Halloween’s origins date back to the early Celtic civilization. The Celts, who occupied Ireland, Great Britain, and Northern France, were pagan nature worshippers who had many gods, including the sun, which they believed, commanded their work and rest times. They believed the sun maintained the earth and kept it beautiful, and caused their crops to grow.
The Celts observed their New Year on November 1, which marked the end of the harvest and summer (“the season of the sun”), as well as the beginning of the cold, dark winter ahead (“the season of darkness and cold”).
The celebration was known as Samhain (in English pronounced, sow-in), where the Gaelic pronunciation of “mh” in the middle of a word was “w.” The term derives from the name of the month in the ancient Celtic calendar marking the end of summer. It is also a reference to the pagan “lord of the dead,” who would assemble the souls of those who had died during the previous year and decide what form they would take for the next year. The souls would either pass on to human bodies or would be condemned to live within animals (the most evil of the bad souls or spirits would take the form of cats). Hoping to coax Samhain into giving lighter sentences, the Celtic worshippers tried to bribe him with gifts and prayers.
- Who is the “lord of the dead?” God tells us about Samhain “the lord of the dead” in Hebrews 2:14, “…He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil.” Satan the devil was lord or master of the dead! The ancient Celts, who thought they were serving God, were deceived into worshipping the god of this world, who is the father of lies and religious deception. We will see that this same being stands behind the modern-day festival of Samhain, (John 8:44; Rom 1:21-28; 2 Cor 4:4; Gal 4:8-10; Rev 12:9).
- Today, Jesus Christ is Lord of the Dead! In order to make the resurrection possible, “Christ died and rose and lived again, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living,” (Rom 14:9). Christ became the Lord and Master of the dead through His resurrection, and gained the keys of the grave and death (Rev 1:18).
Samhain was celebrated before and after the arrival of Christianity, when they had finished the last of their harvesting, and butchered their excess stock (so the surviving animals would have enough food to make it through the winter). They held great feasts, had large bond fires, invited their (deceased) ancestors to join them, decorated family graves, told ghost stories, and went house to house in search of cakes, nuts, or fruit.
The day before Samhain is the last day of summer (or the old year), and the day after Samhain is the first day of winter (or of the New Year). Being “between” seasons or years, Samhain was considered a magical time, when the dead walk among the living and the veils between past, present, and future may be lifted in prophecy and divination.
Many important mythological events are said to have occurred on that day. Many of these events had to do with the temporary victory of the forces of darkness over those of light, signaling the beginning of the cold and dark half of the year.
The Encyclopedia Britannica says the following: “Samhain (Celtic: ‘End of Summer’), one of the most important and sinister calendar festivals of the Celtic year. At Samhain, held on November 1, the world of the gods was believed to be made visible to mankind, and the gods played many tricks on their mortal worshippers; it was a time fraught with danger, charged with fear, and full of supernatural episodes. Sacrifices and propitiations of every kind were thought to be vital, for without them the Celts believed they could not prevail over the perils of the season or counteract the activities of the deities. Samhain was an important precursor to Halloween.”
Cultural and Religious Influences:
Celts and Druids:
- Samhain, as were three other festivals in their culture (all related to season intervals), was led by the Druids who were members of the priestly and learned class in the ancient Celtic societies. Druids combined the duties of priest, judge, scholar, and teacher.
- The Celtic communities that Druids served were polytheistic and animistic (the worship of nature and/or the dead) in their reverence for various aspects of the natural world, such as the land, sea, and sky, and their veneration of other aspects of nature, such as sacred trees and groves (the oak and haze were particularly revered), tops of hills, streams, lakes, and plants such as the mistletoe. Fire was regarded as a symbol of several divinities and was associated with cleansing. Ritual killing and human sacrifices were aspects of druidic culture.
- The Druids thought that a three-day period, (to include the day before and after Samhain) had special quality. The veil between this world and the world of the ancestors was drawn aside on these nights, and for those who were prepared, journeys could be made in safety to the ‘other side.’ They believed that the spirits of the dead revisited their earthly homes on that evening. The Druid rites, therefore were concerned with making contact with the spirits of the departed, who were seen as sources of guidance and inspiration.
