Halloween: Celebrating Darkness
The festive occasion known as Halloween is now taken for granted. It is a time of curious, rather morbid activities for children and adults alike when some of the darkest themes of a sin-burdened creation are exhumed from history's graveyard for public display and for the profit of carnal merchants who promote the entire affair. Yet how many people (especially Bible-believers) have given honest, serious consideration to the nature of this seasonal celebration? Following is a summary of the reasons why our church does not participate in Halloween customs. Sincere readers of this article will recognize that variations among historians concerning the nativity and practice of Halloween do not diminish the larger picture here. Bible-believers are further encouraged to search the Scriptures diligently for themselves as did the Bereans in ACT 17:11 to determine if the scriptural observations and conclusions herein are valid.
There is ample evidence that the modern custom of Halloween is a sanitized version of something very old, very dark, very sinister. The following citation is representative of many such authoritative observations:
“Halloween or All Hallows Eve, the name given to Oct. 31, as the vigil of Hallowmas or All Saints' Day, now chiefly known as the eve of the Christian festival. It long antedates Christianity. The two chief characteristics of ancient Halloween were the lighting of bonfires and the belief that this is the one night in the year during which ghosts and witches are most likely to wander abroad. History shows that the main celebrations of Halloween were purely Druidical, and this is further proved by the fact that in parts of Ireland Oct. 31 is still known as Oidhche Shamhna, 'Vigil of Saman.' This is directly connected with the Druidic belief in the calling together of certain wicked souls on Halloween by Saman, lord of death. On the Druidic ceremonies were grafted some of the characteristics of the Roman festival in honour of Pomona held about Nov. 1, in which nuts and apples, representing the winter store of fruits, played an important part. The custom of lighting Halloween fires survived until recently in the highlands of Scotland and Wales.”
(Ency. Brit.; 14th Edition, vol.11)
Notice that Halloween originated in pagan rituals which were being observed before the advent of Christianity and that such things as nuts and apples, lighting fires, ghosts and witches were involved. Other authorities note that the pagan Celts would dress up in costumes such as animal skins to appease or ward off the spirits. Accordingly, there was a belief that malicious spirits (or beggars) could be bought off with gifts, an early form of “Trick or Treat.” Halloween's roots are deep in the heathen traditions of an occult (concealed, secret) priestly order known as the Druids. Who or what were they? Let Britannica speak again:
“Druidism was the faith of the Celtic inhabitants of Gaul until the time of the Romanization of their country, and of the Celtic population of the British Isles up to the time of the Romanization of Britain, or, in parts remote from Roman influence, up to the period of the introduction of Christianity.”
Encyclopedia Britannica concurs with ancient writers such as Julius Caesar and Tacitus that the Druids commonly divined (sought hidden information) by interpreting the spurting blood or spilled entrails of a human sacrifice. The Greek historian, Diodorus Siculus asserted, “These men predict the future by observing the flight and calls of birds and by the sacrifice of holy animals....in very important matters they prepare a human victim, plunging a dagger into his chest; by observing the way his limbs convulse as he falls and the gushing of his blood, they are able to read the future.” Such depraved superstition is even alluded to in Scripture. When the king of Babylon used divinations, “...he consulted with images, he looked in the liver” (EZE 21:21). Another peculiarity of Druid religion included human sacrifices, sometimes burned alive in wicker cages above the ground. Such hellish superstition may well be connected with the old tradition of bonfires (bone-fires, per Oxford English Dictionary) during Halloween. These strange rituals and ceremonies generally were meant to appease the pagans' idol gods which were deemed to control the cycle of the seasons, warmth, rainfall, etc. to guarantee nature's bounty, a form of sympathetic magic. Druidism has been undergoing a revival in the last 200 years among NeoPagan cults. Further, its tenets are at least esoterically honored by certain fraternal orders or secret societies. Sorcery and Witchcraft likewise are very much alive and (with the help of Hell, Hollywood and Harry Potter) are giving themselves a remarkable image-makeover as harmless earth-religions which offer what everyone wants: power.
