The annual rite of Halloween is bigger than ever – especially among adults. But it’s lots of harmless fun, they say. Harmless? Let’s look below the surface of Halloween to see what lurks there in this age-old mask-erade.
Every October 31 children across the land learn how extortion works through one of the world’s most popular of ancient pagan festivals.
We know it as Halloween, which is a contraction of the words “Hallowed” and “evening” (Halloween). But there is nothing hallowed about this night.
“Trick or treat!” the bantam, masked marauders cry as they go from door to door coercing goodies from mostly compliant residents. Along with blackmail, the chance to deface private property and get away with it is also a part of the “hallowed evening.”
Not Just for Children Anymore
Visit many office buildings and department stores on October 31 and you’ll see adult employees dressed in silly or grotesque costumes sporting painted faces and hair.
They are psyching up for the Halloween party that night – when they’ll have a chance to act foolishly with impunity. This high holy day of the ancient heathens has zoomed to the top of the holiday charts.
But is Halloween just a harmless time of frolic and fun for the whole family, where everyone can don hideous costumes and glorify blood, gore, and thinly veiled murder? Actually, it tacks another nail in the coffin of wholesomeness and decency in an increasingly decadent society. The popularity of this holiday should concern anyone who professes a belief in the Scriptures.
Night of the Walking Dead
Rooted in Druidic demon worship 2,000 years old, Halloween continues to cast its noxious spell on modern society.
The ritual was not known as Hal-loween when the Celts of pre-Christian Ireland and Scotland observed it on November 1. For them it was the Feast of Samhain (pronounced Sa-ween), Lord of the Dead. This was also the beginning of the Celtic new year, a time to give thanks to the sun god for the harvest.
But it was also a foreboding time when the ancients believed the souls of the dead walked abroad, mingling with the living and playing malicious tricks. The Celts thought that the sinful souls who died during the year had been transferred to the bodies of animals. Samhain judged these souls and decreed the form in which their existence was to continue – as animal or human. Through gifts and sacrifices these souls could be freed to claim a heavenly reward.
The ghosts of the dead that were thought to collect around houses of the living were greeted with banquet-laden tables to feed the spirits. When the feast was over, villagers donned masks and costumes to represent the souls of the dead and paraded to the outskirts of town to lead the ghosts away to avoid any calamities the roving ghosts may cause them in the event they were displeased by a lack of sufficient sustenance.
Such calamities included the death of livestock, souring milk, and spoiling food.
Often food was set outside for the spirits so that they would leave the house untouched. The trick-or-treat custom re-enacts these ancient superstitions.
Amid all of this the Druids were offering sacrifices to the sun god. “It was common for horses to be sacrificed since they were sacred to the Sun god. There were also human sacrifices. Men, mostly criminals, were imprisoned in wicker and thatch cages shaped like animals or giants. The Druid priests set fire to the tindery cages and the men were burned to death. “In the Middle Ages in Europe black cats were still being thrown to the flames in wicker cages, for they were thought to be the friends of witches or even transformed witches,” Celebrations, The Complete Book of American Holidays, p. 258.
From Samhain to All Saints’ Day
So how did “Halloween” fit with the church? The celebration in the Roman Catholic Church that was later to merge with Samhain was known as All Saints’ Day. All Saints’ Day originated in the 7th century when the Pantheon at Rome was wrested from the barbarians, made into a cathedral, and renamed the Church of the Blessed Virgin and All Martyrs.
Thus, from honoring all gods (which is the meaning of the Greek word “pantheon”) the Pantheon became the center for glorifying all saints. (Funk and Wagnalls Encyclopedia, vol. 1, p. 363).
This day that honored all the “hallowed” or holy saints was first observed on the evening of May 13, and was known as the Allhallows festival. The day was officially sanctioned in 835 by Pope Gregory IV after it was moved to November 1 to coincide with Samhain. It began on the evening of October 31, and therefore was called All Hallows Eve.
Without forcing the pagans to drop their pagan practices and accept the Bible, the Roman church simply made room for the barbarians and their heathen rites.