- The Celts and Druids also believed that on the evening of Samhain, Saman, the lord of the dead, called forth hosts of evil spirits. They customarily lit great fires for the purpose of warding off all these spirits.
- Among the Celts, it was regarded as a propitious time for examining the portents of the future. “The phase of the dark moon at this time represented a time in which mortal sight needs to be obscured in order to see into other worlds.” (Philip Carr-Gomm, Elements of the Druid Tradition).
- This festival also aligns with the Indo-European pattern of worshiping the “Three Kindreds” of Deities, Ancestors, and Nature Spirits.
- During the first century, the Roman Empire invaded Ireland and the British Isles, conquering most of Celtic territory. The Romans ruled over them for hundreds of years, influencing Celtic and Anglo-Saxon customs and traditions. During this time period, two Roman festivals mixed in with the Celts’ festival of Samhain, Feralia and Pomona Day.
- Feralia, which was held on February 21, was a Roman holiday designed to honor the dead, but essentially amounted to mass drunkenness and orgies, not unlike the other Roman holidays.
- Pomona Day, celebrated on November 1, was a festival held in honor of Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit, trees, and fertility. Her sacred symbol was the apple.
- Over the next three centuries, the customs of the festival of Samhain mixed with the practices of Feralia and Pomona Day. That is, until they were “white-washed” and “cleansed” by another religious power.
The Catholic Church:
- Throughout the early years of the Catholic Church, worshippers observed special anniversaries for martyrs who had been executed for their beliefs. Soon there weren’t enough days in the calendar year to dedicate a specific day for each individual martyr, so the Catholics observed one feast day for all martyrs. “In the fourth century, neighboring dioceses began to interchange feasts, to transfer relics, to divide them, and to join in a common feast; as is shown by the invitation of St. Basil of Caesarea (A.D. 397) to the Bishops of the province of Pontus. Frequently groups of martyrs suffered on the same day, which naturally led to a joint commemoration. The number of martyrs became so great that a separate day could not be assigned to each. But the Church, feeling that every martyr should be venerated, appointed a common day for all” (Catholic Encyclopedia).
- Tired of admonishing the Romans for engaging in drunken revelries as an excuse to honor the dead (and desiring more converts), Pope Boniface IV, in A.D. 609, declared Feralia to be Christian. Instead of honoring all of the dead, they were now just to honor dead “saints.” Instead of drunken revelries, it would be a day of prayer and meditation. Instead of calling it Feralia, he changed it to All Saints’ Day. And he moved the date of its observance from February 21 to May 13. “Boniface IV, [on] 13 May, 609, or 610, consecrated the Pantheon in Rome to the Blessed Virgin and all the martyrs, ordering an anniversary” (Ibid.).
- Pope Gregory III, who reigned 731-741, “consecrated a chapel in the Basilica of St. Peter to “all the saints” and fixed the anniversary for 1 November” (Catholic Encyclopedia). He broadened “the festival [of All Saints’ Day] to include all saints, as well as all martyrs” (Encyclopedia Britannica).
- Pope Gregory IV (827-844) “extended the festival to the entire church, and All Saints’ Day became known as All (Holy) Hallows Day, while October 31 became All Hallows Eve, and eventually, Halloween.” (Catholic Encyclopedia).
- It was common for the Catholic church to give new names to festivals, as they did with other Paleo-pagan holidays and customs like Valentine’s Day / Lupercalia, Easter / Eostre, and Christmas / Yule, which also have many Paleo-pagan elements associated with their dating and/or symbols.
- The white-washing process was not finished. In A.D. 988, the Catholic Church instituted another day, “All Souls’ Day,” to commemorate “all the faithful departed, those baptized Christians who are believed to be in purgatory, because they have died with guilt of lesser sins on their souls. It is celebrated on November 2. Roman Catholic doctrine holds that the prayers of the faithful on earth, alms deeds and especially the sacrifice of the Mass will help cleanse these souls in order to fit them for the vision of God in heaven. The date, which became practically universal before the end of the 13th century, was chosen to follow All Saints’ Day. Having celebrated the feast (All Saints’ Day) of all the members of the church who are believed to be in heaven, the church on earth turns, on the next day, to commemorate those souls believed to be suffering in purgatory” (Encyclopedia Britannica) (See also Catholic Encyclopedia web site newadvent.org). Now all of the souls of the dead had their own day of worship, saints, martyrs, and even lowly believers who were not worthy to be declared either saints or martyrs.
