History of Halloween

By Rafael Martinez, Co-Director, Spiritwatch Ministries

There’s an old saw that recites the standard creed of our cultural bandwagon: “well, thousands of people CAN’T be wrong about _________!” And Halloween offers our community and region a prime opportunity to take a ride. Our land gives itself over to what it likes to call ” harmless Halloween fun,” every year, but many Christians still avoid participation with it. That all too many more professing Christians plunge headlong into it doesn’t prove that it is right for them to do so. Even if one’s purchase of pumpkins to carve and light upon their doorstep goes on for years still doesn’t mean it should continue.

In our last article, we briefly traced the spiritual significance of present-day Halloween from its ancient Celtic past as the paganistic festival of Samhain. Even if the gods invoked by the ancient Druids aren’t being acknowledged by the masquerading fifth grade elementary school class down the street, the holiday still must be remembered as one set up to give them their due. This is a reality that God-fearing people cannot compromise with when Biblical truth commands a far more discerning eye then we are often willing to use. Why is this?

There are several reasons why many Christians have nothing to do with it, even if all the while pop culture, peer pressure and the desire to follow the crowd demand otherwise. For these Christians, Halloween is not merely incompatible to Christian faith, but is a dark time of antichristian spirituality that should be shunned. It is our contention that God’s Word is the only standard for Christian faith and practice, and it is from Holy Scripture that these reasons come forth. The Bible contains many admonitions for Christians to acknowledge His self-revelation there, to hold fast to His commands to glorify Him alone and to diligently avoid any casual or serious interaction with any pagan practice due to its’ idolatrous and deceptive nature. We would like to examine these now.

1. The One True God reveals Himself through the Bible

The central truth of Christian faith – God’s self-revelation to us by His Word – is totally incompatible with the pagan beliefs that view Halloween as a sacred religious holiday given over to contacting and worshipping other gods or the deceased. We must understand how these beliefs contradict one another before we can understand anything else we discuss here.

Halloween by default echoes the ancient pagan belief in other gods and goddesses. The evening’s focus is upon communion with them and other spirit beings. Paganism is based entirely upon the belief that their gods and goddesses are revealed through the created order and must be rightfully acknowledged and interacted with for personal empowerment and benefit. By their own confession, paganism is an “earth based religion”, one which sees in the various features of our natural world very real manifestations, or revelations, of divinity.

Pagans hold that behind the activity of the created order is an impersonal spiritual energy that can be viewed as many things to many people, and is the fundamental principle of true spirituality. In other words, as pagan author Scott Cunningham, “this energy is the basis of all religion. It is that which has been called God, Jehovah, Yemaya, Goddess, Isis and every other human conception of the divine.” (1). Pagans have defined this “energy” in a personal way with hundreds of names of ancient deities man has sought to worship throughout time: Halloween is a time when pagans do just that.

However, Christians sharply disagree with this belief and practice. For Christian believers, Bible Scripture is the sole basis for an understanding of who God is. God has chosen to reveal Himself through the pages of the Holy Bible, even if he does use the wonder of His created order to reveal His providential care and almighty power. And in light of His Word, the fluid impersonality of pagan conceptions of divinity are shown to simply have no common ground with a Biblical perspective on the personal nature of God, who is revealed as Creator and not the creation, as Lord over all time and all eternity:

2 Timothy 3:16-17 – All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.

Hebrews 1:1-2 – 1 God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds

Isaiah 45:18 – For thus saith the LORD that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited: I am the LORD; and there is none else.

Psalms 19:1 – The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.

The One True God is not simply one deity in a whole universe full of other gods and goddesses who share elbow room in the spirit world. He is the Sovereign Lord of all lords whose reign and Lordship tower over all other gods (and goddesses):

Psalms 97:9 – For thou, LORD, art high above all the earth: thou art exalted far above all gods.

Psalms 135:5 – For I know that the LORD is great, and that our Lord is above all gods.

Psalms 136:2 – O give thanks unto the God of gods: for his mercy endureth for ever.