Just as it confiscated the pagan Pantheon for its own use, the Roman church incorporated the customs of Samhain to further its mission of converting the known world to Catholicism. The merged celebrations made strange bedfellows: one in respect of evil spirits, the other honoring so-called saints.
One writer noted, “The three days between October 31 and November 2 see pagan and Christian celebrations intertwined in a fascinating way. All Hallows Eve, usually called Halloween, is followed by All Hallow’s Day, which is also All Saints Day, and the three-day period is a perfect example of superstition struggling with religious belief,” Year of Festivals, p. 76.
Can we mix light with darkness? “But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to Elohim; and I would not that you have fellowship with devils. You cannot drink the cup of the Master, and the cup of devils: you cannot be partakers of the Master’s table, and of the table of devils,” 1Corinthians 10:20-21.
The joining of the two celebrations spawned an odd hybrid of beliefs about what was supposed to happen in the spirit world. Souls in purgatory appeared as witches and toads to persons who had wronged them. Halloween fires now were used to comfort souls in purgatory and people prayed for them while holding burning straw in the air.
Even the idea of trick-or-treating by evil spirits took on an acceptable church flavor: costumed children went around on All Souls’ Day offering to fast for the departed souls in return for money or an offering.
As the Celts converted to the new religion, they did not forget their stories of the dead traveling to the afterworld on Halloween. Rather, exhibitions of this night became more evil and the observance adopted even more malicious overtones.
That Leering Jack-o-lantern
In America it’s a pumpkin, but in Europe it was often a turnip, large beet, potato, rutabaga or even a skull with a candle in it. The fearsome face of the fat jack-o-lantern represented the god of the dead, Samhain, who would drive off less powerful evil spirits abroad that night.
As glimmering lights flickered over an English marsh or an Irish bog, people imagined dead souls had returned to earth. They would place the jack-o-lantern on posts and in windows to ward off the spirits of the dead on Halloween.
The word is an abbreviation of “Jack of the Lantern.” Jack is another name for joker or Satan. In the Irish tale, a man named Jack was fond of playing tricks on the devil. Annoyed, the devil tossed Jack a burning coal from hell and with that in his lantern Jack was forever condemned to wander the earth. The jack-o-lantern keeps alive demonic superstition.
Witches and Black Cats
Witches were thought to be possessors of magic. The word “witch” comes from the Old English wicce (feminine of wicca), or “sorceror.” Witches, who worship the deities of nature, have living talismans or symbols through which they derive their dark powers. They invoke evil spirits to enter the bodies of their talismans. Some witches have dogs, owls, snakes or swine for their talismans, but the most common are cats.
Cats have been closely associated with mystery religion from the Egyptians to the Norse. Celts had a particular fear of cats, believing they were humans who had been changed into feline form by evil powers. The black cat particularly was connected to demonic powers.
Black cats are the chief idol of the goddess of Wicca, Diana. In legend, she turns into a black cat to commit incest with her brother, Lucifer.
Eventually the Druids themselves came to be regarded as witches. Witch hunting during Halloween became almost a national pastime in the colonial years of our nation. Today Halloween is regarded as the highest “sabbath” for practicing witches.
Witchcraft is demonic worship in diametric opposition to the worship of Yahweh. Yahweh minces no words about it. He told Israel through Moses, “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live” (Ex. 22:18). He says in Deuteronomy 18:10, “There shall not be found among you any one that makes his son of his daughter to pass through the fire, or that uses divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch.”
How can a True Worshiper allow his son or daughter to dress up in imitation of a witch or warlock, knowing how Yahweh condemns witchcraft? We are commanded to avoid even the appearance of evil (1Thes. 5:22).
Why Witches Fly
The broomstick is a symbol of the male organ, on which the witch mounts and leaps high around the fields to “teach” the crops how high to grow (ABC’S of Witchcraft, pp. 48-49). The notion of flying witches relates to the fact that witches believed they could fly great distances to their feasts by smearing their bodies with ointments containing drugs. The drugs gave them psychedelic “trips” making them think they flew. (Ibid., pp. 142-146).
