|Series Theme: The Occult|
Title: 9. Halloween - Fearful Fact or Silly Superstition?
A simple consideration of this annual event.
1. The History of Halloween
1.1 Its Ancient Origins
goes back to the ancient Druid / Celtic festival of Samhain. No one
really knows what happened during Samhain but it's been suggested that
Celts used bonfires, human and/or vegetable sacrifices, and scary costumes
to repel the foreboding caused by lengthening nights of Autumn, falling
temperatures, and withering plants, and their strong belief in supernatural
Gregory moved All Saints', or All Hallows' Day from May 13 to November 1 (which made October 31 All Hallows' Eve, i.e. Halloween) and instructed revellers to dress as saints instead of evil spirits. Goodies that once had been offered to propitiate wandering devils (see below) were instead offered to poor people, who in turn vowed to pray for the souls of departed relatives.
1.2 Trick or Treat
Samhain supposedly called up all the evil souls who had died the previous year, and so demons, fairies, elves, & ghosts were believed to spring up from the netherworld. To ensure fertility to cattle and crops, firstborn children were offered as living sacrifices to satisfy these evil creatures.
It was believed that these demons insisted upon "treats" to keep them from performing their "tricks," or curses, on people's lives. So, people would leave the finest food and drink for them on their doorsteps, usually devoured by stray dogs, cats, wild animals and vagabonds. If dissatisfied with the treats, it was feared they might enter the house causing destruction of property or person, e.g. ruining a water well, killing cattle, souring milk, and bringing sickness and even death.
2. The Modern Resurgence of Halloween
It was Oxford academic and writer, C.S.Lewis, who said that if you take away belief in God, people will believe in anything. In the latter part of the twentieth century in Britain and many other parts of the West, belief in God gave way to “belief in anything”! Thus today we find a resurgence in Halloween, possibly for any or all of the following reasons:
Deep down people are still superstitious, perhaps even more so in the absence of any real belief in God. Is there someone or something to appease?
2.2 Belief in the Supernatural
Many of us still believe in the supernatural (because it IS out there?) but prefer ‘something' or ‘some power' to God, because once we really believe in God, we know we'll have to let Him rule, rather than self ruling.
The ‘supernatural' speaks of unknown forces (which might give us a buzz) but which make no apparent claims on us.
Without doubt shops promote Halloween, like they do Christmas, Easter, Mother's Day etc., purely for commercial reasons.
Many parents submit to what advertisers now call children's ‘pester-power' and simply buy Halloween goods without any thought to what they might be promoting.
While seeking to keep the peace, they may be sowing greater problems for the future.
2.4 Post Modernism Experience
Living in the period of history that we do, means that many people want to buy an “experience” as part of their memory making in life.
So a ghoulish, spooky feeling is, for some, just another experience to buy. They try not to think about what might be behind that feeling.
There are also, of course, that minority of people who participate in witchcraft (black or white), or who are even openly pagan worshippers.
For these people Halloween is an opportunity to focus on that self-centred, godless, power-controlling activity that comes under the general heading of ‘witchcraft'.
3. The Truth about Halloween?
So what is the truth about Halloween? Your answer will almost certainly depend on your world view, but for many of us that is not a carefully thought out view. The fact that perhaps you haven't given it much thought may be dangerous.
To illustrate what we mean by this, let's consider a silly example.
Suppose somebody said, “All mushrooms are good to eat.” An ignorant person might agree, but would then be in a dangerous position, because in fact some wild mushrooms are poisonous and will make you very ill.
When it comes to the supernatural the same applies and there are, in reality, only a limited number of options:
3.1 There ISN'T such a thing as the supernatural.
This would be the view of the atheistic materialist who maintains there is nothing beyond the physical world (a view not actually held by many people today).
Now if this view was true, then any ‘celebrating' of Halloween is pure nonsense and a waste of money and an irritation to people having their evenings interrupted by trick-or-treat children. Even more it may be putting children at risk being out alone.
3.2 There ARE supernatural powers.
The evidence of increasing numbers of people using ouija boards or tarot cards, or of those purporting to be followers of the New Age, indicates that, apart from those with traditional religious beliefs, there are considerable numbers of people with less than traditional beliefs in supernatural powers.
4. Powers in the Background?
4.1 What Sort of Powers?
Now once we acknowledge that, the question that then arises is what sort of powers?
Are these powers good and benign powers, or are they bad and harmful powers?
Despite the protestations of those involved in occult activities, traditional evidence is quite clear that such things are linked to such words as fear, horror, terror, blackness.
Even if there is the slightest inkling of truth in this, are these the sort of things that we should be involving our children in?
4.2 Who is to Say?
A second question arises: who is to say what is true about these things?
Those of traditional religious faiths are able to refer to historical books of authority, for example the Bible, which strongly speaks against using occult forces instead of seeking God.
4.3 The Testimony of Experts
If we cannot have faith in such books, we are left with the evidence of those who work in the area of helping those involved in the occult.
One noted occultist, considered to be one of the leading authorities on the occult in the 20th century wrote in the middle of that century, “During the last 20-25 years I have had considerable personal experience with persons who have complicated their lives through dabbling with the Ouija board. Out of every hundred such cases, at least 95 are worse off for the experience… I know of broken homes, estranged families, and even suicides that can be traced directly to this source.”
We use the example of the ouija board as it is one of the most commonly used forms of occult involvement
Another expert testified: “There are also hundreds of cases of innocent or naïve occult involvement leading to spirit possession, insanity, financial ruin, adultery, divorce, criminal acts (even murder), and other tragedies as the books of… occultism and parapsychology proves”
Remember, this is what is behind Halloween! And you still want to encourage our children into it???
5. Some Conclusions
From what we've considered so far, the following are some things we ought to note:
The origins of Halloween, although murky, are clearly born out of pagan, superstitious, occult activity.
5.2 Present Day
The reasons why people participate in Halloween activities are varied, but are often driven by forces beyond their personal wishes.
If Halloween is superstitious nonsense, it nevertheless glories in “the dark side” and at best is a waste of money and an irritation to many people, but at the worst teaches superstitious nonsense which focuses on darkness.
If Halloween does in fact represent occult supernatural powers, then it is representing and exalting a very dark side of existence which leads many people into fear and worse.
It is clearly opposed by traditional religious faiths which state that God denounces such activities which promote human self-centredness to the loss of a potential relationship with Himself.
It is, indeed, something to be avoided!