What the hell is Halloween about?

Halloween, or Hallowed Evening, is derived from Allhallows' Eve, the night before All Saints' day, or Hallowmas, originally celebrated on May 13 in the Roman Catholic Church. It was moved to October 31 in the eighth century by Pope Gregory III in an attempt to supplant the pagan festivals of the autumn equinox on the eve of the Celtic new year. Also known as ShadowFest, Martinmas, Hallowtide, Day of the Dead, and Season of the Witch, it is the night on which many of the Celtic festivals were traditionally celebrated, along with the autumn equinox harvest and various ancient Roman festivals mixed with those of the Celts during 400 years of Roman occupation, including Feralia, the commemoration of the dead, and the honor of Pomona, goddess of fruit (whose symbol was an apple). Most of the modern Halloween celebrations and practices were introduced to America by Irish immigrants in the nineteenth century and are derived from the ancient festival rites of the Celtic Druids of Britain and northern France from over 2,000 years ago (dating from the first century B.C.), particularly those celebrating the day of Samhain ("summer's end," pronounced sow-en), when the dead are honored. It was believed that on October 31, time was suspended and the boundaries between the living and the dead were blurred, allowing for the dead to cross over into the world of the living. Food was left outside homes to appease the wandering spirits of the dead and Druidic priests would sacrifice crops and animals to bonfires in worship of nature and observance of the season of darkness, followed by fortune telling and a costumed parade of people dressed in animal skins as ghosts of the dead in order to help guide spirits out of town. The Catholic Church encouraged participants to dress as saints rather than evil spirits and to give to the poor rather than offer food to demons (practices which were later adopted by All Souls' Day).

Halloween celebrations during the Victorian era of the nineteenth century were primarily a civil affair without the occultic overtones. Around the turn of the twentieth century, Halloween was celebrated as a community festival with parades and parties comprising the entire town. Although pranks and vandalism began to surface as common acts in the 1920's and 30's, by the time trick-or-treating became popular in the 1950's as a way of averting these harmful pranks, much of what Halloween originated from -- both Catholic and Celtic -- had been forgotten. Trick-or-treating may be traced back to an event called "going a-souling" during All Souls' Day in England, when the poor would beg for food from door to door and be given "soul cakes" in return for their prayers on behalf of dead family members, which was later undertaken by children in return for food and money. This practice, in turn, may be traced even further back to a Scottish practice during Hogmanay (New Year's Eve), when young people sought gifts and those who gave generously were blessed, while those who didn't were cursed. As populations grew in the U.S. throughout the 1930's and 40's and Halloween became less centralized, trick-or-treating not only became a way for children to stay out of trouble (a practice promoted by the Boy Scouts as "beggar's night"), but also a way to spread the celebration throughout the neighborhood.

Carved pumkins originated from the Celtic practice of carving scary faces into vegetables such as potatoes, turnips, or beets, then illuminating them with candles and placing them in windows or around the house to ward off evil spirits (or guide them, depending on how the traditions are interpreted). It was said that if a candle flame flickered on this night, it was caused by a passing spirit. The legend of the Jack O'Lantern comes from Irish folklore about a drunkard named Stingy Jack, who on various occasions had tricked the devil and made a deal with him not to claim his soul. When Jack died, God would not allow such an unsavory individual into heaven, nor would the devil allow him into hell. Instead, Jack was sent forever into the darkness with only a burning coal from the devil to light his way. This he put into a carved turnip with which he continues to roam the earth, known ever more as "Jack of the Lantern."

Today, Halloween is the second largest commercial holiday in the U.S., next to Christmas. Although Halloween for most who celebrate it may not be intended as the occult holiday it was once known for, the darker aspects of it are making a comeback and there are several who do revere it as a spiritual or demonic festival, including modern day Druids, Wiccans, Neopagans, and Satanists. Wiccans and wiccins (Old English term for witches and sorcerers) still celebrate the Celtic festival of Samhain in honor of the last harvest, the coming new year, and in memory of the dead who are considered living spirits, during which time the dead may be consulted and invited to take part in the festivities. Wiccans believe that during this period, between the autumn equinox and the winter solstice when time barely seems to exist on the earthly plane, the veil between the world of the living and the world of the dead is at its thinnest. They also believe that Samhain is not a time to fear the spirits of the dead who may have crossed over, but to welcome, invite, and embrace them in fond memory. "Dumb suppers" (silent, saltless meals) are held with empty seats as an open invitation for the dead. Divination and fortune telling are practiced, often with tarot and rune cards, to foretell the events of the coming year. Bobbing for apples originated from one such practice of determining the marrital compatibility of young men and women -- according to tradition, the first person to catch an apple with their mouth from a tub of water or hanging from a string would be the next one to marry. Traditional Halloween costumes of gouls and goblins may be derived from the medieval belief that witches, who were feared and depicted as old and ugly, disquised themselves as frightening animals and demonic creatures.

