History of Halloween

The celebration of Halloween on 31 October each year goes back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced Sawin). Indeed this is still the pagan name for the festival that falls around the 31st October, depending on the phases of the moon.

There are many different suggestions as to what actually happened on this night in ancient times. It appears that many people thought that the barrier between the human world and the supernatural world was broken down and could more easily be crossed.

“Central to the festival of Hallowe’en was the celebration of the dead. The Celtic New Year festival was known as the celebration of Samhain… The eve of November 1st, the day on which the old year died, was a very appropriate time to honour death.” – Hallowe’en Treat or Trick, David Porter, 1993, p.24.

This evening has always been associated with the ‘dark side,’ with evil supernatural realms but we should not imaging from this that everyone sacrificed babies and the Devil roamed freely and did whatever he wanted.

In Celtic and Anglo-Saxon times, this was also the eve of the New Year, and bonfires were lit to ward off evil spirits. At other times it was felt that this was a good evening to invoke the Devil’s help concerning marriages, health, etc., by means of divination.

“The ancient Celtic (Irish, Scottish, Welsh) festival called Samhain is considered by many to be a predecessor of our contemporary Halloween. Samhain was the New Year’s Day of the Celts, celebrated on 1 November. It was also a day of the dead, a time when it was believed that the souls of those who had died during the year were allowed access to the land of the dead. It was related to the season: by Samhain, the crops should be harvested and animals brought in from the distant fields.

Many traditional beliefs and customs associated with Samhain, most notable that night was the time of the wandering dead, the practice of leaving offerings of food and drink to masked and costumed revelers, and the lighting of bonfires, continued to be practiced on 31 October, known as the Eve of All Saints, the Eve of All Hallows, or Hallow Even. It is the glossing of the name Hallow Even that has given us the name Hallowe’en

The spirits of Samhain, once thought to be wild and powerful, were now said to be something worse: evil. The church maintained that the gods and goddesses and other spiritual beings of traditional religions were diabolical deceptions, that the spiritual forces that people had experienced were real, but they were manifestations of the Devil, the Prince of Liars, who misled people toward the worship of false idols.

Thus, the customs associated with Halloween included representations of ghosts and human skeletons -symbols of the dead- and of the devil and other malevolent, evil creatures, such as witches were said to be. – Halloween and other Festivals of Death and Life, Jack Santino, University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville, 1994.” – Quoted from the Darkside Parlour Web Site.

Mrs. Gloria Phillips of Mobile, Alabama gives further background to this festival in an article entitled “Halloween What It Is From A Christian Perspective.”

“The custom of Halloween is traced to the Druid festival of the dead. At that time the Roman Pantheon was built by Emperor Hadrian in 100 A.D. as a temple to the goddess Cybele and other Roman deities. It became the principle place of worship. Roman pagans prayed for the dead. Rome was captured and the Pantheon fell into disrepair. Emperor Phocas captured Rome and gave the Pantheon to Pope Boniface IV in 609. He reconsecrated it to the Virgin Mary and resumed using the temple to pray for the dead, only now it was “Christianized”, as men added the unscriptural teaching of purgatory. In 834 A.D. Gregory IV extended the feast for all the church and it became known as All Saint’s Day, still remembering the dead.”

David Porter also goes on in his book to show that the Druids too regarded Halloween as a sacred time. He quotes on p.26 of his book from The Elements of the Druid Tradition by Philip Carr-Gomm, p.70.

“The Druid rites… were concerned with making contact with the spirits of the departed, who were seen as sources of guidance and inspiration rather than as sources of dread… The dead are honoured and feasted, not as the dead, but as living spirits of loved ones and of guardians who hold the root-wisdom of the tribe.”

Many felt that this was also a time when the souls of the dead revisited their homes, therefore the preoccupation with ghosts, demons and the like. This led to many feeling they needed to placate the supernatural powers, especially those controlling nature. Sacrifices of animals, vegetables or maybe even humans were made to this end.

Halloween and The Church

The church wanted to divert the thinking and preoccupation away from these pagan ceremonies and so introduced special services for All Hallows Eve and 1 November, All Saints Day. This effort however has largely failed and to most Halloween evening is still very pagan.

“Hallowe’en today is part of a trilogy of celebrations: Hallowe’en, or All Hallow’s Eve (observed on 31 October), All Saints Day (celebrated on 1 November), and All Souls’ Day (celebrated on 2 November). Of these the second and third (sometimes referred to together as ‘Hallowtide’) are festivals created by the Christian church. Hallowe’en however, is a festival whose roots are deep in pre-Christian religion and which in modern times retains much of its pagan symbolism.” – Porter, pp.22/23.

We need to be aware that this evening is special to a great number who practice Witchcraft and Satanism. Many witches will give testimony to what happens at Halloween as being very special to them and indeed how much they enjoy it.

You can also notice that every year around the third week of October informative articles by witches begin to appear in local newspapers.

It is an evening where those in Witchcraft gather, and through various means, seek to release supernatural power. The particular ‘brand’ of Witchcraft will determine where the power will be used to effect.

