michaelmas

On Dragons and Making Swords :: Christy Corp-Minamiji

swords fashioned by the dws morning glory class 0f 2013

swords fashioned by the dws morning glory class 0f 2013

Fairy tales are more than true — not because they tell us dragons exist, but because they tell us dragons can be beaten.

I’ve loved this internet-ubiquitous quote, typically attributed to G.K. Chesterton, for a long time.  To me it conjures images of golden capes, wooden swords, and bringing light to the fears that lie snarling in the caves of our hearts.

When I looked up the words to verify them for this post, I found something even better.  The above line is actually the work of author Neil Gaiman, paraphrasing the longer Chesterton passage.

Fairy tales, then, are not responsible for producing in children fear, or any of the shapes of fear; fairy tales do not give the child the idea of the evil or the ugly; that is in the child already, because it is in the world already. Fairy tales do not give the child his first idea of bogey. What fairy tales give the child is his first clear idea of the possible defeat of bogey. The baby has known the dragon intimately ever since he had an imagination. What the fairy tale provides for him is a St. George to kill the dragon. Exactly what the fairy tale does is this: it accustoms him for a series of clear pictures to the idea that these limitless terrors had a limit, that these shapeless enemies have enemies in the knights of God, that there is something in the universe more mystical than darkness, and stronger than strong fear.

When my children first started Waldorf education, like most new Waldorf parents, their dad and I felt like we had wandered into a foreign country.  One of the most baffling things was this Michaelmas deal.  I knew the word from my obsessive reading of old English mystery novels, but I’d heard it in reference to university terms, and couldn’t figure out what that had to do with kids and dragons.  Internet research wasn’t any more help.  Something to do with the story of St. George?  Okay, but who was this Michael guy? And why did my second grade daughter need a peasant costume and how was I supposed to do this in a couple of weeks?

Over the years, Michaelmas has become one of my favorite Waldorf festivals – as Gaiman would say, not because the dragon exists, but because it can be beaten.

Modern parenting seems to dictate that we should protect our children from the bogey and even from knowledge of its existence.  But “it is in the world already.”  Children know the terrors that lurk under the bed, in the dark, and in the whispers of grownups.  

With fairy tales and golden capes and wooden swords and songs, we stop lying to them.  When we show them the monsters and evil hiding in the stories, and help them shape their weapons, when we give them the words to “conquer fear and wrath,” we validate what they already know – that there are dragons.  

Instead of closing the closet door and saying, “Don’t worry honey, there’s nothing bad in the night” as we lock and bar our windows and doors, we give them a light to shine into the shadows.  We acknowledge the monster, show them its dimensions and limits, and give them the tools to rescue themselves.

My children are well beyond the years of wooden swords.  The oldest is going into 10th grade – her second year of public school.  My son was part of his class dragon last year; this school year he will turn 13.  And our youngest daughter is in the between-land of village and dragon, heading into 4th grade.  Their dad and I don’t worry much anymore about the effects of cartoon violence or “scary stories.”  Our dragons take the form of traffic and strangers as our children head independently into the world.  Their monsters lurk in the caves of peer pressure and college choices.

But each of them has been at some point a knight of Michael.  And they know that dragons can be beaten.


Christy Corp-Minamiji is our reluctant muse. A mom of three distinctly divine, loved-by-us kids, she takes everything, and mostly herself, with a grain of salt. Blogging veterinarian, freelance writer, runner, and soon-to-be-author, she took our beg and ran with it. Literally.

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Michaelmas! KG Resources for September 29th

My back porch...

My back porch...

Oh, how proud my kindergartners have been, dying their capes, finger knitting their belts and sanding their swords.  When homeschooling, we can celebrate on festival day,  by picking just one or two activities, while the school rhythm requires up to a month to prepare.  For those at home, or in Waldorf-inspired programs, here's a few resources for the weekend:

Silk Capes

1 satin silk square, 21x21" or 35x35".  Use a chiffon stitch for the edges, leave unhemmed (we think this is beautiful and natural at our house), or purchase finished here.  3" of satin ribbon.  Sunflower, marigold, calendula, or Goldenrod petals to dye - you likely don't have them, so...turmeric! (We love the down-to-Earth, simple herbal folkarts at our dear friend Latisha's page)

Alternately, I suppose you could buy them for next year.  