At the farther end of the demonic spectrum, Satanists consider Halloween one of their major holidays and celebrate it as Satan's birthday with various activities ranging from Black Mass (a sacreligious desecration of Catholic Mass), destruction rituals, and blood sacrifices of animals, to the reported sacrifices of infants and ritualistic torture of children by underground sects. Some accounts describe Halloween as the spiritual high point of the year for Satanists, although popular Satanism is more of a metaphysical, non-faith belief structure opposed to organized religion and aimed at secular humanism, self-gratification, and self-indulgence, so individual birthdays are more highly celebrated than Halloween by most Satanic followers, particularly those of the official Church of Satan. Halloween is, however, the time of year with the highest rate of Satanic ritual crimes. Satan worship has often been attributed to the occult and those who directly worship Satan, as well as to those who invoke the magical powers of dark spirits, who revere pagan gods, or even to those who worship Mother Nature, since to many Christians all who do not believe can only be in league with the devil, and whose powers can only come from demonic forces (witches often make the claim that they do not worship Satan). This, of course, would mean that roughly 3/4 of the world's population are Satan worshipers in one form or another. Modern Satanism, in the true spirit of Lucifer the adversary, centers on individuality. Therefore, worshiping Satan, who himself wishes to be worshiped, would not be rational. Satan, however, does not only desire the worship deserved by God alone, but aims at distracting the attention of God's children away from him and focusing it on themselves.

Note: Some accounts maintain that during the ancient celebration of Samhain, the Lord of Death (British Gwynn ap Nudd, the modern day Grim Reaper) called together the souls of the wicked who had died throughout the year to come forth and make mischief and damage crops, however, due to unsubstantiated sources, this may be based less on Celtic folklore and actual Celtic history than on the sensational stories of a few fundamentalist Christian writers. Some Celtic traditions hold that, because it was considered a time of no time, chaos was allowed to reign for three days in place of civil order, during which time people would cause mischief and play pranks on one another. These actions would later become attributed to the spirits of the dead. The Druids, however, looked to the spirits of the dead for guidance, wisdom, and insight. Halloween is also a peak holiday for supposed vampires, Gothic cults, and Freemasons.

        "Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin. As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God. For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do -- living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you. But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according to men in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit." (1 Peter 4:1-6)

Following are a few links to other websites focusing on Halloween or those who celebrate it:

Answers In Action - What about Halloween?

"There are many things about celebrating Halloween with which Christians are uncomfortable, such as images of ghosts, devils, and witches; and rumors of satanic rituals involving criminal and anti-Christian activities. However, most adults also have fond memories of childhood trick-or-treating and dressing up as a princess or super hero. So many traditions, myths, and unfounded rumors have developed about Halloween that it is a complex issue Christians should consider carefully." (by Bob and Gretchen Passantino)

The Biblelands Project - The Many Faces of Satanism

"In the news media across America, Satanists are being charged with such crimes as mutilating and sacrificing animals, desecrating churches, profaning and robbing graves, exhuming corpses, raping, kidnapping, child molestation, ritual murder and cannibalism. Do Satanists really do these things, and if so, do all Satanists or just certain ones? Why would they commit such crimes? Furthermore, how pervasive is Satanism today? These are just a few of the common questions that will be addressed in this article." (by Craig S. Hawkins)

Christian Resource Center (Bermuda) - Holidays and Observances

"While the evidence for supernatural evil multiplies all around us, more and more people deny it. They may believe in cosmic forces and bad vibes. But sin or Satan? These negatives don't fit the new paradigm. In October 1995, our local Los Altos school district held a large public meeting to discuss Halloween festivities. Most parents were angry at some proposed limitations on the traditional in-school celebration of a "harmless holiday." Why worry about the small minority who felt offended by its ancient link to a dead religion? Only a few minority voices were heard. A former Wiccan priest explained that the old Celtic witchcraft that gave birth to Halloween is anything but dead. Flourishing in today's pagan revival, it has become an official religion with tax-exempt status." (from Brother Michael John Nesbitt)

Church of Satan

"Welcome to the official website of the Church of Satan. Founded on April 30, 1966 c.e. by Anton Szandor LaVey, we are the first above-ground organization in history openly dedicated to the acceptance of Man�s true nature�that of a carnal beast, living in a cosmos which is permeated and motivated by the Dark Force which we call Satan. Over the course of time, Man has called this Force by many names, and it has been reviled by those whose very nature causes them to be separate from this fountainhead of existence. They live in obsessive envy of we who exist by flowing naturally with the dread Prince of Darkness. It is for this reason that individuals who resonate with Satan have always been an alien elite, often outsiders in cultures whose masses pursue solace in an external deity. We Satanists are our own Gods, and we are the explorers of the Left-Hand Path. We do not bow down before the myths and fictions of the desiccated spiritual followers of the Right-Hand Path."

