Halloween today is known as a time when playful kids can dress up in scary costumes and go from door to door saying, “trick or treat!” then return home with gobs of candy that make parents cringe and pick up a phone to call the family dentist. It’s a fun and carefree holiday, but for every holiday in which people have something to celebrate, there are always those that don’t agree, and therefore don’t participate. For as long as Halloween has been a holiday in the US, people have speculated and questioned its original intentions, grouping it into a category of sinful wickedness and nefarious behavior. This has given Halloween an ulterior and infamous essence, going beyond the innocence of children with costumes on and candy on their lips.
To pinpoint exactly where and when Halloween began its “Journey of Evil”, we have to go back to the holiday’s original roots. Halloween originated in the lives of Irish Celts, Scots, and other British civilizations long before the era of Christianity. Once called “Samhain,” Halloween was believed to be a time when the space between the worlds of the living and the dead were very thin, and supernatural beings, (good or bad) were allowed to roam free of their dimension and into the civilized world. In the 7th century, Pope Boniface IV created All Saints Day in honor of the saints and martyrs, overlapping with the Pagan festival of the dead. Later, All Saints Day was moved to November first instead of Oct. 31st, making Oct. 31st “All-Hallows-Eve.” November 1st is All Saints Day, so the night before is All Saints Day Eve. “Hallow” means Saint in the old English language while “E’en” is short for evening, which combines to give you Halloween.
The Pagans used the day of “All-Hallows-Eve” to the extreme, because the magic of the world was believed to have reached its height for the year on this day in which spirits roamed. The Celts and other early Pagans believed that after the spirits had been satisfied with one night of mischief, they would leave and return to the land of the dead. The early Pagans would perform sacrifices and leave food offerings to please the supernatural beings roaming in the night so that they would be satisfied and go back to their own world, while refraining from messing with the lives of people. Pagans would also use the magic of the night to predict events of the upcoming year, such as how the crops would fair and who would marry whom.
When Rome’s conquest lead to the takeover of lands in the British area, “All-Hallows-Eve” was integrated with two other religious festivals of the time known as Feralia and a festival devoted to the Roman goddess of fruits and trees. By the time Christianity came around, Halloween was already associated with a Pagan holiday, so it was integrated with Christian beliefs. Likewise, when Europeans came to settle America, they brought with them the tradition and beliefs needed to shape Halloween into what it is today.
Some of the traditions we have today can be traced back to the beliefs of early Pagans, and the start of Halloween. Lighting Jack-o-Lanterns comes from a Pagan story that a man named Stingy Jack captured one of the demonic spirits and trapped him in a tree by carving a cross into the bark. But the demonic creature was said to have gotten loose and cursed Stingy Jack by making him walk at night for eternity. Carving pumpkins with scary faces is supposed to ward off Jack and all other evil spirits, keeping them from entering a person’s home. Also, to protect themselves from a world being invaded by supernatural forces, Celtic Pagans would dress up in scary costume and makeup, as to blend in with the unseen forces around them, hence our American way of dressing up as different monsters and villains for Halloween.
Most think of Halloween as a fun children’s holiday, but it should be said how much in common there is between today’s modern-day American holiday and modern-day witchcraft in contrast to the beliefs of the Celtic people. Samhain for the Celts was not only a day to ward off spirits, but also a day to celebrate the end of the crop season, and the beginning of fall. Ancient Celts also celebrated the successful harvest, giving thanks for the crop produce on this day of spirits. This is contrary to the belief that Samhain was a time for witches to worship Satan. The Satanic rituals now performed around Halloween today are the invention of modern Satanists whom have put more of a focus on the day as being a time when the living can communicate with the dead, making sacrifices and divinations possible.
Halloween today is innocent and all for the sake of fun. If you are young enough to Trick-or-Treat, you are in it for the candy and costumes. If you are a few years older, maybe you like to get together with friends and scare the younger kids or just hang out and munch on some candy. At any rate, Halloween is a holiday that can be celebrated by anyone, regardless of your religious beliefs.
– by Brittany Campbell, Staff Writer