We hear stories that it is directed against churches and families and in a small number of cases this could be true. Nevertheless, whichever way the power appears to be directed, clearly it is not from God and, consequently, it is often a night for much evil activity in the spiritual realms as well as on earth.

Development of Halloween

Halloween has developed over the years. In some countries it is used as an opportunity for profit, becomes a commercial enterprise, in other countries it ishardly celebrated at all. The fact of the matter is, that whatever the ‘outward’ signs are, the witches will be using Halloween as part of their celebrations, because of its pagan and occult roots.

As we point out in our various publications on the Occult, there is a vast difference between Wicca – ‘White’ Witchcraft – and Satanism. Consequently Halloween celebrations will mean different things to different covens, but the link with the occult will be very clear.

“Yet there are much stronger survivals in modern Hallowtide. Ancient rituals are being recited today much as they were a thousand years ago, and gods and spirits are being worshipped who were worshipped in the West before the birth of Christ. Some groups actively worship the devil; others (the majority, in fact) claim to repudiate satanism and to devote themselves to caring for the planet and for their fellow human beings. Some regard Christianity as a recent religion, of little enduring worth; some regard themselves as in amiable co-existence with Christianity; others hate Christianity and would destroy it if they could. For all these, Hallowe’en is a special occasion in a way that other traditional festivals are not.” – 

Whatever the dangers and questions about Halloween it is proving more popular in the West than ever. This popularity is driven by commercial interests as profits made from costumes, make-up, sweets, special pots to collect them, toys, parties, alcohol, etc.

“A third of the people surveyed in a new Gallup poll said they believe in ghosts, three times the number who said that two decades ago. One of five said they believe in witches, twice the rate of the late 1970s. Almost nine of 10 people in the new poll said they have no objections to Halloween on religious grounds… Two-thirds of American parents in the poll said their children will go out trick-or-treating, slightly more than in 1978. More than four out of five parents say their children will wear costumes this Halloween… The telephone poll of 1,005 adults taken Oct. 21-24 had an error margin of plus or minus 3 percentage points.” – Associated Press

Is it Right to be Involved in Halloween?

Schools, Youth Groups, etc.

There has been some turning against the intense celebration of Halloween in schools. Some Local Education Authorities recommend that the subject be kept low-key and others that if it is mentioned, the dangers of the occult realms must also be mentioned. However there are still many who take the opportunity to highlight, sometimes unintentionally, the occultic realms.

Some schools are finding Halloween too scary as the following 1999 newspaper report shows.

“Hallowe’en is being shunned by schools who say it is too frightening for children. Staff at schools such as Gavinburn Nursery in Glasgow have decided not to celebrate the event on October 31 for fears that it will give youngsters nightmares… The nursery is not the only one to take a hard line. The adjoining primary school and some church schools will also give the occasion a miss. St John and St Francis School in Bridgwater Somerset, says the festival is not part of the Christian calendar and therefore not something it marks.”

Trick or Treat

This common practice, associated with Halloween, was introduced by the Irish immigrants in America and at first was quite malicious. As it developed down the years it very often turned into harmless pranks. Much today is still harmless, but there is also an element of the destructive and malicious that has come back in.

Trick or Treat boils down to ‘blackmail to prevent vandalism’ and we would suggest is not healthy for Christian children to be involved in it. We should also, where possible, encourage our friends and neighbours not to allow their children to do it either. Not only do we have the preoccupation with the occult but also the danger of talking to and taking sweets from strangers. We should also consider how we might frighten some young or old people with gruesome costumes.

Your Children

We understand that it can sometimes be difficult for your children, with peer pressure and activities at school, etc. However, for the reasons stated above we would encourage you to dissuade them from taking part in specific Hallowe’en celebrations.

It might be helpful to your children, if you arrange a special treat as a family that evening, or discover a church near by where some of their friends will be attending a ‘Light Party’ or similar event that they could also go to.

If you have contacts at your local school, underline the fact that we seek to provide a safe environment for our kids at school and so it is not appropriate to teach our children that experimentation with the occult world is okay. At least ask them to get someone to warn of the dangers. Each year kids have warnings about fireworks, talking to strangers, playing in the road, etc., and so it will not be a problem to add a warning of the dangers of the supernatural realm.

Finally, it would be helpful if you looked further at the whole supernatural realm. Discover, for yourself, that just as there is an evil realm as described above there is also a ‘good’ realm. The more you have experienced the reality of this realm yourself the more you can help your children.

In our shop you can find resources to help you think through the dangers of the occult:

Occult Dangers Explained is especially helpful for teachers and others working with children and young people.

The Occult, in our Biblical Investigation Series, Occult practices and beliefs, defining occult, explaining the dangers of involvement in occult practices, with comparisons to Evangelical Christianity and helpful guides to sharing Jesus.

Paganism and Occult looks at the influence of the occult in our world, examines its ultimately unsatisfying rewards, and how to help people escape occult influences.