As with the festival of Samhain, the Catholic believers celebrated with huge bonfires, parades, and costumes, masquerading as dead saints, angels, and demons. Altogether, All Saints’ Eve (October 31), All Saints’ Day (November 1), and All Souls’ Day (November 2) combined into Hallowmas, mirroring the Celtic Vigil of Samhain! What was proclaimed Christian and clean and wholesome originated from drunken revelries, pagan superstitions, and false doctrines dating back to the Garden of Eden.
The Hallowmas festival, and especially Halloween was so popular that in 1517, Martin Luther chose Halloween night to post his ninety-five theses on the door of the church in Wittenberg, Germany (which effectively started the Protestant Reformation). He picked this night, because he understood that large crowds of people would be moving through the streets that evening!
The Festival of Samhain:
The Druids (Celtic priests) met on hilltops in the dark oak forests (they viewed oak trees as sacred), and built huge sacred bonfires to frighten away evil spirits and to honor the sun god. Next, the people would burn crop and animal sacrifices to their gods, dancing around the fires as the “season of the sun” passed and the “season of darkness” began. The Celts wore costumes of animal heads and skins, and told each other their fortunes. The next morning, they re-lit their cooking fires from the sacred bonfires, in order to free them from evil spirits, as well as to help protect them during the coming winter season. It was the occasion for one of the ancient fire festivals when huge bonfires were set on hilltops to frighten away evil spirits. The souls of the dead were thought to revisit their homes on this day, and the autumnal festival acquired sinister significance, with ghosts, witches, hobgoblins, black cats, fairies, and demons of all kinds said to be roaming about.
History of the Name:
The term Halloween is shortened from “All Hallows’ Even” (both “even” and “eve” are abbreviations of “evening,” but “Halloween” gets its “n” from “even”) as it is the eve of “All Hallows’ Day,” which is now also known as All Saints’ Day. It was a day of religious festivities in various northern European Pagan traditions, until Popes Gregory III and Gregory IV moved the old Christian feast of All Saints’ Day from May 13 (which had itself been the date of a pagan holiday, the Feast of the Lemures) to November 1. In the ninth century, the Church measured the day as starting at sunset, in accordance with the Florentine calendar. Although All Saints’ Day is now considered to occur one day after Halloween, the two holidays were, at that time, celebrated on the same day. Liturgically, the Catholic Church traditionally celebrated that day as the Vigil of All Saints, and, until 1970, a day of fasting as well. Like other vigils, it was celebrated on the previous day if it fell on a Sunday, although secular celebrations of the holiday remained on the 31st. The Vigil was suppressed in 1955, but was later restored in the post-Vatican II calendar. (Wikipedia)
Origin of Trick or Treating:
The tradition of trick or treating also dates back to Celtic days, when celebrants would go from farmhouse to farmhouse looking for a handout of bread cake, fruit, or nuts. Often these were used for offerings to the spirits or their ancestors.
In more recent traditions, Kevin Danaher, in his book “The Year in Ireland,” discusses the traditional Irish celebrations of this festival. In one section on “Hallow-E’en Guisers,” he says:
A familiar sight in Dublin city on and about October 31 is that of small groups of children, arrayed in grotesque garments and with faces masked or painted, accosting the passers-by or knocking on house doors with the request: “Help the Hallow E’en party! Any apples or nuts?” in the expectation of being given small presents; this, incidentally, is all the more remarkable as it is the only folk custom of the kind which has survived in the metropolis.”
A couple of generations ago, in parts of Dublin and in other areas of Ireland, the groups would have consisted of young men and grown boys, who often traveled considerable distances in their quest, with consequently greater reward. The proceeds were usually expended on a “Hallow E’en party,” with music, dancing, feasting, and so on, at some chosen house, and not merely consumed on the spot as with the children nowadays.
