Updated: Feb 9
For many, it will come as no surprise that Halloween has its origins in pagan occultic practices, yet churches around the world will still be hosting some sort of festivities on that day. They will be having various games, trick-or-treating segments, and other Halloween-ish activities. But what are the origins behind Halloween and those deeds done on that day?
Christianizing Pagan Ways and Days
As the British Isles were being converted to Catholicism in the early 600s, Pope Gregory the 1st wrote a letter to Abbot Mellitus detailing what the strategy should be to gain “converts”.
“In 601 A.D. Pope Gregory the First… issued a now famous edict to his missionaries concerning the native beliefs and customs of the peoples he hoped to convert. Rather than try to obliterate native peoples' customs and beliefs, the pope instructed his missionaries to use them: if a group of people worshipped a tree, rather than cut it down, he advised them to consecrate it to Christ and allow its continued worship.” (Jack Santino. Halloween in America: Contemporary Customs and Performances, p.7)
Immediately a red flag should pop up, this is what is called syncretism and the church made it a custom to adopt pagan ways of worship and to Christianize them. The Bible, however, does not allow for such actions, we are not to worship Elohim in the same manners as the gentiles or pagans do their gods.
“guard yourself that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed from before you, and that you do not inquire about their mighty ones, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their mighty ones? And let me do so too.’ “Do not do so to יהוה your Elohim, for every abomination which יהוה hates they have done to their mighty ones, for they even burn their sons and daughters in the fire to their mighty ones.” (Deuteronomy 12:30-31)
The Samhain and Halloween Connection
As the Catholic Church was moving through Britain, one of the people groups they would have come across were druids. Druids were a learned class from the Celtics who operated in the roles of priest, judges, and teachers. One of their festivals was called Samhain, which begins the evening of October 31 and it is not a mere coincidence that the two holidays fall on the same day. It is from this tradition that we get Halloween, as noted Pope Georgy instructed his missionaries not to destroy the pagan customs but to “Christianize” them.
“This feast day was meant to substitute for Samhain, to draw the devotion of the Celtic peoples, and, finally, to replace it forever. That did not happen… All Saints Day, otherwise known as All Hallows (hallowed means sanctified or holy), continued the ancient Celtic traditions.” (University of Northern Iowa on Samhain)
Samhain which means “End of Summer”, was one of the most important festivals for the Celtic people. During this time, it was (is) believed the supernatural veil to be at its thinnest, giving rise to many supernatural occurrences, such as the gods playing tricks on the people. One of the more significant events during Samhain was the sacrificing of humans.
“First-born sacrifices are mentioned in a poem in the Dindshenchas, which records that children were sacrificed each Samhain…” (Rogers, Nicholas. Halloween: From Pagan Ritual to Party Night, p. 17)
“Halloween. That was the eve of Samhain… firstborn children were sacrificed…Samhain eve was a night of dread and danger.” (National Geographic, May 1977, pp. 625-626)
Believe it or not but human sacrificing still occurs to this day, and maybe even more so on Halloween night. It may also surprise you to know that many of the traditional activities of Halloween can be traced back to Samhain, such as the use of jack-o’-lanterns, dressing up, bobbing for apples, and trick-or-treating.
“It is believed that faces, rather than other images or symbols, were originally carved onto the pumpkin because they gave the jack-o’-lantern the look of a head. The Celts of ancient times believed that the head was the most sacred part of the human body, for it housed a person’s immortal soul.” (Dunwich, Gerina. The Pagan Book of Halloween, p. 32)
“Trophy, charm, or ornament, the human head figured prominently in Celtic life. Warriors hung enemy heads on their houses as a show of prowess, and Druids, believing that the head harbored the soul, placed skulls in sanctuaries to ward of evil.” (National Geographic, May 1977, p. 603)
“… the jack-o’-lantern is generally presented in its traditional form as a festive euphemism for death’s-head, the triangular nose hole and rictus grin being the “dead” giveaways.” (Skal, David J. Death Makes a Holiday: The Cultural History of Halloween, p. 38)
“Carved and illuminated by a candle, they are symbolic of death and the spirit world.” (Thompson, Sue Ellen. Holiday symbols and customs, p. 256)
Dressing up in Costume
“There may also have been precedents for trick-or-treating and Halloween costumes in Samhain celebrations. James (1961) reports that in Gallic celebrations of Samhain, the skins of slaughtered animals were worn as a disguise to invoke the spirits of sacred animals and that this masquerade feature continues to survive in the Scottish Highlands.” (Russell W. Belk, University of Utah. Halloween: an Evolving American Consumption Ritual)
“… mischievous spirits could play tricks on the living- so it was advantageous to “hide” from them by wearing costumes. Masks and costumes were worn to either scare away the ghosts or to keep from being recognized by them.” (John Ankerberg, John Weldon, Dillon Burroughs. The Facts on Halloween, p. 16)
I found several websites and articles that stated Trick-or-Treat started when Druids would visit houses and ask the man of the house if he was going to provide a sacrifice or not. If the man did offer up someone from his house, then the Druids would place a hollowed-out pumpkin filled with human fat and a candle. This was meant to let other Druids know that this house has already given a sacrifice. If the man refused to give up someone then strange markings were written on his door in blood, this was done to cause the spirits to afflict the family. The reason I do not have a quote for this is that I could not find this information in a book or a scholarly article, so take it with a grain of salt.
Bobbing for Apples
“Apples were the sacred fruit of the goddess Pomona, and many games of divination involving apples entered the Samhain customs through her influence. One of the most popular involved bobbing for apples.” (Common Boundary, Sep./Oct. 1993, p. 30)
Do not Do as they Do
Now many may say, “Well when I celebrate Halloween it’s just for fun and I’m not thinking of other gods and spirits.”, this is a common objection from people but I propose that what if engaging in these activates on that night causes spirits or demons to attach themselves to you? Even more are we not told to be a set-apart people and not to follow the ways of the nations?
“You must not do as they do in Egypt, where you used to live, and you must not do as they do in the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you. Do not follow their practices.” (Leviticus 18:3)
“When you come into the land which יהוה your Elohim is giving you, do not learn to do according to the abominations of those nations.” (Deuteronomy 18:9)
“Thus said יהוה, “Do not learn the way of the nations…” (Jeremiah 10:2)
“So this I say, and witness in the Master, that you should no longer walk as the nations walk, in the futility of their mind,” (Ephesians 4:17)
There are Holy days that the Father has given us to observe, and they are beyond measure in terms of value and meaning compared to these holidays celebrated by the nations. If you have not read my post titled “The Mo’edim” and my other posts in the pagan holiday series I highly recommend giving them a read. Continue to test all things and may the Ruach Hakodesh lead you into all truth.
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