Though Halloween has become prominent in America only within the past two or three generations, its origins are ancient. Halloween was originally called "Samhain" - a pagan Celtic celebration that focused on death. The heathen Celtic tribesmen, who lived in the British Isles, especially Ireland, and parts of Western Europe, especially France, believed that ghosts and other spirit-beings visited the land of the living on Samhain Eve, October 31, so they presented offerings to them on that night.
B. Samhain/Halloween: An Ancient Pagan Celebration
1.Samhain celebrated the Celtic New Year and marked the transition from the Celts’ summer goddess to the horned god of the winter solstice.
2.A festival of the dead-the Celts believed that the spirits of the dead and other spirit-beings (demons) were participants in their Samhain (Halloween) celebrations.
3. Druids-priests of the Celtic tribes who celebrated Halloween. According to ancient Christian missionaries, human sacrifices were part of their worship.
4. Pagan origin of familiar Halloween practices
a. Trick-or-treat-families would put out food for the ghosts and demons so they would not harm them.
b. Jack-o’-lanterns-started out as carved images of spirit-beings. Originally, a light was put into a turnip or potato which had an ugly face carved into it. One purpose of the jack-o’-lanterns was probably to frighten the spirits who were thought to invade the earth on Halloween night into going back to the world of the dead.
c. Bonfires-a look at the dictionary will reveal that the origin of this work is "bone-fire"-referring to large fires containing bones. Why bonfires? To help the sun "survive" the winter; to frighten off evil spirits; used for animals, and possibly human sacrifices.
d. Bobbing for apples-began as a technique of divination. In some areas, this tradition continues.
e. Bizarre costumes-The Celts hid themselves in ghoulish disguises at Halloween so that wandering spirits would mistake them for one of their own and pass by without incident. Masked villagers representing the souls of the dead also attempted to trick the spirits by forming a Parade and leading them to the town limits.
f. Skeletons, skulls, and corpses-these naturally belong to Halloween as a festival celebrating death.
g. Bats and owls-have been associated with Halloween since ancient times; the pagan Celts believed owls were able to communicate with the dead.
h. Goblins, demons, ghosts, ghouls-these were thought by the ancient Celtic pagans to have special freedom to travel about among the living at Halloween.
C. Halloween and the Christian Church
1. Strong opposition to Halloween-The ancient Christians rejected and detested his idolatrous festival.
2. All Saints’ and All Souls’ Days as alternatives to Halloween- To provide a Christian alternative, churches began to celebrate the Feast of All Hallows, or All Saints, and the Feast of All Souls at the same time of year as the pagan holiday. Samhain picked up the name "Halloween" from the feast of All Hallows, but it has never been a Christian holiday. Many popular Halloween activities actually come from paganism and demon-worship.
D. Halloween in America
1. Why do Americans celebrate Halloween?
Many parents are uncomfortable with the gruesome aspects of Halloween, but feel reluctant to deprive their children of a holiday that seems so much a part of American life. But Halloween is not really an American holiday at all. The little Pilgrim children never learned to say "Trick or treat!" When he was a boy, George Washington never went out hunting for candy on October 31, and Abraham Lincoln ever dressed up as a pirate or a robber to celebrate Halloween. This holiday was not nationally known and observed until the middle of the 1800’s, when a large wave of immigrants from Celtic areas of Europe brought the old Halloween customs with hem.
2. In American South, the occult practices of voodoo and Santeria influenced common Halloween practices.
3. Changing American Halloween practices and attitudes
a. Halloween became more and more violent over the years, until in the 1920’s community leaders became very concerned about "the Halloween problem."
b. In response to the destructiveness of Halloween pranks, the ancient Halloween custom of trick-or-treating was reintroduced. Halloween as we know it-a children’s holiday-is largely a creation of the 1950’s.
Many of us were raised to think of witches as mythological characters, found only in fairy tales and cartoons. And that was close to the truth. Until the last half of this century, there was little interest in witchcraft in the U.S. Unfortunately, this is no longer the case. Some Halloween witches are for real! In fact, Halloween is one of the most important days of the year for witches. So before you send your little ones off to celebrate with make-believe witches, pause to reflect: actual witches are celebrating the same holiday in earnest.
B. Occult Practices associated with Halloween today
1. Witchcraft- As newspaper articles from around the country attest each October, modern witches are deeply devoted to the celebration of Halloween. Some witches are anxious to "reclaim" Halloween as a serious religious holiday devoted to communion with the dead and other occult practices.