Irisleabhar na Gaedhilge, ii, 370, states that in parts of Count Waterford, Hallow E’en is called oidhche na h-aimléise, “The night of mischief or con.” It was a custom in the county, it survives still in places, for the “boys” to assemble in gangs, and headed by a few horn-blowers who were always selected for their strength of lungs, to visit all the farmers’ houses in the district and levy a sort of blackmail, good humoredly asked for, and as cheerfully given. They afterward met at some rendezvous, and in merry revelry celebrated the festival of Samhain in their own way. When the distant winding of the horns was heard, the bean a’ tigh [woman of the house] prepared for their reception, and got ready the money or builín (white bread) to be handed to them through the half-opened door. Whoever heard the wild scurry of their rush through a farm-yard to the kitchen-door, there was always a race amongst them to get possession of the latch, will not question the propriety of the word aimiléis [mischief] applied to their proceedings. The leader of the band chanted a sort of recitative in Gaelic, intoning it with a strong nasal twang to conceal his identity, in which the good-wife was called upon to do honor to Samhain.
Halloween Customs and Their Ancient Roots:
Ghosts have always made perfect sense, for Samhain was the festival where the Gates between the Worlds were open wide, and departed friends and family could cross over in either direction. From Paleo-pagan tradition, people invited their ancestors to join them in celebration. The only ones who would cower in fear would be people who had wronged someone dead, and who therefore feared retribution of some sort.
Skeletons and Skulls: Samhain was the time to cull the livestock for winter, and thus became imbued with symbolism of these annual deaths. So, skeletons and skulls joined the ghosts as symbols of the holiday.
Jack-o’-lantern: This one is traced back to Celtic mythology and the account of Stingy Jack and his deception of the Devil, (You can research the full folktale on your own). In the British Isles, turnips and rutabagas were commonly used; pumpkins are the American tradition. In Britain, people hollowed out turnips and placed candles inside them to make food offerings to the dead; later on, they were posted just outside homes to keep away evil spirits. (Encyclopedia Britannica)
Mischief-making, playing tricks: Celts believed that the ghosts of the dead who returned to earth on the night of Oct. 31 caused trouble and damaged crops; they also believed that their gods played tricks on them. These were used as excuses for the bad behavior of the celebrants.
Black cats: Celts believed that bad spirits would take the form of cats and other animals on the night of Oct. 31. The lord of the dead would place the souls of those who were bad into animals, especially cats, verses being placed in new born babies.
Witches / Sorcerers: Paleo-pagan “witches” were usually local herbalists, midwives, healers, and fortune tellers, who might sometimes be suspected of doing evil magic. As diviners, they were consulted on the best divination night of the year, Samhain. (The following are scriptures dealing with witches, Ex 7:11; 22:18; Deut 18:10; 1 Sam 28:7 f; 2 Chron 33:6; Jer 27:9; Dan 2:2; Mal 3:5; Gal 5:20; Rev 18:3; 21:8, 15.)
Brooms have long been connected with witchcraft, almost universally portrayed as medieval-style round brooms and associated with female witches. The broom served another purpose during periods of persecution. Witches and other magic practitioners would disguise their wands as broomsticks to avoid suspicion. It is also a tradition that brooms have been used by some as receptacles to harbor temporarily a particular spirit. They also are a phallic symbol originating from ancient phallic cults.
Costumes: Celts (and other Europeans) wore masks when they left their homes after dark to avoid being recognized by ghosts who might mistake them for fellow spirits. “Guisers” dressed up to impersonate the returning dead, singing and dancing to keep evil spirits away. Catholics dressed up as saints, angels, and devils during Hallowmas.
Trick or treat: In addition to what was noted above, prior to the Protestant Reformation, women and girls went “souling,” visiting houses and begging for “soul cakes.” Seventeenth-century Irish peasants went door to door asking for donations for a feast to honor St. Columba (whom they believed had replaced the Lord of the Dead). Up until the early 1900s, the Irish went about asking for contributions in the name of “Muck Olla,” a legendary, gigantic boar.
