by Albert James Dager
It’s that time of year when the world holds its festival to honor the powers of darkness – the time when stores stock up on all the goodies that children seek as they make their way from door to door with their wails of “Trick or treat.”
Doting parents take pictures of them in their little costumes, dressed as witches, demons, monsters and their favorite media characters. They no doubt think of how cute their kiddies look as they waddle about the neighborhood working their peculiar brand of blackmail.
Humor aside, it’s important that Christian parents consider the true meaning of this holiday called Hallowe’en. Whether or not Christians should be a part of these festivities is a legitimate question. It’s one among many concerning the affairs of the world and how they relate to God’s people. If we are called to be holy and separated unto Him, we are to walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise (Ephesians 5:15).
It seems as if many Christians think that Hallowe’en is an outgrowth of Christian tradition honoring the saints of the Church. While the name and most recent influences of this holiday appear to be Christian (the name means the evening before All Hallows, or All Saints’ Day), most of its customs are remnants of ancient pagan superstitions connected with the Druidic new year. It was a joint festival known as Samhain (or, Sowein), held in honor of their sun god and their Lord of the Dead.
Common to new year festivals around the world, to the Druids this was a time when the dead came back to mingle among the living. the Celts believed that the sinful souls of those who had died during the year had been transferred to the bodies of animals. Through gifts and sacrifices their sins could be expiated and the souls freed to claim a heavenly reward. The Lord of the Dead judged the souls and decreed the form in which their existence was to continue, whether as humans or animals.
Some modern witches claim the day as a time to give thanks to their great goddess and god for their abundance in harvest. As the start of the pagan new year, Hallowe’en is the time they also invoke the help of spirits for the coming year, since the veil between the dead and the living is believed to be at its thinnest.
The reason some Christians associate Hallowe’en with Christianity is that in the eighth century, Pope Gregory III had the Roman Catholic festival honoring the dead moved to November 1. Then, in the ninth century, Pope Gregory IV decreed that the day was to be universally observed by the Roman Catholic Church which, at that time, held the greatest influence among the Christian populous because of its political strength. In reality, then, Hallowe’en was at first a pagan festival which was later converted into a Roman Catholic festival. During the Middle Ages, the even of All Saints’ Day became known as the time most favored by witches, sorcerers, and devil worshippers.
It should be stated here that not all witches are Satanists, since they believe that Satan is a fabrication of the Christian faith. Today’s witches in the Celtic tradition adhere to “wicca,” a form of witchcraft that worships nature. Satanism is a form of witchcraft which invokes the powers of Satan specifically, and whose traditions and practices are in many cases similar to those of wicca. To both forms of witchcraft Hallowe’en is their most sacred day of the year.
PHYSICAL & SPIRITUAL DANGERS
The physical dangers that Hallowe’en presents to children are easily recognizable. There are plenty of warnings on radio, television and in other mass media outlets of what to beware of in the way of contaminated food, how to dress to avoid the hazards of fire and to be easily seen at night, as well as what to give children to offset the aches in their little tummies from gorging themselves on too many sweets.
“…it’s only in fun and the kids don’t know the difference anyway.”
The physical dangers of Hallowe’en are minimal, however, when compared to the spiritual dangers. Whether Christians should allow their children to join in the festivities has been a hot issue for some time. The common argument in favor of their doing so is that it’s only fun and the kids don’t know the difference anyway.
And that’s the problem: It’s all in fun and they don’t know the difference. When we engage in celebrations that are tributes to Satan and pagan gods, either we are failing to acknowledge the reality of those demonic forces and their influence in the world, or we think they’re something with which we can align ourselves and not be affected.
The argument that Hallowe’en isn’t what it was originally doesn’t hold up in view of the fact that even today witches observe that day as a celebration of their fall harvest festival in honor of their pagan gods. On that day Satanists continue to engage in all sorts of perversions including animal and human sacrifices. Whether we believe in these things or not, the traditions linked to Hallowe’en carry evil connotations, and the fact remains that it’s still a feast of Satan, and its practices must be exposed for the evil they represent.
