Whitsun and Ascension

All over the world children in Steiner schools wear white for their Whitsun festival, for white “ is the symbol of the Pentecost”.

There are pictures on Steiner school websites of everyone in white, white decorations and even white food. Steiner lectured on the meaning of the Whitsun festival in anthroposophy.

“…for those who are seeking for the spiritual, this festival of Whitsun has a meaning and content of special profundity, calling ever and again for perpetual renewal of the spiritual quest.”  Rudolf Steiner 1916.

From the Edinburgh Steiner school website on Whitsun and Ascension;

“These two festivals lie close together and the quality of experience is more accessible to the older pupils. Ascension is a time when we can experience a reunion of the earth with the cosmos, a time when we can recognise signs of heavenly forces here on the earth and as the earth breathes out into summer, so our consciousness can begin to expand. It is a time when we can receive the revelation that the earth’s living forces have been renewed for the benefit of the whole of humanity”.

At Steiner schools in Australasia presumably the earth does breathing in at Whitsun instead of breathing out?

It would be interesting to know.

In the UK there has been a week’s holiday following Whitsunday for centuries, which originated with serfs being able to take a break from agricultural work. It has no religious significance, and in our area is mainly associated with Cheese Rolling.

Cheese rolling Coopers Hill

There are a couple of archived lectures on Whitsun where Steiner goes in to great detail about the Christ Impulse, the Mystery of Golgotha and Spiritual Visions. They are full of gems such as…

“Until the Mystery of Golgotha, Christ’s dwelling-place was the sun”… and he even manages to get in a reference to different races;

“Evolution does not, of course, proceed with complete uniformity. One race or people enters a phase of evolution earlier or later than another, but, speaking generally, at the time when the Mystery of Golgotha was at hand, the evolution of the physical constitution of man had reached a stage when humanity all over the globe was facing the prospect of finding further incarnation impossible on the earth; in other words, of being unable henceforward to accompany the earth in its declining evolution.”

The state funded Hereford Steiner Academy mentions an all day Whitsun festival on June 9th for pupils, but provides no further information about it on their website.

Clearly the Anthroposophists are not going to let children in Steiner schools get away without learning the *true* meaning of Whitsun, according to the long dead mystic and clairvoyant of a century ago.



  1. Jim

    Helen, I must point out that cheese rolling is in fact a deeply religious festival, contrary to what you suggest above. Many people have forgotten, or never knew, that what we refer to today as “cheese making” was in olden times known as “whey making”. Milk in its whole state was regarded as contaminated with evil, or Ahrimanic, forces and the purpose of “whey making” was to separate out these impurities in a solid form which could then be discarded leaving the desirable whey in a pure form suitable for human consumption. The sinking to the bottom of the evil curds was a symbolic descend into hell, and this descent was re-enacted each year in the ceremony of cheese rolling. Originally the celebrants were not chasing the cheese in order to catch it. Rather they were driving it out from the sunny uplands to the dark lowlands, representing the underworld.

    As far as we can tell some time in the past someone tasted the cheesy waste product they were supposed to discard and decided that they liked it. This was thought to have been the cause of all the evil in the world, though other explanations have also been suggested. Of course much of this ancient wisdom has long been forgotten though traces still remain, for example in the association of cheese consumption with bad dreams.

    This is all in the Akashic records where it can be plainly read with clairvoyant vision.

  2. Helen

    We still talk about the Whitsun week holiday, but it has completely lost it’s religious signficance. I don’t know if schools run by faiths other than Christianity refer to it by that name.
    Even though our children went to a school which observed Christmas and Easter there was no acknowledgement of Ascension or Pencecost, no festival, and no wearing white.
    Sometimes it seems Steiner don’t just do religion, but religion large. In some ways it’s the most religious kind of education available.

    • Jim

      I’m old enough to have attended a junior school that tried to work its Anglicanism into most aspects of the school day but I too recall no particular Whitsun fuss. I can think of a couple of possible reasons, though pure speculation. The pentecost story is about the followers rather than the central figure of christianity so is maybe a second rank festival. It also suggests a direct communication between individuals and their god which might have been unwelcome in the days when the priesthood controlled access, even to the extent of prohibiting translation of their bible. And in modern times the mainstream church is probably a bit embarrassed by all the spookiness and speaking in tongues – they leave that to the fringe groups.

  3. Jim

    No connection – this is a much older tradition. Whey making was already forgotten by Christian times, hence the sermon on the mount says “blessed are the cheese makers”.

  4. Rain17

    Hi Helen, do you have a copy of the Whitsun and Ascension: An Introductory Reader book? I don’t have it with me, but it’s one of those sanitized, cobbled-together deals published by Steiner Books. About this book, they say at steinerbooks.org:

    “Matthew Barton collects excerpts from Steiner’s many talks and writings on the festival of Whitsun (“White Sunday”). Known in America as Pentecost, the forty-ninth day following Easter Sunday commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit on the disciples. The book also includes Steiner’s discussions of the Ascension of Jesus Christ forty days after his Resurrection.”

    If you’re interested, I can post some more gems from the copy I found in the “spirituality” section of a local liberal-left bookstore in Northern California, just the people who are primed to fall for Steinerism and the empty promises of anthroposophy. I would also like to compare the text to the RS Archive lectures to see just what was left out.

    Blessed are the cheese-purveyors, for theirs is the holey and righteous kingdom of Atlantis and Lemuria.

  5. Helen

    Hi Rain, no, I don’t have a copy, but feel free to share some more of the “wisdom”.
    When you read this kind of thing it’s difficult to believe that these are the “indications” some people are using in their work.
    Unfortunately it’s not just Northern California either.

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