2. Satanism- Halloween is one of the Satanists’ two most important "unholy days."
3. Neo-paganism- Neo-pagans, who sometimes enter occultism through involvement in feminism or environmental activism, often also consider Halloween one of their two highest holidays.
4. Spiritism- Serious and well-publicized attempts to contact the dead are held each Halloween.
C. Violence and Terror
1. Violence in our communities- Violence is an annual Halloween tradition in New York City and many other communities across the country, as newspaper reports from recent Halloweens indicate. Extra police patrols are needed; students are sometimes afraid to go to school on Halloween for fear of violence.
2. Poisoned candy, razor blades in apples, etc- "Keep treats in the bag untilchildren get home. Cut and examine all fruit. Throw away all unwrapped candy. Remember that some hospitals X-ray Halloween candy free." From a Halloween warning to parents, The New York Times.
3. Halloween-related events, such as "Mischief Night" and "Devil’s Night," spread violence and destruction across the country.
D. Secular responses to the dangers of
Special police units have been created to talk to parents about Halloween; special pamphlets on the "do’s" and "don’ts" of Halloween are available at some police stations in October.
E. Halloween is increasingly an adult holiday
that encourages youngsters to drink
Anti-drug-abuse activists have complained about the destructive influence on children of Halloween advertising (for alcoholic beverages, etc.) supposedly aimed at adults.
F. Halloween is a time when it is easy to
introduce children to drug abuse and other harmful practices
Police have warned that children can be especially easily lured or swayed at Halloween, so that parents should be on the lookout for strangers or drug dealers.
The Lure of the Occult
A. Extent of Occult
beliefs among young people
In a Gallop poll of teenagers ages 13-17, twenty-nine percent said they believed in witchcraft; twenty-two percent indicated that they believed in ghosts; fully half of the respondents expressed belief in ESP.
B. Growing Occult influences on children
As the supernatural has become an increasing part of teen-age culture through movies and music, and as interest in occultism has mushroomed among teenagers, a growing number of American teenagers appear to be embracing the morbid, pagan rituals of Halloween year-round.
C. Halloween’s cumulative
influence on children
Counselor Wendell Amstutz remarks, "I know that people will say, ‘It’s once a year, or just for a few week.’ As a counselor, I know much can be and is learned in just a few weeks. Repeated year after year, the few weeks of celebration of Halloween can leave a significant impact."
Halloween: How To Respond
When we were kids growing up, we always looked forward to Halloween. We knew nothing about how it began, or what the meanings were behind it. All we knew was that we could get dressed up funny and go through the neighborhood and people would give us candy.
The information you are about to receive is to help you understand the seriousness of Halloween. It is not to spoil your fun, but to ask the question: Should we, as Christians, join in a festival whose history and practices are for the dead? Today, with Halloween being a billion dollar business second only to Christmas in retailing, few understand the true nature and historic foundations of this occult celebration.
Origin of Halloween
The word "Halloween" actually has its origins in the Catholic Church. It comes from the words "All Hallows Eve," "All Hallows Day," or "All Saints Day." This day was set aside to honor saints. The holiday was founded to try and divert attention away from the pagan practices taking place on this day each October. Though perhaps well intentioned, trying to "Christianize" pagan practices can never be pleasing to God, and Halloween may be the most vivid example of this. Some believe Irish immigrants fleeing the potato famine may have brought its origins to America in the 1840s.
In occult and witchcraft circles, October 31 represents a day of worship called Samhain (pronounced sow-en). This is the Celtic New Year. History tells us that the Celtic people were worshipers of earth gods, woodland spirits, and sun deities. One legend explains that on Samhain the spirits of all those who had died throughout the year would come back in search of living bodies to possess for the next year. It was believed to be their only hope for entering the afterlife. It was also the day that the living were to communicate with the dead. This practice is called necromancy.
Deuteronomy 18:11 tells us that God considers this practice evil. We see examples of necromancy portrayed in movies like The Sixth Sense, Lion King, and Ghost, to name a few. Regardless of where or how the ritual practice started, one thing is certain—God forbids contacting any spirit unless it’s the Holy Spirit!