Bonfires: Druids built sacred bonfires to frighten off evil spirits on Oct. 31 eve of the New Year. Worshippers used them to burn animal and crop offerings to their sun god. They also rekindled their cooking fires to protect their homes from evil spirits.
Fruits, nuts, and other goodies: Handing out fruits and nuts also originated from Pomona Day, named for the Roman goddess of fruits, trees, gardens, harvests, and fertility. Later used for divination games, much like our Oui-ge board today.
Apple-bobbing: May have come from Pomona Day; the Romans viewed the apple as a sacred symbol of their goddess Pomona. Apple-ducking was a divination game used to predict future love and marriage; for example, if a girl peeled an apple in front of a mirror in a room lighted by a candle, an apparition of her future husband would appear behind her in a mirror. Also, apple-ducking represented soul symbols (apples) in the Cauldron of Regeneration (the water), similar to the lord of the dead gathering dead souls to regenerate those who had been condemned to inhabit animals for the past year.
Parades, parties: The Scots, Celts, and Welsh built bonfires for parading, dancing, and merry-making; the Celts did so, wearing costumes made from animal skins and heads. The Scots assembled marriage-minded young people for divination games. Europeans who migrated to America brought with them “play parties” and public events to celebrate the harvest, as well as telling ghost stories and pulling pranks.
Modern / Neopagan Halloween.
Besides an annual march in Washington D.C., for modern or Neo-pagans, (those reviving the ancient Druid religion including Occultic, Witch Craft – WICCA – and Germanic Mysticism), Halloween means:
- It’s the modern name for Samhain, an ancient Celtic holy day which many Neo-pagans — especially Wiccans, Druids and Celtic Reconstructionists — celebrate as a spiritual beginning of a New Year.
- Halloween is a time to confront personal and cultural attitudes towards death and those who have passed on before them.
- Halloween is a time to lift the veil between the many material and spiritual worlds in divination, so as to gain spiritual insight about the pasts and futures.
- Halloween is a time to deepen connection to the cycles of the seasons, to the generations that have come before and those that will follow, and to the Gods and Goddesses they worship.
- Halloween is a time to let their inner children out to play, to pass on their childhood traditions to their children, and to share the fun with their friends and neighbors of many other faiths.
Engulfed in False Doctrines
The Celts worshipped nature, the creation, rather than the one true God, who created nature and everything in it.
Rom 1:21-25, “Because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed beasts and creeping things. Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the [creation] rather than the Creator.”
They had trusted the sun, as their god, to provide them with enough harvest crops to get them through the winter, rejecting God as their Provider.
Mat 6:25-33, “‘…do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?…do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat?” or… “What shall we wear?” For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.’”
They had put their trust in “sacred bonfires” to protect them from evil spirits, instead of trusting God as their Protector. See Satan’s counterfeit, 2 Cor 11:14-15.
Psa 18:2-3, 29-31, 47-48, “The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised; So shall I be saved from my enemies…For by You I can run against a troop, and by my God I can leap over a wall. As for God, His way is perfect; the word of the Lord is proven; He is a shield to all who trust in Him. For who is God, except the Lord? And who is a rock, except our God?… It is God who avenges me, and subdues the peoples under me; He delivers me from my enemies. You also lift me up above those who rise against me; You have delivered me from the violent man.”
The Celts believed in the immortality of the soul, a false doctrine Satan had taught man in the Garden of Eden, Gen 3:1-5, and has used that to deceive the whole world ever since that time, Rev 12:9.
There is no spending eternity in Purgatory, or some other humanly devised in-between place:
Ezek 18:4, “Behold, all souls are Mine…the soul who sins shall die.”
Notice what God says about pagan customs, traditions, practices, and beliefs in general:
Jer 10:2-5, “Thus says the LORD, ‘Do not learn the way of the nations, and do not be terrified by the signs of the heavens although the nations are terrified by them; for the customs of the peoples are delusion; because it is wood cut from the forest, the work of the hands of a craftsman with a cutting tool. They decorate it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers so that it will not totter. Like a scarecrow in a cucumber field are they, and they cannot speak; they must be carried, because they cannot walk! Do not fear them, for they can do no harm, nor can they do any good’.”