Michaelmas.waldorfish4.jpg

Sword Belts: 

Let your little one fingerknit a 4' length of wool yarn.   You can get a natural skein of wool and dye that along with the silk.  Place a loop halfway in, to hold their sword.

Swords:

1 garden stake, a 5" length of 3/4" pine, rasp, c-clamps, #1, #2 & #3-grit sandpaper.  Yellow paint for the whole thing, beeswax to polish, gold paint for the blade.   Pencil & woodburner (optional).

michaelmas.waldorfish.1.jpg

One of my sons made this sword under the love of kindergarten teacher Mary Caridi-Gorga a couple of years ago.   (Notice they always saw off the tip before rasping.)  While the older children perform the annual Michaelmas play, the kindergartners are knighted, before breaking bread with their grownups.

Here's another example of this sword.  And another.

 

Offering the Cape:

 

"I give to you this cape of light, To bring you courage, strength and might." 

-Teacher Mary

 

“You are a knight, brave and true,

Bringing love to all you do.

You are a knight, brave and strong,

Courage fill you with your song.” 

-from Ms. Sarah

 

Brave and True Will I Be

Each Kind Deed Sets Me Free

Each Kind Word Makes Me Strong

Fight for the Right Conquer the Wrong

-unknown

 

Song 1: 

The Autumn wind blows open the gate

Oh, Michael, for you we wait

We follow you, show us the way

With joy we greet this Autumn day

Good morning, good morning" 

Extended Verses:

Oh Saint Michael, God's great knight...

strong and pure and shining bright.

i'll be a knight of Michael, too...

and polish my crown to a golden hue.

And ask the gnomes to iron the mine,

iron from the stars and the earth so fine.

to bring to the blacksmith, who with his might...

will make me a sword, so strong and bright.

I'll polish by sword so fine and bright,

and I will use it for the right.

drive evil away, I will try

and protect those who are weaker than I.

 

Song 2:

 

Autumn Blessing:

 Brave and true will I be,

Each good deed sets me free,

Each kind word makes me strong.

I will fight for the right! 

I will conquer the wrong!

Sword of Michael brightly gleaming,

Down to earth its light is streaming,

May we see its shining rays

In the Winter's darkest days.

 

Knighting Ceremony Scrolls

As the child is kneeling, read a scroll you've made with a personal note describing honor and acknowledging them as an enobled being, or the following verse.  As you read, tap each shoulder, right, left, and right again, before helping them to their feet and assisting them in putting their sword into the belt. 

 

You've made this sword, so fine, so bright

It's not for some silly quarrel or fight

But to help you remember to do what is right

Now rise and be one of Michael's knights

By your side your sword will stay, bringing you courage along the way

(More verses here.) 

 

Movement:

Up to the Heavens  (Point sword up)

Down to the Earth (Point to ground)

No Fear Here! (Foot stomps, L, R, L)

Michael be my guide, stand by my side.             

No Fear Here! (Foot stomps, L, R, L)

Michael be my guide, stand by my side.  

By my side my sword will stay (Sword tucked into belts)

Bringing me Courage along the way (Hands on heart)

-unknown

 

Dragon Bread

One table's version...had almond scales and a fruit roll up split-tongue.

One table's version...had almond scales and a fruit roll up split-tongue.

 

Waldorfish Dragon Bread

Makes 8 tiny dragons or one large for 8. 

Raisins

1/2 packet (3 g) quick-action yeast

1 large pinch salt

1 T sunflower oil

3/8 pint (210 ml) water

3 1/2 cups (350 g) all-purpose flour

(my gluten-free everyday flour mix is here)

Set oven to 350'.  Mix dry ingredients well.  Add wet.  Mix into a firm dough.  Place on a floured board.  Push and knead for 5 minutes.  Shape into dragon(s) and add raisins for eyes.  Place on a greased cookie sheet in a warm place.  Let them double, then bake for 15 minutes. 

Here's another recipe

Reading: 

At home, we're reading Festival of Stones, by Reg Down.  It's a Tiptoes Lightly anthology that takes us from Autumn thru Advent. 

See our Michaelmas Pinterest board for plenty of other ideas, tutorials and resources.

I haven't been able to find the authors of these songs and verses, so if you know them, please share!  How do you celebrate? 

Warmly,  Maya


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