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Halloween debunked

30 September 2013, 18:14

Every year around this time and into October, rumours abound about Halloween.  You’ll get emails, FB postings and BBM’s from the misinformed and downright ignorant about how ‘evil’ it is.  Let’s just set the record straight, shall we?

First of all, to give it it’s original name, Samhain,  from the Celtic tradition, which is pronounced as SOW-in or SAH-vin and translated means "End of Summer. It is known in Scotland and Ireland as Oíche Shamhna, while in Wales (and for Welsh Pagans like myself) it is Nos Calan Gaeaf.

The Celtic year was divided into two seasons: the light and the dark, celebrating the light at Beltane on May 1st and the dark at Samhain on November 1st. Therefore, the dark winter half of the year commences on this date. 

This was the time that cattle and other livestock were slaughtered for eating during the winter months. Any crops still in the field on Samhain were considered taboo and left as offerings to the Nature spirits. Bonfires were built, (originally called bone-fires, for after feasting, the bones were thrown in the fire as offerings for healthy and plentiful livestock in the New Year) and stones were marked with peoples names.

Then they were thrown into the fire, to be retrieved in the morning. The condition of the retrieved stone foretold of that person's fortune in the coming year. Hearth fires were also lit from the village bonfire to ensure unity, and the ashes were spread over the harvested fields to protect and bless the land.

During some Celtic celebrations of Samhain, villagers disguised themselves in costumes made of animal skins to drive away phantom visitors; banquet tables were prepared and edible offerings were left out to placate unwelcome spirits. In later centuries, people began dressing as ghosts, demons and other malevolent creatures, performing antics in exchange for food and drink. This custom, known as mumming, dates back to the middle ages and is thought to have preceded “ trick-or-treating”.

Another theory for the origins of “trick or treating’ is that it derives from the custom of the poor who would visit the houses of wealthier families and receive pastries called soul cakes in exchange for a promise to pray for the souls of the homeowners’ dead relatives.

Known as souling, the practice was later taken up by children, who would go from door to door asking for gifts such as food, money and ale.

As with other great Pagan holidays, Christianity found a way to claim it. (Mostly in an attempt to make the new religion more acceptable by it’s Pagan converts) In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III designated November 1 as a time to honour all saints and martyrs; the holiday, All Saints’ Day, incorporated some of the traditions of Samhain. The evening before was known as All Hallows’ Eve and later Halloween.

The following day, November 2, is All Souls Day, a day when the priest wears black, the church is draped with mourning, and the faithful pray for the souls of their departed, with the hope of shortening their time in Purgatory. So if you want to be all pedantic about it, the origin of the name of Halloween is Christian!

You will note that nothing so far has anything to do with Satanism.  So where does this idea come from?  When Anton LaVey formed the Church of Satan in the mid-20th century, he stipulated three holidays for his version of Satanism, the first organised religion to ever label itself Satanic. The first and most important was the Satanist's own birthday. The other two are Walpurgisnacht (April 30) and Halloween (October 31).

Both dates were often considered "Witch holidays" in popular culture and thus erroneously linked with Satanism. LaVey adopted Halloween less because of any inherent Satanic meaning in the date and more as a joke on those who had superstitiously feared it.

So, yes, Satanists do celebrate Halloween as one of their holidays. However, this is a recent adoption. Halloween had been celebrated long before Satanists had anything to do with it.

More importantly from a South African point of view, is that Samhain is NOT celebrated at the end of October but at the end of April. It’s all to do with the seasons. Pagans have a ‘wheel of the year’ and in the Southern Hemisphere, this is opposite to what the Northern Hemisphere celebrates, making our holidays six months after our Northern cousins celebrate them.

To debunk further,

Pagans do not believe in the Devil. Satan exists within the Abrahamic faiths, ie Christianity, Judaism and Islam.

Halloween is not “Christmas for Satanists” nor is it the ‘Devils birthday’

Halloween is not Satanic in origin, nor was it ‘invented by the Illuminati’

The modern idea of celebrating Halloween is hardly evil. It has since become largely a secular event. If you were cynical you could accuse it of being a marketing ploy for the retail industry, American and therefore redundant to South Africans but spending some time with your kids and having fun as a family could hardly be accused as evil, now could it?

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