Michaelmas Term

Sunday September 22nd 2013
Saint Michael defeating Lucifer in the guise of a dragon. Jean Fouquet

For most of us, September is still imbued with feelings about the academic year. Even if we have no contact with school or university, we remember for ourselves the sharpened pencils, the smell of new notebooks, the feeling of anticipation — terror or excitement.

In this town, the university term has not yet started, although school pupils have been back for several weeks. The place is gearing up for the influx of Michaelmas Term.

St Michael weighing souls
– dealing with the devil.

In Medieval times, the feast of St Michael and All Angels, on September 29th, was the point at which tenant farmers had to pay their rent. The harvest was measured, debt calculated and money demanded. As the Sun entered Libra, the scales came out. It was one of the “quarter days” that divided the Christian year. These were, of course, based on much older custom and practice.

The quarter days fall at the beginning of each cardinal sign – Libra, Capricorn, Aries, Cancer. The word cardinal comes from the Latin word for hinge. So these dates are hinges of the year. We turn a corner into autumn now.

St Michael is usually shown brandishing a sword. He is the archangel who vanquished Lucifer, sending him off to hell for eternity. He reminds me of images of Mars, the god of war, ruler of Aries and master of the upcoming Full Moon on October 19th. But he is also often depicted holding those familiar scales, because he weighs souls before they go to heaven or hell.

St Michael is fierce. He is a dragon-slayer. He is full of will and action: decision-making and solution-finding. He is a judge.

from the Rider-Waite pack

The Pisces Full Moon – on the  19th of September this year – marks the end of the year emotionally, a culmination in the final sign of the Zodiac, and often a flushing out of emotional detritus. We start afresh now, filled with the spirit of action, St Michael’s spirit, our swords in our hands. In the tarot, the suit of swords represents, among other things, the mind. It is the suit of air. Time to meet a new intellectual challenge – even if it’s in your own head.

“…Bring me my bow of burning gold! 

Bring me my arrows of desire!
Bring me my spear! O clouds, unfold!
Bring me my chariot of fire!
I will not cease from mental fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand,
Till we have built Jerusalem…”
from Milton by William Blake.


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