you can simply buy a yard each of various satins and sew a tunnel at one end to put the elastic through. My kids liked these longer cloaks better. The ones they liked best when they were older were the ones that are long and light, swirling when you move. SilkEssence is the material I like best.

Swords require going to a lumber store and buying lath and some short nails. The hilt can be cut about half the length of the blade and nailed in place. We used the lids of laundry baskets for shields, running narrow elastic through the center to make the strap for the wrist.

Battle Hymn of the Republic
Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord, (St. George?)
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored. 
He has loosed the fateful lightning of his wonderful swift sword. 
His truth is marching on. 
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! hallelujah! 
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! his truth is marching on. 
This is a famous song from the American Civil War. The music came from the earlier song “John Brown’s Body.” E-mail me if you want the music; written music doesn’t work well online, but I can send it to you in a PDF file.

A Celtic Verse for Conquering the Dragon
Forge me with fire
A sword for my smiting
Fright to my foes 
And flames for my fighting

Shape me a shield
Both Forceful and Fierce
Stalwart and Shapely
To fend against fears

–Esther Leisher

This article was originally published on the Waldorf In the Home website, and can be found here:


1 thought on “Turning On the Heater–A Dragon Ceremony, by Esther Leisher”

  1. Rahima Baldwin Dancy

    Delaying Academics
    The most recent edition of Scientific American (Nov. 2011) has an article questioning the push for early academics called “The Death of Preschool.” It’s worth buying the issue or paying the online fee to read it at

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