TRICK OR TREAT
The modern custom of going from door to door begging candy, nuts, apples, and pennies while masked and dressed in grotesque costumes goes back to the pagan new year’s feast. The spirits that were thought to throng about the houses of the living were greeted with banquet-laden tables. At the end of the feast, masked and costumed villagers, representing the souls of the dead, paraded to the outskirts of town leading the spirits away. This was done to avoid any calamities the dead might bring upon them should they not be provided for. Were the living to fail in their provisions they might find their lives disrupted by such things as having their livestock die, their milk turn sour, their food spoil, or whatever other mischief the spirits of the dead might devise.
This appeasement of the spirits was celebrated in various ways according to locale and custom, with minor differences. One way to appease the dead was to set out bowls of fruit and other treats so they could partake of them and, once satisfied, they would leave in peace. Your child, when he goes door to door in the ritual of “trick or treat,” is reenacting that ancient superstition.
JACK – O – LANTERNS
The jack-o-lantern (also known as will-o-the-wisp, fox fire, fairie fire, friar’s lantern, and corpse lantern, among other things) was believed to be a wandering soul which could not find refuge in either Heaven or Hell because of a particularly evil deed committed in its lifetime. Some believed it to be a malignant imp. The Finns believed that it was the soul of a child buried in the forest.
According to ancient folklore from many places, a will-o-the-wisp wanders about swamp areas, enticing victims to follow. Should a person succumb to curiosity to follow the light of this spirit, he may become hopelessly lost or led to his death in a bog or pool. There are also tales of these mischievous spirits chasing terrified victims through mud and brambles until confused, and then leaving them stranded with the sound of mocking laughter ringing in their ears. today’s leering pumpkin face is symbolic of that mocking spirit.
A corpse candle is said to be a small flame moving through the air in the dark and is believed by the superstitious to be an omen of the observer’s imminent death, or the death of a loved one. These strange fires, thought by the more rational to originate from the atmospheric ignition of swamp gases, were also known as “Ignun Fastuus,” or “Foolish Fire,” because only a fool would follow them.
Most everyone is familiar with the Hallowe’en bonfire which had its origins in the Celtic fire festivals that had specific purposes in ancient pagan superstition.
In North Wales every family built a bonfire into which each member would throw a stone he had marked with his own identification. The family would recite prayers to their gods while gathered around the fire. Should a stone be missing when they returned to the site the next morning, it was believed that the owner of that particular stone would die within the coming year. A similar belief existed in the Scottish Highlands, and many forms of fortune telling would accompany the festivities. This is probably because the Celtic new year provided a suitable time for predicting the future due to the closeness of the spirits. Even today during this time of year, modern “mystics” fill the newspapers with their predictions for the next year.
It is believed that the bonfires were first meant to provide light and heat to compensate for the feeble sun during the darkening and chilling period of winter. On this particular night all the people would extinguish their fires at home and congregate at a great community bonfire consecrated through sacred rites during the fire festival. In order to receive fire for the next year it was necessary to engage in pagan rituals, many of which included human and animal sacrifices to the gods of nature.
BLACK CATS & OTHER TALISMANS
Witches of many persuasions own living talismans – animals indwelt by evil spirits through which they derive their power. Common talismans are dogs, owls, snakes, and swine, but among the most common are cats. The witches invoke the familiar spirits to enter the bodies of their talismans for the exorcising of dark powers.
The black cat in particular has come to symbolize these familiar spirits because black represents evil, death, and darkness, commodities with which evil spirits are obsessed.
THE UNHOLY MADE HOLY?
The other trappings of Hallowe’en are all steeped in magic and the occultic practices of ancient civilizations. With the advent of Christianity, rationalizations were given to these practices in order to make them palatable to the Church, while providing for appeasement of pagans forced to become “Christians” or lose their lives at the hands of the Roman clergy.
One variation on trick-or-treat, for example, was for children to go around on the eve of All Souls’ Day (the day following All Saints’ Day) offering to fast for the departed souls of loved ones in exchange for money or some other offering.
Like so many pagan festivals that were conveniently adapted for Christian usage, Hallowe’en is today accepted as Christian in origin and practice. But the darkness that permeated the minds of those within the Roman Church at that time resulted in the taking of that which was consecrated to Satan and the pagan gods of nature, and offering them to God. We have numerous Scriptures that tell us such a practice is an abomination to God, punishable by death. That’s how much God detests such practices, regardless of whom one says they honor.
