Glenaeon Rudolf Steiner School

MidWinter Festival: “…Transfiguring All Existence”

Have you ever been SAD in winter? Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is the official name given to feeling down as the days shorten, the temperature drops and the world seems gloomier. We are all affected of course by this outer cold, and if we live just in our outer senses, we must inevitably feel a bit down, even a little depressed, as our inner life mirrors the outer world of the declining sun light and the chilling cold.

What is the antidote? Since time immemorial, people have recognised the need to meet the outer cold of winter with the inner warmth of the human heart. Here is a traditional carol from the north of England that captures the inner warmth and joy of the winter season which in the north has a Christmas mood:

This time of the year is spent in good cheer,
And neighbours together do meet
To sit by the fire, with friendly desire,
Each other in love to greet;
Old grudges forgot are put in the pot,
All sorrows aside they lay;
The old and the young doth carol this song
To drive the cold winter away.

Our MidWinter Festivals, celebrated through the school this week, stand exactly in this tradition. By walking the spiral, by lighting the candle and placing our individual candle in the community of lights, we symbolically affirm the triumph of light over darkness, and the power of our inner life over the outer cold and dark. For our students, this ritual is an image of the power they can draw on to meet the winter season with their own inner warmth and light.

Today we all have a new challenge. Without the support of communities of tradition that did it for us, we have to do it ourselves. Each of us has to find that inner strength and activity to overcome the outer cold and dark, or otherwise we can have a SAD moment. 

Rudolf Steiner’s Calendar of the Soul is a guide we can use to build and nourish this inner life: there is a short verse for each week of the year that captures the inner mood of the season. Used as a meditative stimulus, the weekly verse can be an inspiring starting point to an inner experience of the changing year. The MidWinter verses for this time of year provide a beautiful image of the inner power on which we can draw to meet the outer challenge of the winter season:

The Impulse of my soul strives on in blessedness,
To bear the spiritual Light into the world’s wintry night
That the shining soul force may take root
In the foundations of the world,
And the Divine Word resound
Through the obscurity of sense
Transfiguring all existence
.