Then in verse 6 it says, “There is none like You, O LORD; You are great, and great is Your name in might.”
God took a nation of slaves, Israel, and freed them from their cruel Egyptian masters. Leading them out of Egypt, He commanded them, saying in:
Lev 18:3, “According to the doings of the land of Egypt, where you dwelt, you shall not do; and according to the doings of the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you, you shall not do; nor shall you walk in their ordinances.”
God ordered the Israelites not to defile themselves with the practices and customs of the surrounding nations.
Lev 18:24-30, “Thus you are to keep My charge, that you do not practice any of the abominable customs which have been practiced before you, so as not to defile yourselves with them; I am the LORD your God.”
God gave Israel His laws, statutes, and judgments. He gave them a way of life completely alien to mankind; a way that, if kept diligently and from the heart, will produce peace, joy, and prosperity, every good thing that He wants to abundantly share with all of humanity, John 10:10.
God told the Israelites that they would be blessed beyond human imagination if they carefully kept His laws, Lev 26:3-13.
In addition, He said that they would be greatly disciplined if they rejected Him and replaced His ways with pagan customs, practices, and traditions, no matter how innocent or harmless they seemed, vs. 14-39 (5 cycles of discipline).
Yet, despite God’s warnings, Israel would not listen. Even after God had sent them servant after servant, throughout their turbulent history, they still would not repent and whole-heartedly turn to Him.
2 Chron 36:15-16, “The LORD, the God of their fathers, sent word to them again and again by His messengers, because He had compassion on His people and on His dwelling place; but they continually mocked the messengers of God, despised His words and scoffed at His prophets, until the wrath of the LORD arose against His people, until there was no remedy.”
Because of their spiritual adultery and affinity for pagan practices, calling them holy when God calls them profane, Ezek 22:26, God had no choice but to punish Israel. And, unfortunately, today the United States, Canada, Britain, Australia, Israel, and many other nations, will soon be and are already experiencing God’s discipline for failing to discern what is holy from what is profane, Jer 30:4-7; Ezek 24:13-14.
The One true God, the Creator, Teacher, Lawgiver, and Judge does not take pagan practices lightly.
Satan Blinds the World:
Most people do not believe that Satan, the Devil exists; and that best suits his game plan. His goal is to keep the people of his world, his cosmic system, blind to his lies and deceits, 2 Cor 4:4; Rev 12:9. He even uses false ministers who seem to be ministers of light but are in reality Satan’s ministers of darkness. 2 Cor 11:14-15.
Satan wants us to be so wrapped up in the customs and practices of this world, his cosmic system, that when presented with the plain truth about Halloween, we will shrug our shoulders and say, “I’m just celebrating it to have fun, what’s the big deal?”
Throughout mankind’s turbulent history, Satan has always managed to find a way to separate man from God, Isa 59:1-3, by tempting him into various sins and false ideas that may seem right, that may seem innocent and harmless, but are in direct opposition to God!
Jeremiah said in 10:23, “O Lord, I know the way of man is not in himself; it is not in man who walks to direct his own steps,” and in 17:9, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?”
Even when the Roman Catholic Church attempted to gloss over strange pagan practices of the Celts, Druids, and Romans, it introduced its own false Satanic doctrines, passing them off as Christian. Halloween is riddled with deceit and falsehoods.
Yet, even after all the historical evidence and Biblical insights are brought to light, there will still be those who continue to view Halloween as just another harmless childhood practice. Nothing will convince them otherwise. Like a gleaming, white-washed tomb, Mat 23:27, Halloween may sparkle on the surface, but in God’s eyes, it is filled with every spiritually unclean and filthy thing imaginable, a foul stench to His nostrils, Isa 65:5.
No man or religious organization has the power to “white-wash” Halloween and declare it to be Christian. God unmasks Halloween and sees it for exactly what it is! And even though we are in the Age of Grace, remember 1 Cor 6:12 and 10:23, “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything…. All things are lawful, but not all things edify.”