It is indisputable that virtually all the traditions and themes of modern Halloween come from the most sordid, ungodly beginnings. One might wonder why anyone would even think to pay homage to something so patently evil as this ancient 'holiday,' especially a professing Christian. True Christians are to be at war with the powers of darkness (EPH 6:12), not at play with them. Bible-believers know that it was these very spiritual forces that killed the Lord Jesus Christ, the avowed enemy of those forces. It was then, Jesus said to them, “...your hour, and the power of darkness" (LUK 22:53). Trifling with the elements of the very spiritual forces which crucified the Savior is a shameful slap in His face, again.
The path by which Halloween became an accepted part of American culture is a strange one. The following quote from Oxford English Dictionary gives a starting point:
“Halloween: The eve of All Hallows or All Saints, the last night of October. In the Old Celtic calendar, the year began on 1st November, so that the last evening of October was 'old-year's night', the night of all the witches, which the Church transformed into the Eve of All Saints.”
The “Church” to which the O.E.D. makes reference is the Catholic Church. Thus, in order to satisfy the Celts' lingering interest in their pagan customs, the Catholic Church simply (with slight changes) consecrated those customs for Catholic Christian usage. Nevertheless, what saith the Scripture? The Bible makes it clear that it has never been acceptable to adopt heathen ways or customs:
(DEU 12:30-31) Take heed to thyself that thou be not snared by following them, after that they be destroyed from before thee; and that thou inquire not after their gods, saying, How did these nations serve their gods? even so will I do likewise. THOU SHALT NOT DO SO UNTO THE LORD THY GOD: for every abomination to the LORD, which he hateth, have they done unto their gods; for even THEIR SONS AND THEIR DAUGHTERS THEY HAVE BURNT IN THE FIRE TO THEIR GODS.
(JER 10:2-3) ...LEARN NOT THE WAY OF THE HEATHEN, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them. For the CUSTOMS OF THE PEOPLE ARE VAIN...
This principle is not a retired article of the Mosaic Law. It applies to New Testament Christians as well:
(MAT 6:7) But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, AS THE HEATHEN DO....
(2CO 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 BE YE SEPARATE, saith the Lord, and TOUCH NOT the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.
Moses' brother Aaron (to satisfy the carnal, heathen longings of Israel) fashioned an idol after the manner of the heathen and tried to consecrate it as part of “...a feast to the LORD” (EXO 32:5). This is essentially what the Catholic Church did for the Celts (and also for other pagan religions). But when the Holy Spirit directs New Testament saints to flee idolatry, He makes reference to Aaron's foolish attempt to synthesize heathenism with God's religion to underscore what He means:
(1CO 10:7) Neither be ye idolaters, AS WERE SOME OF THEM; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.
By the testimony of the Spirit Himself, therefore, to marry heathen elements to the religion of the true God (as did foolish Aaron and foolish Popes) is patently wrong. As Paul had said, Christ can have no concord with Belial (2CO 6:15), nor with Baal, nor with Saman, nor with any other name by which devils are worshipped (for the worship of all idol gods is devil worship):
(ICO 10:20) But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils.
The foregoing explains the formal beginning of Halloween. If it was intended to be a means of overcoming the occult follies of the people and a Satanic high day by virtue of a Christian substitute, it was an abject failure. The darkness surrounding Halloween now is virtually as thick as it was during the Vigil of Saman. A snake may cast its skin but not its venom.
Though certain elements of the Druidic customs were staunched by Christian influence, the long-held superstitions did not die. Fascination with the mysteries of death and the spirit world, sorcery, wizardry and witchcraft, etc., remained a powerful part of Gaelic and Celtic cultures. In short, much of the modern Halloween custom in America can be traced directly to the Irish Potato Famine of the 1840's. During that desperate time, multitudes of Irish emigrated to America, bringing with them the superstitious vestiges of their ancient homeland. Various authorities note, for example, that the Halloween Jack-O-Lantern is the continuation of the superstitious story of Irish Jack, a fellow rejected by both heaven and hell because of his shiftiness. He was said to have been condemned to wander indefinitely with a live coal from hell in a hollow potato or turnip to light his path. The pumpkin is a New World adjustment to the tale. Quaint story, but entirely unbiblical. There is a certain appointment unto death and judgment (HEB 9:27) and the deceased are certainly and suddenly received by Heaven or Hell: the former for comfort, the latter for suffering and there is no migration from either (LUK 16:19-31). Imagination and fantasy are wonderful aspects of human experience but when they violate clearly revealed Scriptural commands or principles, they have gone too far. One of the great works of the gospel is to cast down vain imaginations which darken hearts and corrupt understanding of God and His ways (2CO 10:5 c/w ROM 1:21).
