Michaelmas-Dragons and Delight

Michaelmas chalk drawing-BWS 6th graders

Michaelmas is a relatively new seasonal celebration for my family.  While I’ve always grown up with an attunement to the season’s shifts from Summer’s boisterous bounty to Autumn’s slow and silent movement towards interior living, this special feast day and its long-time celebrations were not known to me. However, its themes of harvest and community, threat and injustice and, ultimately, a light that vanquishes all are ones with which I deeply resonate.

A bit of light history may be in order:

The festival of Michaelmas occurs on September 29, and is a traditional Celtic holiday associated with the autumn equinox.   As long, sun-filled days, turned to slanting shadows, the legends of St Michael–principal of angelic warriors, protector against night’s darkness, and the Archangel who fought against Satan and his evil angels–were told around the bounty of harvest as a way of distilling the fear associated with the coming cold winter months.  It was believed that negative forces were stronger in darkness and so families would require stronger defences during the later months of the year.  The epic heavenly battle against Lucifer and his dominions would be retold with light-filled swords slaying ghastly dragons, similar motifs as found in the tales of St. George and the Dragon.  This story and celebration would encourage the “looking-to” for protection (the looking-to a good harvest, strong community, and faith in God), the “looking-for” collective and individual strengths and the “looking-back” with thanksgiving and praise.

While this festival has agrarian and pre-Christian roots, I greatly appreciate the challenge that it still holds for us today.  I have been reaping the benefit of bounty a plenty this summer: berries, plums, tomatoes and herbs have piled themselves on our sun-drenched kitchen counter these warm months.  But as my family and I enjoy this harvest, I am mindful of the lack that is present in the lives of so many today around the world.  We all know and feel the tension that exists between our reaping while another is weeping and herein lies the proverbial dragon that makes this story of Michael a needed one, even in our one-stop-shop lives.

Dragon chalk drawing-BWS 6th graders

Dragons do exist and they lie in wait everywhere in all forms of injustice; these are the dark nights of the soul where despair lurks and preys, making victims of those without a voice to be heard.  In our bounty, in our blessing, we are called to wield our swords of light on behalf of those who desperately need advocacy and speak for those who may not be able to even scream as the beast aims to gobble them up.  We summon courage, we look-to the source of Love and Light and demand that our sword be as bright and bold as Michael’s so that we can vanquish the dragons of this world, living forward with the possibilities of peace and justice, the possibilities of bounty, for all.

The traditions around the Michaelmas festival all come with delicious community sharing, this being the acknowledgement and celebration of the cyclical nature of the gifts of the earth, and the gifts of God.  So, while we gather to celebrate the harvest of the summer season and come together in strength of numbers to combat the darkness of the coming season, we are also already raising food and drink in praise of the battle already won, the dragon already defeated.

We celebrated Michaelmas yesterday at Bright Water School, where our children attend, which included feasting on Dragon Bread.  This was a great-tasting metaphor for this valiant legend that calls us to come together to fight the challenges of darkness and oppression that combat our earth and its communities, and collectively feast on the good things given us!

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Reflections: As you move into the darker, quieter months of Autumn and Winter, what interior light invigorates and inspires you?  Where do you draw strength for the courage to fight the dragons of your life? *** There is injustice that surrounds us in all our elements-from the earth, to the water, to our air, to all the creatures that live and breath here. For whom can you advocate in your community during these approaching seasons? *** It is important to look back on our journeys and offer thanksgiving for the battles already won!  Can you share a “dragon-vanquished” story with someone in your community?

O Michael Militant,
Thou king of the angels, Shield thy people
With the power of the thy sword,
Shield thy people
With the power of thy sword.
Spread thy wing over sea and land,
East and west,
And shield us from the foe,
East and west,
And shield us from the foe.

Brighten thy feast
From heaven above;
Be with us in the pilgrimage
And in the twistings of the fight;
Be with us in the pilgrimage
And in the twistings of the fight.

Thou chief of chiefs,
Thou chief of the needy,
Be with us in the journey
And in the gleam of the river;
Be with us in the journey
And in the gleam of the river.
Thou chief of chiefs.

Thou chief of angels
Spread thy wing
Over sea and land,
For thine is their fullness,
Thine is their fullness,
Thine own is their fullness,
Thine own is their fullness.
Amen

-Celtic Prayer

You are invited: Pentecost Pilgrimage 2013-Iona, Scotland

You are invited to participate in this transformative journey to Iona, Scotland for Pentecost 2013.  Allow the winds of the Spirit to breath new life into you and inspire your way forward!

Please also consider this pilgrimage opportunity for small groups, women’s ministries or individuals you may know who might be interested and benefit from this experience.

Applications are being accepted now.

I’m local to Seattle and would be happy to correspond and/or meet with anyone who has questions of interest.

Godspeed,

Mary A. DeJong
mary@waymarkers.net

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You ride on the wings of the wind,
You make the winds your messenger.
-Psalm 104:3-4

IONA PENTECOST PILGRIMAGE, MAY 12-20, 2013

Celebrate the Spirit and seek solace in its movements in your life in Iona, Scotland for Pentecost 2013.

Your heart has longed for something unnamed and now the Call is before you: Make pilgrimage to Iona, Scotland with the intention of opening yourself to the Spirit’s wind, who flows in directions we cannot predict.

This is a time that calls you to intentionally focus on creating space and opening up time to the radical posture of surrender; in this position you will release the questions and perceptions of your life’s journey and make room for God to blow fresh in the most life-giving directions.
This is a place where, in the strong and gentle company of women only, we can respond to the Spirit’s invitation to relinquish control of our lives and be carried to a place of growth and newness. During this week of retreat, we will take time and space to listen and respond to God through the element of wind.

Our days together will be marked with rhythmic movements of sharing meals and stories, time set apart for quiet reflection and prayer, corporate worship at the Abbey, and of course, plenty of time to hike through heathered hills to legendary green stoned beaches.

This significant season marks the 1450th anniversary of St. Columba’s arrival to this sacred isle. Historic Scotland and the Iona Community are committed to creating special events and services to honor the rich legacy of this Celtic saint. You won’t want to miss out on being on Iona during this special time.

Take some time now to pray and think about applying for this once-in-a-lifetime journey!  Please visit waymarkers.net for more registration information as well as additional resources on the Sacred Isle of Iona.

COST: $1200.00 (This fee includes the full retreat offerings, lodging, meals, materials and programming; travel to/from Iona is not included)

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Pilgrimage Convener

Mary DeJong lives in Seattle, Washington (USA) and has traveled to Iona many times, both on personal pilgrimage and as a retreat leader for vocational discernment pilgrimages and retreats. Her personal studies of Celtic Christianity have led her to pursue graduate studies in theology with an ecological focus, with the hopeful vision of sharing with urban communities about our inherent need for Creation and how to live forward in such a way that honors Other and the Future.  Mary’s first published title, Waymarkers, is a unique pilgrimage journal specific to the journey to Iona; it has been received with excitement by pilgrims the world over and has been endorsed by many Iona Community associates.

Mary and her husband Joel, with their three children, live in Seattle’s Columbia City neighborhood. She is a long-time member of Seattle’s Madrona Grace Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) where she is involved in tending the church garden with the children and  youth as a means of faith formation. Mary is also the Forest Steward of SE Seattle’s Cheasty Greenspace, and has been leading the neighborhood in reclaiming, restoring and re-imaging this urban forest.  In her spare time, Mary enjoys knitting, bicycling with her children, drinking coffee and taking long walks at Lincoln Park.