Demonbuster.com Deliverance Manual - The Truth About Halloween

"There are many versions of halloween. This is one of them. Do some major Deliverance on yourself for ever celebrating halloween. Burn any left over halloween stuff in your home. Don't even open your doors to pass out "tracts". If you do, then you are celebrating this unholy day. No matter what you think of halloween, know that it is the very highest satanic holy day. As a Christian, you should not be observing it in any way, especially IN your church. The catholic church is responsible for this day to be placed in the church. Halloween has never been a Christian holiday, and it has no place in the life of a born again Believer in JESUS CHRIST. In fact, it is an abomination to God, and we should take our stand firmly against it. As we look at its history, we find that its roots go deep into heathenism, paganism, satanism and the occult; and its modern expression is no better." (by Stan and Elizabeth Madrak)

Exposing Satanism and Witchcraft - The Halloween Deception

"As an adult, do you know what Halloween represents? Most people are ignorant of what Halloween is all about and for that matter don't care. I grew up trick or treating like most kids in America and never knew what it was all about. We even had a haunted house in the attic of the little country CHURCH I attended!!!! I was like most kids in the fact that all I wanted to do is get as much candy as I could and would do what I had to do to get it!! Including fighting with my brothers and sisters to be the first at the door....Every year I was the devil. I had the most evil, horrible, grotesque, rubber mask that was ever made. I had a pitchfork and my precious mother even sewed me a long pointed tail on my red suit. We all have stories to tell of Halloween, but do you really know what it is all about?? If all you know of it is what I have described above, you may want to read a little further and find out more info about what you are celebrating. Now if you are a pagan you know exactly what it is, if a Christian you are involved in something God forbids and if you just a "good ole boy or girl" you don't care." (from Online Ministries)

h2g2 Researcher - Samhain: The Witches' New Year

"Happy Hallowe'en! Happy New Year! Happy Samhain! Where did Hallow'een REALLY come from??? Why do we 'Trick or Treat'? What was a 'Jack-O-Lantern' for originally? And how DO you pronounce 'Samhain' ??????" (from BBC Internet)

Halloween - Myths, Monsters and Devils

"Every year, right around Halloween, we are treated to an outpouring of what can only be described as "scare" literature telling us all about how the holiday is 'satanic' and evil, and should not be celebrated by Christians. These opinions are backed up with some rather unusual and very frightening fantasies masquerading as historical facts. This article is -not- intended to address whether or not Satan exists, nor to show that 'witches' are all nice, grainola-eating vegetarians and tree-huggers who wouldn't harm a fly, nor is it an attack on Fundamentalist Christianity, but rather a discussion concerning some of the so-called 'facts' offered in some of the anti-Halloween publications." (by W.J. Bethancourt III)

Haunted Bay - Halloween History

The history of the Ouija Board, Jack-O-Lantern, the bat, candy corn, bobbing for apples, the owl, and the witch.

History Channel - Halloween History

"To commemorate the event, Druids built huge sacred bonfires, where the people gathered to burn crops and animals as sacrifices to the Celtic deities. During the celebration, the Celts wore costumes, typically consisting of animal heads and skins, and attempted to tell each other's fortunes. When the celebration was over, they re-lit their hearth fires, which they had extinguished earlier that evening, from the sacred bonfire to help protect them during the coming winter." (from A&E Television Networks)

howstuffworks - How Halloween Works

"Halloween also stands out because of its unique mix of secular and religious elements. In recent years, the holiday has stirred up a lot of controversy because it offends some Christian groups, which in turn upsets many modern-day Wiccans and Druids. If you've ever wondered where all those peculiar Halloween practices come from, or you can't figure out why Halloween is such a hot topic with a lot of people, then this article will get you ready for the next October 31. We'll look at both the Celtic and Christian origins of Halloween, examine all the favorite Halloween traditions and sort out a little bit of the Halloween controversy. The next time you're carving a pumpkin or handing out candy to little Draculas and Darth Vaders, you'll actually know where these practices come from." (by Tom Harris)