Ultimately, for Christians God is personally revealed in Jesus Christ, not in sacred trees or the passing of seasons. Jesus came to reveal who God is, something he even had to remind his disciples of! Again, for all of its creative, even appealing attempts to do so, paganism fails miserably in this regard when it points us to the earth, the moon, the elements, animals or even our “higher selves” to find God. We should not be deceived by the lyrically beautiful claims of pagans who “see God in all things.”

John 14:6, 9 – Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. .. Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father?

And Jesus is truly made manifest by the presence of His Spirit in the Christian’s personal example of genuine love, compassion, service to others and holy life. Obviously, it’s tough to see Him when fallen Christians wallow in their intolerance, hypocritical pride and open sin (not to mention the carnal and materialistic televangelist scandals) but it’s no better than the earnest yet no less misguided pagan attempts to open themselves up to possession by the spirits of supposedly deceased ancestors for guidance. A Christian’s life is to be marked by the presence of God’s Spirit, whose character should be seen in what the Scriptures in Galatians 5 list as “the fruit of the Spirit,” in which love, joy, peace, gentleness and meekness are to be found. Professing Christians who stubbornly cling to the fruit of our fallen nature, that is, our inevitable drift into sinful and shameful behavior certainly are in sore need of repenting and turning back to God for a renewed touch of that same Spirit. Sadly, it is this kind of stubborn rebellion in Christian lives that turns pagans and anyone off from seeing the Lord Jesus as He has ordained them to do so. But that doesn’t change the reality of the revelation of Jesus Christ among man today.

2. God calls the God-fearing to honor His Lordship

As we have seen, Halloween originally sought to draw people into submission and worship of pagan gods and goddesses. But all who respect and love the One True God are called by Him to live a life that proves that they actually do so. God expects that our love of His Lordship over our lives will be lived out in the battlefields and playgrounds of life, and that each and every action we take be done with the central thought of glorifying and loving Him first and foremost:

Matthew 22:37 – Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.

John 14:15 – If ye love me, keep my commandments.

1 John 2:3-5 – And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him

1 Corinthians 10:31 .. Whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.

This call is one that both draws the believer to submission to His authority and care, and to be mindful of glorifying Him and Him alone. And it is this call by God that also demands total rejection of the authority claimed in opposition to Him by all other “gods”, a theme that is dominant in the Bible:

Exod. 34:14 – For thou shalt worship no other god: for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God

Deuteronomy 6:14-15 – Ye shall not go after other gods, of the gods of the people which are round about you; (For the LORD thy God is a jealous God among you) lest the anger of the LORD thy God be kindled against thee, and destroy thee from off the face of the earth.

Jeremiah 1:16 – And I will utter my judgments against them touching all their wickedness, who have forsaken me, and have burned incense unto other gods, and worshipped the works of their own hands.

Just as a man would be consumed with the zeal for his wife to desire him only, so God likens his fervent desire to be acknowledged as the One True God among those who profess to serve Him. This is not a jealousy based upon a human passion, but upon the longing of Almighty God to be in perfect, unbroken and undistracted communion with those who claim they follow Him. The attention given at Halloween – or indeed any other time – to pagan gods and goddesses is an insult to His Lordship and a rejection of His lovingkindness and care. Such actions are a very real idolatry that further underscores the forsaking of God for false gods and goddesses and is often referred to as “whoredom” in the Old Testament. And they are shamelessly performed by those who often claim to be thoroughly enlightened by the occult wisdom of the pagan past. Paul the apostle, in the frankest of candor, thought otherwise:

Romans 1:22-25 – Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.

Time and again, history has shown us that when anyone or any nation rejects their relationship to God by turning to other gods their slide into wickedness and moral ruin was always right behind. The entire history of the nation of Israel is a prime example of this in the Scripture. The descriptions of the steps into moral and spiritual depravity by the people vividly described by the apostle Paul here in Romans1 have a chilling parallel to our world – and of pagan thought, the mindset that today perpetuates Halloween as a “holy day.” This is not to say pagans are generally immoral, but that the moral relativity underscoring their philosophy of “do what thou wilt, harm none” has no room for any logical need for moral or ethical restraint, and can only help to encourage their rejection of Biblical values that uphold Christian principles.