When one considers the prevailing themes of modern Halloween customs, there can be no reasonable doubt that peoples' fantasies and imaginations are way over the line. Dark spiritual forces such as sorcery, wizardry, witchcraft, enchantments, necromancy (communication with the dead) are celebrated as harmless fantasies. But what does the Lord think of those who dabble in occult arts? Let the noble Reader consider:
(DEU 18:10-12) 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, Or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer. 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.
Of these, probably the one most commonly a theme of Halloween is the witch. To be found a witch under the Old Testament was to be subject to capital punishment (EXO 22:18). In the New Testament the Church has no power over sinners other than to separate company from them (1CO 5:13) but witchcraft is listed as a work of the flesh as vile as adultery, fornication, murder and drunkenness:
(GAL 5:19-21) Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, WITCHCRAFT, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
There are many Christian parents who today would adamantly oppose celebrating something which gave even tacit approval to murder or drunkenness. They would shudder at the idea of having their daughter dress up like a prostitute (or, more correctly, they SHOULD shudder---too many seem to think it proper). Yet often these same parents think it cute that their daughter dresses as a witch or their son as a devil on Halloween. Parents that open an unhealthy spiritual door for a child by trifling with the powers of darkness should remember the words of the Lord Jesus Christ:
MAT 18:6. But 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.
Parents should consider the psychological and spiritual groundwork they are laying for their children by encouraging their participation in common Halloween customs: 1) They are trivializing Satan, sin and occult power, as if none of them are genuine and the Bible is irrelevant, 2) They teach them to beg for handouts that they don't need and which they could have obtained by labor, 3) They teach them that the principle of an acquire-by-threat shakedown is acceptable by “Trick or treat.” These are hardly good values to promote to children.
Regardless of what Dorothy and Toto think they saw in the land of Oz, there is no such thing as a good witch in the eyes of a holy God. And in spite of the current attempts to mainstream witchcraft and “out” it from its historical broom closet by the euphemistically named Wiccans (Wicca being an old English word for witch), witchcraft is too often a hotbed of perverse sexual licentiousness and blood-ritual, as well as a rancid petri dish of antiChrist, anti-male feminist culture.
No amount of justifying Halloween on the basis of it being fun will meet the test of Scripture where it treats of the proper attitude towards the occult works of darkness:
(EPH 5:11-12) And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret.
Sadly, there are too many professed Bible-believing churches which have been bewitched against the truth (GAL 3:1) and made peace with this darkness, even promoting their own Halloween celebrations. They may have fallen under the spell of their historic alma mater church's sorceries (REV 17:1-6; REV 18:23) or simply under the spell of ignorance. When the dedicated guardians of light have deserted their post, it is truly a time of the power of darkness. Mind that judgment begins at the house of God (1PE 4:17) before it gets to the Haunted House of Horrors, and the broom He will use to sweep it clean will not be the witch's but His own besom (bundle of rods or twigs used for punishment, broom) of destruction, per ISA 14:23. “Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men” (MAT 5:13).
One of the great errors of Halloween is that it relegates the very real, very evil and very dangerous powers of darkness to the realm of harmless fantasy. It is the height of inconsistency for professing Christians (or anyone else for that matter) to be alarmed at the rising tide of Satanism in our society and then turn around and participate in a principal Satanic high-day such as Halloween. The apostles and the early church “...turned the world upside down...” (ACT 17:6) by their doctrine and godliness. There will never be any such effective evangelism or reformation of the spiritual or moral condition of our country until God-fearing people stop playing games and develop a holy revulsion for the power of darkness after the manner of the people at Ephesus who once dabbled in the occult arts:
(ACT 19:18-20) And many that believed came, and confessed, and shewed their deeds. 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. SO MIGHTILY GREW THE WORD OF GOD AND PREVAILED.