Jeremiah Project - Halloween

"Is Halloween just another innocent holiday that doesn't harm anyone? Is it really just childish fun? Should the church be compromised by accommodating itself to the culture? Vandalism and wanton disregard for the property of others is common on Halloween night. Even normally well-behaved children are driven by unseen forces to destructive behavior. Police officials everywhere report a great increase in such activities on Halloween. Worse yet are the horrifying accounts of poisoned candy and fruits booby-trapped with razor blades and needles. Such threats are so real that many hospitals offer free X-rays of Halloween treats in order to prevent children from being harmed. Who but Satan could inspire such monstrous actions?" (by Vic Bilson)

Logos Resource Pages - The Dark Side of Halloween

"To most people it seems like harmless fun. But, beneath Halloween's candy coating is a history of diabolical evil, evil that is directly connected to the occult and Satanism, evil that you need to be warned of! That is the purpose of this file, to make you aware of the dark side of Halloween. I have researched this topic for more than a decade and Halloween's occultic connection is becoming increasingly evident." (by Pastor David L. Brown, Ph.D.)

The Real Origins of Halloween

"The Real Origins of Halloween discusses the history of Halloween, the origins of trick-or-treating, reasons behind some of the symbols of the season, and why the holiday is well worth keeping and celebrating. Previous versions of this essay specifically contrasted the historical evidence with the absurd claims and urban legends used in most anti-Halloween propaganda. I have now put those latter materials into their own essay, Halloween Errors and Lies, since it seems that many people have never seen or heard those fearmongering tales and could not understand why I would spend so much space discussing them within an historical essay." (by Isaac Bonewits)

ReligiousTolerance.org - Halloween: As Viewed by Evangelical Christians

"Many books on Halloween have been written by Fundamentalists and other Evangelical Christian authors. There are also many Internet sites devoted to the topic. Most of these authors tend to paint a very different picture of Halloween than do other writers, both religious and secular. Conservative Christians generally have a very negative view of Halloween, and are very concerned with its growing popularity in North America. Much of their fear and rejection of Halloween are described below. They are based on: Their fundamental beliefs about non-Christian religions, the Occult, Satan and his demons; The information sources that they use for data about the ancient Celts and Druids, modern Neopagan beliefs and practices, and Halloween itself." (by B.A. Robinson, from Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance)

Urban Legends Reference Pages: Halloween

"Like a coven of busy witches, we've cooked up a special selection of Halloween legends for your enjoyment! Follow the links below to view a collection of Halloween-specific urban legends." (by Barbara and David P. Mikkelson)

The Witches' Voice - Popular Pagan Holidays: Samhain

"The Last Harvest. The Earth nods a sad farewell to the God. We know that He will once again be reborn of the Goddess and the cycle will continue. This is the time of reflection, the time to honor the Ancients who have gone on before us and the time of 'Seeing" (divination). As we contemplate the Wheel of the Year, we come to recognize our own part in the eternal cycle of Life." (by Fritz Jung)

Worthy News - The Halloween Goddess

"On 31 October, spooky beings and superheroes, cartoon characters and rubberized celebrities, will line the streets and mall hallways of America anticipating sugary rewards. Compelled by shouts of "TRICK OR TREAT," children of all ages will once again tote receptacles of various size and weight harboring the result of the nights hunt. It is called Halloween. And while for most of us it is a harmless annual activity, its roots run deep into ancient paganism. ALL HALLOWS' EVE, or Halloween, originated in the 7th century AD. It was celebrated on 13 May and was a night to remember deceased saints and martyrs. The date was later changed to November 1 in order to Christianize the pagan holidays Beltane and Samhain--festivals of summer, winter, fire, and of the powers of darkness." (by Thomas R. Horn)

YahSaves - Halloween - Satan's Trick

"We've seen that the origins of Halloween are steeped in deep paganism. Since it was "Christianized" over the centuries and "cleaned up", does that make it okay today? Is it now just innocent fun for the children to participate in each fall? That is what most people will tell you - that they just celebrate Halloween for the kids. What does Yahweh have to say about such things?" (from Congregation of YHWH)

        "Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry. I speak to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf. Consider the people of Israel: Do not those who eat the sacrifices participate in the altar? Do I mean then that a sacrifice offered to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord's table and the table of demons. Are we trying to arouse the Lord's jealousy? Are we stronger than he?" (1 Corinthians 10:14-22)