Halloween is a prime time in which so many people freely and casually commit these kinds of sins at the expense of the glorification of God in shockingly great numbers, professing Christians among them. Perhaps this is done out of ignorance of the things we have been discussing, and perhaps the individual may genuinely see no conflict of interests. We are not interested in labelling those Christians who are involved with Halloween festivities as apostates, but we would ask these same believers to consider these questions: How can anyone loving the true God wish to even pretend that they are communing with dead spirits, let alone actually and intentionally seek them out? Why would we indirectly encourage our impressionable children, over whom God has given us direct charge to raise in the Christian faith, to engage in “fun” practices that will only desensitize them to deeper levels of the occult which will beckon to them as they mature? When God has so clearly commanded us to not entertain any notion of flirting with the spirit world, why should anyone want to push the envelope and reckon this to be a pastime than the rebellion it actually is? How could a Christian even pretend to perform ritual magick to control their destiny if they are claiming to be trusting God for their daily needs, let alone pursue the casting of spells? All of these lead to the deception of those who are snared by their appeal, and only lead the deceived deeper into worship of other gods and away from God’s care and presence.

What kind of “fun” is this that both saddens and angers the Lord?

3. God’s commands to shun pagan practices

It is bad enough that our supposedly God-fearing community will entertain the kind of compromise with pagan religious principles that participation in Halloween represents. But along with Halloween’s celebrations come the inevitable exploration of blatantly occultic rituals and practice by teens, party goers and skeptics alike. The spiritual peril this puts the partygoer into is very real. One can argue until the cows come home that such “games” are just for fun, for “entertainment purposes”. According to Scripture, God sovereignly disagrees:

Deuteronomy 18:9-13 – When thou art come into the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not learn to do after the abominations of those nations. 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. Thou shalt be perfect with the LORD thy God.
Despite our all too casual attitude to the subject, any practice of these occultic arts as God described them here is forbidden in the strongest possible terms. Divination, witchcraft, the casting of spells, spirit mediumship, necromancy and the worship of other gods are abominable acts to Him. That is the way it is: no one has any room for negotiation on the subject. No one has yet learned how to bargain with God on the sharing of His glory because it is not for sale and never was. That has never stopped Satan and an infinate variety of human pretenders from trying anyway.

Divination and omen interpretation is the occultic art of searching for prophetic warning and revelation through various means that rely upon the invocation of contact with spiritual powers or beings.. As we have seen, the usage of the ouija board is one of the most popular forms of this, but many other forms of divination are available such as astrology, the tarot, and crystal reading. Witchcraft is the practice of rituals centered around a given body of pagan teaching involving casting of spells, the invocation of spirits, and the appeasement of various gods and goddesses by sacrifice and offerings. Communication with the spirit world (necromancy) is the deliberate solicitation of contacts with spiritual entities other than God through people called “mediums” (these contacts may involve contact with the dead (necromancy) or “inner guides”. This often includes outright possession of the individual used to convey the spirit’s message ( Acts 16:16-18, 2 Chron. 18:18-21), a point we have seen that the Campanellis and other pagan writers readily will concede. All of these will be flirted with this Halloween in the Tennessee Valley, and all too many willing practitioners of these occult arts are ready to help – from the pages of books to the chat rooms of America Online.
So why does God forbid these things? Is it because He’s so insecure and petty? He forbids their practice because they boldly establish rival forms of worship that are as deceptive as they are literally demonic. The focus of provision and power is said to come not from God’s grace, but from spiritual beings viewed as divine by pagans of all stripes. These forms of occult practice are attempts to negotiate with spiritual entities that wield undeniably real power. And the “magick” performed to do this is an attempt by humans to supernaturally manipulate their lives by invoking these beings by ritual, spell and sacrifice. It is at this point that the real source of the teachings of paganism become revealed, as well as the depth of deception from which it comes:

Isaiah 8:19-20 – And when they shall say unto you, Seek unto them that have familiar spirits, and unto wizards that peep, and that mutter: should not a people seek unto their God? for the living to the dead? To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.

