Sprites Night is an emerging tradition here at Kimberton Waldorf School, though it is not brand new. It was celebrated previously, albeit in a different form, ending roughly one generation ago. The inspiration to revive this beautiful night walk experience came from a handful of grades teachers, led by Ann Pasquinelly, to find a way around the limitations COVID presented in celebrating our usual festivals that year. We knew that the children needed these nourishing festivals during that time, and that a magical outdoor walk would be, not only possible, but just right. This honoring of the thinning of the veil has become a beloved part of the All Hallows Eve tradition here at KWS ever since.
You might wonder, however, what the phrase “the veil is thin” means? What is the veil? Why is it thinning? Why is that significant? The origins of Sprites Night, or All Hallows Eve, go back to the rhythms of the natural world. After the earth has breathed out all summer long, it now begins to transition to a deep inhale, preparing for winter. This transition from life and growth in nature to death and harvest creates a quiet moment in which life and death are very close to one another. One could say that the veil that separates the world of the physical and the world of the spirit are very close at this time. One could go further to say that any separation we feel is an illusion and that feeling of separation is lifted during this time.
All around the world, across every continent, different cultures celebrate this time of the year as a point to connect with loved ones who have crossed the threshold or to honor and be in relationship with the spirits of the elemental world. You can see this on November 2nd in Spanish speaking countries in the celebration, El Día de los Muertos in which people honor their loved ones who have passed with music, altars full of favorite foods and objects of the deceased. A similar gesture takes place during Samhain, on October 31st, an ancient Celtic tradition in which there are bonfires, games, fortune telling, traditional foods, and in some cases a symbolic meal put out for púca, fairies. On the 15th day of the seventh lunar month, which is around mid-August to mid-September, the people of Hong Kong celebrate the Hungry Ghost Festival. In several parts of East Asia, people believe that spirits get restless around this time of year and begin to roam the world. The festival is a way to “feed” these spirits both the food and money they need for the afterlife. In India, for 16 days during the second Paksha of the Hindu lunar month of Bhadrapada, many people celebrate Pitru Paksha. During Pitru Paksha, the souls are briefly allowed to return to Earth and be with their families. These celebrations are just to name a few and there are many more! At the heart of this time of the year, these celebrations share a common thread in which people embrace connection with those they love in the spiritual realm.
In essence, Sprites Night strives to offer young children and families a meaningful way to experience this poignant gesture of connection with the spiritual realm. This is why we begin each journey around a fire, waiting for our “spirit guide” to lead us through a door, or portal, taking us to the other side of the veil-to where our eyes are opened to loving realities that are “always there.” Fostering connection with loving beings, such as the nature spirits of the land and the mysterious truths of fairy tales is a meaningful way for this to be experienced in the heart of the young child…and the young child in all of us.
Every summer, Molly and I think about how Sprites Night can spark the young child’s imagination and bring them into special relationship with nature and the beautiful supportive world just on the other side of the veil. We find ourselves asking, “Who should we honor this year?” Last year, we wanted to honor the Lenni Lenape and the land our school is on through the nature mandala and the Elk Herd Song (to honor the Elk that once roamed Pennsylvania). While these things are not always explicit, it is still held with intention in the hearts of those who create Sprites Night.
When I asked that same question this summer, who came back to me were the trees. We are blessed with so many grand old trees that are amid where the children play everyday. They have a profound presence and yet, it can be easy to take their presence for granted. Story after story began coming to Molly and I over the last several months about the nature of trees as loving, patient, wise beings that deeply care for their “little brothers and sisters”—us. It felt important to foster this loving relationship already present for the young children. As we continued to plan Sprites Night, the inspiration came to create a simple ceremony at the end of the night in which the children, filled with the magic and themes of love story, could then offer a very old tree a gift: water, soil or beautiful stones as a gesture of gratitude.
So, Molly and I were on a mission to find songs and stories that might honor the trees. We struggled to find a fairy tale, but lo and behold, the Seniors brought Spindlewood by Charlotte Comeras, based on the poem by Rose Fyleman, to our 1st Graders at their Rose Ceremony. Spindlewood is a story of the journey of a little girl missing her fairy and gnome friends as they go back to warm Mother Earth below at the change of season and how the generous trees help her find her way to them. After finding and spending a little time in the loving arms of Mother Earth, the little girl is told she must return home to her dear mother who will be missing her. Mother Earth gives her a gift so that her fairy and gnome friends will always be close and return every spring. The little girl awakens in a field and there is the question, was it all a dream? However, she finds the gift from Mother Earth in her hand, a golden satchel of flower seeds. The gift transcended the veil. To me, this fairytale reminds us that where there is love, whether it be our relationship with the natural world or our connection with one another, there is no separation. If you would like to read this enchanting story for yourself: Spindlewood Fairytale
As the nights continue to get colder and the daylight becomes diminished, I believe that the gift that this festival of Sprites Night offers us is the insight that where there is love, there is no separation, even in death. May we all move towards the heart of winter with our light strengthened by this insight.
Blessings to you all.
A special Thank You to our many Sprites that made this possible! We could not have manifested this vision without you and we hold you with deepest gratitude in our hearts.