Symbols of Halloween
Trick or Treat. Here are three of the possible origins of present day "trick or treating":
a. In the early practice of Halloween, people were afraid of spirits doing harm to their home, so they would leave treats out side their homes to keep them happy.
b. The Europeans tried to "Christianize" this pagan ritual by calling it "souling." They would go out and collect soul cakes. The more cakes you would receive, the more prayers you would send up for your dead relatives.
>c. In celebration of the recently completed harvest, Celts would give offerings of food to the gods. They often went from door to door to collect food to donate to their deities. History tells us that on Halloween the Celts would terrorize the countryside and populace, butcher cattle, and take it as spoil to please their gods.
Today’s trick-or-treating consists of going from house to house and receiving candy from all the neighbors. Even if Halloween were totally harmless and free from pagan tradition, I would still be concerned about taking my children door-to-door and taking candy from people that I may not know. Throughout the rest of the year, we teach our children not to take anything from a stranger. But on Halloween we break our own rules!!!
The Jack o’Lantern. The Celts that lived in what is now Great Britain and northern France would carry a lantern when they walked on the eve of October 31. These lanterns were carved out of big turnips and the lights were believed to keep the evil spirits away. Children carved faces in the turnips calling them "jack o’lanterns." People later started to use the pumpkin in order to carry a bigger light.
The myth behind the jack o’lantern was that a man named Jack made a pact with the Devil and had to wander aimlessly through the darkness with only a piece of coal from hell in a turnip to guide him.
There are many people who believe that a person can never become a Christian because they have made a pact with the Devil. This is not true. Before a person accepts Christ they already belong to the Devil. In John 8:44a Jesus tell us, "You are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do."
But inviting Jesus into their hearts sets men free! So, why would the Devil make a deal with someone when they are already his? If you call on God to forgive you—no matter what your past was like—He will hear you today.
Witches. When David and Eric were growing up, they were always told that witches were make-believe. But, witches are real. The Bible talks about them in several passages. Today witchcraft is a very popular religion among our youth in America. Who would have ever thought that a seventeen-year-old honor student in Detroit, Michigan, could sue her school for the right to wear her pentagram, which is a symbol of her Wiccan religion. This is exactly what Crystal Seifferly did, according to the Chicago Tribune, February 10, 1999.
The Wiccan religion does not believe in the Devil or Satan. They believe in five elementals, which are the false gods of forces. The five elementals are earth, wind, fire, water, and spirits. Witches do not claim to be Devil worshippers. Witches do not believe the Bible is true so they will not accept a character from the Bible to worship. Many witches will hide behind environmentalism as a cover-up for the worship of Gaia, the goddess called "Mother Earth."
The Black Cat. The black cat has long been associated with witchcraft. Many superstitions have evolved about cats. It was believed that witches could change into cats. Some people also believed that cats were the spirits of the dead. Friends and relatives who had died would often return, with their souls inhabiting an animal—often a black cat. Black cats have remained a symbol of Halloween to the present. On the eve before their New Year (October 31), it was believed that Samhain called together all of the deceased. The dead would take different forms, with the evil spirits taking the form of animals—the most wicked taking the form of cats.
The belief in people coming back from the dead is not a Christian belief. That belief is called reincarnation. The Bible teaches that man dies only once. "And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment" (Hebrews 9:27).
Dressing in Costumes. During the festival of Samhain, there was a fire festival to honor the god of death. Sacred bonfires were lit on the tops of hills in honor of the false gods. History tells us that after the bonfire to Samhain, people were afraid to walk home in the dark. They were in fear of being possessed by spirits. So they dressed up in costumes and carved scary faces in their fire holders. They hoped that the spirits would be frightened and not bother them.
Without even knowing it, children in our society today continue this pagan practice by dressing up in various costumes. Pumpkins are now the objects of choice to carve faces into. The wearing of death masks is still used around the world in demon worship.
In Deuteronomy 18:10–12, God gave His people nine things they were to stay away from. Many of the practices go hand in hand with the traditions of Halloween and go directly against God’s Word.
1. Human sacrifice: In ancient times, they would offer children to false gods of fire. The bonfire was used by pagans who worshipped fire gods, like Baal. To appease these gods, they would offer children in the fire.
2. Divination/fortune telling: If you watch much TV, you can’t miss the advertisements of psychics and people who are suppose to know your future. This practice is condemned in the Bible.
3. Observer of times: This is astrology. Christians do not believe that the stars can guide their life. Christians believe that God will guide our lives through His Word.
