The celebration of festivals is an important part of education at the Waldorf schools. Michaelmas is celebrated as the “festival of courage”. It falls at the time of the year when the earth travels through the tail end of the late summer meteor showers and the northern hemisphere starts to tilt away from the sun. The festival is associated with the Archangel Michael who inspires courage. Through the inspiration of Michael, the lowly peasant George had the courage to persevere and carry out the challenging task of slaying the “dragon”.
This fall, the Sun Haven Waldorf School followed a long standing Waldorf tradition of making shooting star balls as part of the celebration of Michaelmas.
The children each gathered a stone which would form the centre of the ball.
They wrapped wool rovings around the stone, wet the wool with hot, soapy water and patted the balls to help set the wool in place. They then used the hot soapy water to wet felt the balls.
Charlotte, the Kindergarten teacher, took the balls home and put them in the drier to make them solid and firm.
We then estimated the amount of alum needed and mordanted the balls.
The next morning the children had fun picking the last marigolds of the season.
A basket of beautiful marigolds!
At the school we set up a hotplate, filled a pot half full of hot water and set it to cook. The children put the marigolds into a bag (a paint straining bag) and we put the bag of marigolds into the pot.
The children watched with great interest as the marigolds began to release their colour and the water turned a beautiful orangey gold.
While the marigolds were cooking, Charlotte and the children sewed ribbons on the balls to make streamers. When the ball is thrown, the streamers fly out behind like the tail of a shooting star.
The streamers serve another purpose. The children held onto them as they carefully dipped their balls into the dye pot.
After only a couple of minutes the children pulled out their balls and were excited to see the balls had already dyed a beautiful bright gold.
All the balls were pinned to the sides of the pot and left to cook for over an hour.
What beautiful golden balls!
Finally, the balls were hung on a line to dry.
It was a wonderful day of fun and a special experience for the children to follow the whole process through from making the balls to picking and dyeing with marigolds. It helped them to appreciate the gifts we receive from plants and to be grateful to Nature. It connected the act of gathering from the earth and creating something new with the celebration of a seasonal Festival.