This reference to necromancy shows how seeking spirits that speaking through mediums (or “wizards” as they are called here) is a direct rejection of seeking God, and a rejection of His Word (the “law” and “the testimony”). These spirits are real creatures whose power to interact in human affairs was revealed by the prophet Micaiah in 1 Kings 22 as he related the conversation of a spirit with God Himself regarding how the spirit would deceive a wicked king who faced imminent judgment by Him:

1 Kings 22:22 – And the LORD said unto him, Wherewith? And he said, I will go forth, and I will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets. And he said, Thou shalt persuade him, and prevail also: go forth, and do so.

Here, a true prophet reveals the activity of spirits that set forth to deliberately deceive, under God’s permissive will, so that judgment may be executed. In this case, the spirit who appears before God is one of the fallen angels that God’s opponent, Lucifer himself, has as his allies (Revelation 12:7-9). These spiritual beings are sharply differentiated from angels in the Bible, and are called devils, unclean spirits, and “the angels” of “that old serpent called the Devil”. It is these opposers of God that the inspiration and demand for their worship originate; every god and goddess under the sun is identified by Scripture as being the image behind which these beings have lurked since the dawn of mankind:

Deuteronomy 32:17 – They sacrificed unto devils, not to God; to gods whom they knew not, to new gods that came newly up, whom your fathers feared not.

Deuteronomy 11:16 – Take heed to yourselves, that your heart be not deceived, and ye turn aside, and serve other gods, and worship them;

1 Timothy 4:1 – Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;

Throughout history, then, the human perception of spiritual entities as being actual deities, divine gods and goddesses has been a tragic human miscalculation. It has been demonically inspired teaching and philosophy that has been spread around the world among all who practice contact with spirits, in all cultures and times. Unbiblical beliefs have proceeded from this demonic intervention, such as reincarnation, “past-life” and “God-self” connections, as well as supposed glimpses of “hidden truth” that contradict Christian moral and spiritual teachings (the “worship of angels” in Colossians 2:18 is another Biblical example of this deceptive work). And in many cases, to make the deceptive revelations seem divinely bestowed, there have been verifiable displays of seemingly miraculous power that have accompanied these contacts, phenomena that 2 Thessalonians 2:9 calls “signs” and “lying wonders”. They have taken many forms, from fulfilled prophesies, supernatural healings, visions of angelic visitation, and even spiritual possession of individuals present. Some of this will occur, the grace of God not intervening, during some of the occultic Halloween parlor games that many people will dabble with at this time of year. Among these are the ouija board, which often become conduits of information that can only be said to have been supplied by powers not of this world. While admittedly much of it is nonsense that is more the creation of fevered and impressionable minds, much more occurs during ouija board sessions that can only be explained as orchestrated by invisible powers and intelligences that to most people seem disturbingly uncanny and inexplicable. But in light of the Scriptures we have seen, it is clear to us that such action has been indeed brought about by unclean spirits, fallen angels seeking to deceive men by appealing to a human desire to gain power over their lives without any regard to the revealed will of God for them.

2 Corinthians 6:14-17 – 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.

Ephesians 5:11-13 – 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. But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light.

1 Thessalonians 5:21-23 – Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. Abstain from all appearance of evil. And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

A Christian Response To Halloween

We have seen why Christians avoid Halloween. As we see, it is not an issue that one can easily dismiss, either. It involves some very high stakes: one’s momentary pleasures in play or the possibly eternal displeasure, even separation from God Himself. Now those who have no real relationship with God through a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ aren’t likely to agree, either. And many Christians may continue to disagree as well, but their arguments can only fly against the authority of Scripture. Our discussions here have been based entirely upon the Bible, yet we have no illusion that all will simply and automatically submit to our arguments. That is between the reader and his god.

The U.S. Constitution and human nature assure that people will choose whatever course of action they wish to take, and of course, we concede that. No conscientious Christian wishes to see another Inquisition to take place! Yet, in closing this article, we once again assert that if one is to please God, they must avoid doing anything that God clearly reveals as displeasing to Him. On the basis of this simple truth comes the need to assess the culture that challenges Godly authority and to firmly avoid it. That is ultimately the position we have taken and one we submit is the Biblically validated action by God-fearing people. We don’t expect pagans, non-believers or skeptics to support this position, and indeed expect them to heartily disagree and even castigate these articles as examples of intolerant and hate-mongering propaganda. Whatever the opinion, we cannot compromise our principles.