4. Enchanter: A person who uses chants to cast spells.
5. Witch: Witches are not make-believe characters. Exodus 22:18 says: "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live." Though New Testament Christians certainly do not condone the Old Testament practice of executing witches, the fact is they have become accepted members in our culture today.
6. Charmer: Objects that are made by someone to protect you or curse others.
7. Consulter of familiar spirits: a familiar spirit is a spirit that impersonates a person who is dead.
8. A wizard, magician, or sorcerer: a person who uses magic to control people or uses occult practices to entice people into witchcraft.
9. Necromancer: someone who claims to contact the dead.
Deuteronomy. 18:10–12 says:
"There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch, (11) Or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer. (12) For all that do these things are an abomination unto the LORD: and because of these abominations the LORD thy God doth drive them out from before thee."
You may have another question: What should I do with those things in my life that are associated with witchcraft? Follow Acts 19:18-20 which states:
"And many that believed came, and confessed, and showed their deeds. (19) Many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together, and burned them before all men: and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver. (20) So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed."
So, what is the answer to our opening question—should a Christian be involved with the pagan holiday of Halloween? No! Ephesians 5:11 says, "And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them." Not only should a Christian not partake in evil, we are to expose it!
But there is a more important question . . .
Christ is asking for our obedience, but first He wants our hearts. He is willing that anyone who calls on His name can be saved and be delivered from darkness. Witch, Satanist, murderer . . . it doesn’t matter, He can and will forgive you! Praise God!
The steps to salvation are simple.
• You must admit that you have sinned against God. "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23).
• You must understand the penalty for sin is death. "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 6:23).
• You need to understand that God loves you no matter what you have done. "But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8)
• You must confess that Jesus Christ is the true Messiah and receive His gift of salvation. "That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation" (Romans 10: 9–10).
? 2002, Eric Barger& David Benoit, used with permissionTen Reasons Christians Should Not Celebrate Halloween
Many in our secular society believe Halloween is nothing more than a harmless festival that allows kids to collect candy. But is it? Its origins lie deeply rooted in the occult, and Christians should stay away. Here are ten reasons why.
1. October 31st has long been known as "The Festival of the Dead." The Celtic tribes and their priests the Druids celebrated this day as a marker for the change from life to death.
2. Halloween today is performed usually by adherents of witchcraft who use the night for their rituals. Witches celebrate Halloween as the "Feast of Samhain," the first feast of the witchcraft year. Being a festival of the dead, Halloween is a time when witches attempt to communicate with the dead through various forms of divination.
3. Christians should not be involved with occultic practice or divination. Note God's command against divination in Deuteronomy 18.
4. Occultists believe Halloween is a time of transition between life and death. Some occult practitioners practiced divination and believed you could learn the secrets of life and wisdom by lying on a grave and listening to the messages from the long-departed.
5. Occultists also taught that spirits and ghosts left the grave during this night and would seek out warmth in their previous homes. Villagers, fearful of the possibility of being visited by the ghosts of past occupants, would dress up in costumes to scare the spirits on their way. They would also leave food and other treats at their door to appease the spirits so they would not destroy their homes or crops but instead move on down the road. That is the real reason why kids dress up in costumes today and go door-to-door seeking treats.
6. Occultists also would try to scare away the spirits by carving a scary face into a pumpkin. This horrible visage would hopefully move the spirit on to another home or village and spare that home from destruction. Sometimes the villagers would light a candle and place it within the pumpkin and use it as a lantern (hence the name, Jack-o-Lantern). This is the origin of carving pumpkins at Halloween.
7. In some witchcraft covens, the closing ritual includes eating an apple or engaging in fertility rites. In the Bible (Genesis 3), eating a piece of fruit brought sin and death into the world. In witchcraft, eating an apple is symbolic of bringing life. The practice of bobbing for apples brings together two pagan traditions: divination and the fertility ritual.
8. Schools are removing any religious significance from Christmas (often called winter break) and Easter (spring break). Isn't it ironic that most public schools still celebrate Halloween even though it has occultic origins?
9. Participating in Halloween gives sanction to a holiday that promotes witches, divination, haunted houses, and other occultic practices.
10. Christians should avoid Halloween and develop creative alternatives. Churches can hold a Fall Fun Festival and/or celebrate Reformation Day (also October 31). They should not endorse or promote Halloween.
Copyright 2002 Probe Ministries, used with permission