Jeremiah the prophet wrote: “Learn not the way of the heathen” (Jeremiah 10:2).
Lest those “under grace” think this doesn’t apply to the present, I remind them of Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 6:14-18:
“Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? Or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? For ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and touch not the unclean thing: and I will receive you. and I will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.”
To engage in revelry associated with such an anti-Christ festivity as Hallowe’en is a slap in our Lord’s face. Yet because of “vain traditions,” Christian parents, and even some churches, go all out to make Hallowe’en a special time of celebration. Some churches and Christian organizations even go public with “haunted” houses designed to scare the wits out of people for profit in order to finance their programs. Yet God says that He has not given us a spirit of fear, but of love and power and of a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7).
Is it suitable for the body of Christ to embrace the symbols of Satan for any cause, and, for the excuse of “fun,” induce fear in people? How easy it is to become oppressed by evil spirits if we don’t keep our guard up and continue in the peace and joy of Christ, but instead allow ourselves to indulge our sense in momentary pleasures revolving around Satan and his dominion.
There is nothing on this earth, least of all some bits and pieces of candy, which can justify embracing Satan in his unholy day’s celebrations. Yet the Church has accepted so many things of this world because of ignorance or tradition. Hallowe’en has captivated the minds of Christian children and adults alike to the detriment of their spiritual lives for too long. It’s time that pastors and teachers take responsibility to educate their flocks to God’s requirement of holiness for His people.
As pastors and teachers have responsibility of educating parents, the responsibility of educating children in the commandments of God weighs heavily upon the shoulders of parents. But no more so in this age or society than in ages past. The difference is that today children rule many homes, Christian and non-Christian alike. For that reason compromise is the easy way out for parents who, thinking they are showing love by acquiescence, are really destroying their children’s spiritual life. No matter what the evil, parents are forever searching for alternatives in order that their children not feel deprived of the world’s fun. When it comes to Hallowe’en, Christians decided to substitute their own parties for the world’s. Instead of calling their festivities “Hallowe’en parties,” they call them “Harvest Festivals” and dress them in biblical costumes. But that’s what Hallowe’en is: a harvest festival. And many children wear biblical costumes for Hallowe’en anyway, so what the difference except in the compromise of their minds? You can be sure that to most children it’s still Hallowe’en that they’re celebrating.
It is a religious spirit that persuades Christians that, by substituting angel costumes for witch costumes they are somehow pleasing God. His Word calls for total separation, not compromise.
It isn’t going to traumatize children if they aren’t allowed to join in somethings just because “everyone else is doing it.” It’s the responsibility of Christian parents to teach their children the Truth from the beginning; not wait until they’ve been sufficiently infected by the world that they must be deprogrammed at a later date.
Children who are taught to love Jesus will understand that, because of that love, they shouldn’t have anything to do with a celebration that glorifies the power of God’s enemies. Even if they rebel and, for a time reject the Truth, parents can trust God’s promise: “TRAIN up a child in the way he should go; and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). If parents will be faithful in their responsibility to bring their children up in the knowledge of God’s righteousness He will keep His hand upon their children and will guide them back to the Truth.
On the other hand, Jesus’ warning in Matthew 18:6 applies no less to parents and the Church leaders than to child molesters and abusers: “…whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.”
There is an alternative to Hallowe’en: Christians should gather together in a special service to wage spiritual warfare against the powers of darkness that are particularly active that evening due to the prevalence of the world’s involvement with them, whether knowingly or not. A church service which educates Christians to these and other dangers, and which continues in worship, praise, and prayer against demonic influences in the community is an idea whose time has come.
And the longer the services lasts through the evening, from sundown to midnight if possible, the more we’ll display to God our seriousness wanting to stand for His righteousness to reign in the hearts of our fellow citizens.
This is no trivial matter. Satan is alive, and souls are being lost in great numbers daily. But so, too, is God alive. And He is working His plan of redemption. If we want to be a part of that plan and, just as importantly, if Christian parents want their children to be a part of that plan, we must once and for all let God have His way at any expense.
That is a tremendous responsibility; hardly worth sacrificing on the altars of worldly pleasure.
©1986 Media spotlight, Costa Mesa, CA Used with Permission