Shrouded in Blackness
“Orange, black, and red, the devil’s colors, are the colors associated with Halloween…,” so says the Good Housekeeping Book of Entertainment on page 168. Black prefigures black magic and demonic influence. The black of night is when these forces of evil are busiest, using the cover of darkness for their sinister works.
Yahweh warns, “Woe unto them that seek deep to hide their counsel from Yahweh, and their works are in the dark, and they say, Who sees us? and who knows us?” (Isa. 29:15)
In John 3:19-20 Yahshua said, “And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that does evil hates the light, neither comes to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.”
How much time should any Bible believer give to a rite that is observed in the dark and that revels in the colors, symbols, and practices of Yahweh’s adversary, Satan the devil?
Of Skulls and Skeletons
The skeleton is a form of the god of the dead, or the witches’ “horned god.” The Dictionary of Satanism by Wade Baskin says under “skull worship”: “Skulls play an important role as sacred relics and as objects of worship among primitives. “Among Polynesians and Melanesians, skulls of ancestors are worshiped in order to establish connections with the spirits of the dead. Like the head of Osiris in Egypt, the skulls of ancestors may also serve as titular deities. The head or its parts, each of which may stand for the whole, can be used as magical food or as a means of increasing the fertility of the soil.”
Isaiah tells us what Yahweh thinks of courting death and the dead: “When men tell you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their Elohim? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living?” (Isa. 8:19-20, NIV).
Fire Rites… and Wrongs
Being that Halloween is a Celtic new year’s festival, many of its surviving rituals trace to the Celtic feast. The fire rite was practiced in many areas around the world on the night before the new year. The old fire was allowed to go out and a new one was kindled – usually a sacred fire from which the fires of the village were relit. The fires were thought to rejuvenate the waning sun and aid in banishing evil spirits. The Druids built hilltop fires to celebrate important festivals. (Celebrations, the Complete Book of American Holidays, pp. 258-259).
Ghosts and witches feared fire, it was thought, and so fire became the best weapon against evil spirits. Witchcraft was punished by burning at the stake, fire being used as a means of purification. The light that fires gave off was a sign of sacredness.
Popular at Halloween parties is apple bobbing. It was a means of divination with the Druids and survives in cultures influenced by the Celts.
Because the apple is also a common love charm, the practice of apple bobbing seems to have been associated with the selection of a lover (see The Folklore of American Holidays).
Selling Out to Sin
People have always been tempted to compromise their faith by selling out to the dominant culture and its practices. For those who are satisfied with less than total truth, the concessions come easier.
Today we witness Easter egg hunts on church lawns, Christmas trees in church vestibules, and Halloween parties in church basements (on the pretext of keeping the children off unsafe streets and away from tainted Halloween candy).
“But it’s for the children,” goes the argument. “We really just do it for them.” What children practice they also learn. Why would we introduce pagan falsehoods to them? How can we instill in them a desire for righteousness if we let them revel in ancient customs of evil on Halloween and pass them on to their children?
How can we promote healthy, decent values while allowing children to don hideous masks of vile creatures or deformed humans – with the underlying themes of murder, mayhem, and death?
Can we live a lie? Can we mix the holy with the profane and expect Yahweh to bless us? “Learn not the way of the heathen!” He thunders in Jeremiah 10:2. Come out from among them and be separate, and touch not the unclean thing, Paul writes in 2Corinthians 6:17.
Halloween has no redeeming value. It is one huge trick on an ignorant and indifferent society, and another victory for the forces of darkness.
Almighty Yahweh gives us a final warning about demonism and witchcraft: “For all that do these things are an abomination unto Yahweh… You shall be perfect with Yahweh your Elohim” (Deut. 18:12-13).
Become right before Yahweh. Drop the empty, senseless, heathen observances of man and resolve to begin keeping the true Holy Days our Father has commanded in His Word. Discover what true blessings and deep fulfillment can be when you begin to comply with His will and live your life His way.
by: Alan Mansager