Responding to Pagans: Despite our strong stance and disagreement with them, we certainly would support the right of Wiccans and pagans to celebrate their religion’s feast days unmolested. They are citizens and human beings whose religious convictions should be respected in civility. But such respect should not be viewed as agreement with their pagan belief! Tolerance does NOT equal compromise. We view paganism as a misguided spiritual dead-end that involves occultic practices that clearly displease God and exalt demonic power. And pagans deserve to hear about the majestic power and sovereignty of God from our godly lives, our communication of the Gospel of Christ and our neighborly recognition of them as fellow citizens and human beings. However, if pagans want to persist in the pursuit of a myth that in the end leads nowhere, their right to do so should be respected just as surely as we Christians would expect our rights to be respected in holding to our beliefs.

Spreading The Word About Halloween: Instead of simply blasting Halloween as “the devil’s night”, Christians should earnestly set about providing “an answer to every man” who would need to hear about the need to avoid any involvement with the darker side of the day. Reasons – not railings – are the need of the hour for the church. Pastors and other church leaders need to be involved directly in spreading soundly balanced and Biblical admonitions for the Christians they are in leadership of to be aware of Halloween’s spiritual snares. The sheer amount of misinformation about the occult alone is a major problem that garbles clear communication. Add to this the temptation to evangelical smugness about being “in the light” and a miltantly witch-hunting posture and the task of intelligent dialogue about the dangers of Halloween becomes almost impossible. Encouraging others to avoid Halloween’s occult snares to please God out of love for His direction should be done in the right spirit, out of love for their spiritual condition, yet with passion tempered by humility and a commitment to truth.

Christian Alternatives To Halloween: Many churches and communities have attempted to take the high ground and provide opportunities for people to gather and enjoy the kind of community activity that are both wholesome, creative and in keeping with the season. Fall festivals and block parties that are focused around themes such as harvest time and civic service happen every weekend across the Tennessee Valley. Individual Christian families often engage in alternative celebrations of Christian faith in the days before, during, and after Halloween, using special daily devotions, All Saints Day parties, and role-playing (an excellent book detailing these is Ann Hibbard’s Family Celebrations At Thanksgiving And Halloween by Baker Books).

Some, but not enough, churches attempt to counter the darkness of Halloween’s shadow by staging pageants and celebrations that exalt God and provide everyone involved with a good time as well. Worship services dedicated exclusively to praise of God (“praise parties”) are often held as responses while others channel the desire for festivity by holding alternative gatherings. For example, at my former homechurch, the Westmore Church of God in Cleveland, Tennessee, the annual Hallelujah Night events were held on the evenings before and on October 31 (this video still was shot in 1996). The ever popular “Trunk Or Treat” gathering is also one of these sort of activities. Creatively staged and designed reenactments of various Biblical stories are conducted that are both tangible and hilarious, yet memorable. Children still get their candy! And games and snacks for all are available.

Others options for churches are to have intentionally publicized praise gatherings for the community, with worship time for adults and parties for the kids. After all, worshipping and praising God for His awesome power and Lordship over all creation seems much more appropriate a response to the pagan worship of the same earthly realm! Personally, I’m all for that kind of celebration. By so doing, the church is publicly acknowledging just who is in control of Halloween night and beyond.

Unfortunately, not enough churches seem to have any spiritual passion about the challenge of Halloween (and sadly, don’t seem to have much passion about anything else). They remain isolated and aloof and don’t get involved with the need to be an example in our increasingly godless, amoral, violent and degenerating culture. It is a sad state of affairs in the Body of Christ, we feel, but in this article we have attempted to provide a Biblical perspective on just why such a passion should be shared when it comes to our national cultural infatuation with the “spooky.”

The glory of God is at stake, and when our Heavenly Father’s glory is diminished, no Christian worth his testimony should sit still and passively allow it to go unanswered. And that is ultimately the main reason why Christians should have nothing to do with Halloween.

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