Michaelmas, traditionally celebrated on September 29, commemorates the deed of the Archangel Michael, who with his angels fought against the devil and the powers of darkness. Michael hurled Lucifer down from heaven for his treachery and cast him into the earth. This saint is usually depicted with a shield and lance or fiery sword, gazing outwards while subduing the dragon underfoot. Sometimes he is shown holding a scale with which he weighs the souls of men.
At this time of year daylight and darkness are in fact very close to their exact balance point (September 29 falls within the astrological sign of Libra the Scales). While in spring we contemplated the resurrection of the physical body, now in fall we need a resurrection experience for the soul that acts as a counter force to autumnal decay in the world. Through our own efforts we must discover new inner resources which can help us grow towards life and light.
Historically Michaelmas has long been a time of new beginnings. As an English Quarter Day it was the time when contracts were renewed between landlord and tenant, the time when hiring fairs were held. Many universities still begin their year at Michaelmas. Taking up a new task is a theme of the season and Michael’s task can become real for us when we try to take a new step on our inner journey and discover that we must battle with the hidden “dragon” in our own being.
Michael beckons us to find the spirit to come alive through the dying year. Flashing meteor showers in the autumn are said to be the sword he wields for us; each falling star is made of iron – the iron we need to strengthen the resolution of the heart. Seed-thoughts of summer can be harvested now as deeds and find their place in the world among people, to generate a life of their own that goes on in the future.
I allow the radiant figure to shine into my heart and soul and mindAnd so gain the strength to vanquish the dragon.Powerful, wise spirit of the will,Weaving in the far reaches of the spirit over all,Working through spiritual beings —Surely you are working tooIn the depth’s of my soul’s beingSo, in loving working, bind fastMy inner life to your illumined strengthIn finding you, I find myself.–Rudolf Steiner