PP-33 Halloween and Hell.
Samhain, Halloween, beggar’s night, the Feast of the Dead … October 31st has many names. It’s also one of the most revered holidays on the Neo-Pagan Calendar. Maybe that’s part of why it remains so popular today, even in secular culture.
To many though, Halloween is considered an evil holiday. Christian tracts have been produced which purport to show that Halloween is somehow Satanic. These tracts show witches worshiping Satan, devil-worshipers sacrificing animals or worse.
There are some self-styled witches and Satanists who will use Halloween as an excuse to invent strange rituals in which they will “sacrifice” small animals in bizarre ceremonies. Some have video-taped themselves. In one recent case, a you-tube video of such an act was used to attempt to prosecute some individuals with felony animal cruelty. Unfortunately, the expert witness offered two different accounts and the charges were dropped.
In any case, the incidents of animal cruelty really don’t go change much during this time of year … sick people are no respecters of calendars, it seems.
What’s not recognized is that modern Pagans simply have no room for animal sacrifice.
Years ago, we lived much closer to the land. Many families and tribes had their own herds. As the fall came around, and grazing areas were going dormant for the winter, the people and the animals were left to survive throughout the winter on what they managed to harvest. Responsible farmers would look at their herds and decide which animals were likeliest to survive the winter, and those that were not likely to survive would be killed.
But we lived in a much more spiritual world then. We recognized that we were connected to all life. The death of any creature is a serious thing, and killing of animals was not the senseless, impersonal slaughter that it is today.
Once upon a time, we recognized the nobility in all creatures, and recognized that any death, for the survival of others, is a sacrifice, a sacred act. So, when the harvest came around, and animals needed to be sacrificed for others, it was more than industrialized killing. It was a time of death which helped to insure life. Those dying were honored.
Some people try to equate the word Samhain with some Celtic “Lord of the Dead”. Some try to equate it with some nefarious purposes of dark lords and evil sacrifices. It’s really neither. It is the final harvest, the new year, and representative of the death of the God in the Pagan circular calendar. Most every religion has a god that dies, and which is re-born. So do Pagans. So do Christians.
But to give you an example of how Halloween is used by some individuals, here is a short dramatization of a popular tract that you might find circulating at this time of year. Some fundamentalists buy dozens or hundreds of these tracts to pass around at Halloween.
H: Hey, There’s that haunted house!
D: Let’s Go!
H: My mom said not to …
D: C’mon you chicken
H: Spider webs …I hate spider webs.
H+D AAAhhhh…. A Giant Spider!
H: Look! It’s a witch, and she’s stirring her cauldron. She’s not scary
D-W Happy Halloween Dearies!
H+D Aaaahhhhh We’re falling
H: Where are we?
D: Is that the Devil?
D-D Welcome to the abyss you foolish ones … here you’ll spend Eternity!
H: Not us … We’re out-a here.
H: Jane! Look out for that car
D. P Rescue 17 to base … We’ve lost her. Call the medical examiner to the scene.
H: I can’t believe that Jane got hit and died.
D: Yeah … it could have been any of us … that car came right out of the blue!
Jane: Hey, that girl lying over there … she looks like me
Devil It is you … you’re dead, and here you’ll spend Eternity!
H: Mom, if I had listened, we wouldn’t have gone there, and Jane wouldn’t be dead. At least she’s in heaven.
D: I wish it was so …. I tried to talk to her about Jesus, but she wouldn’t listen. She just said she’d think about that later. She was too young and had too many things to do. I’m afraid she’ll spend the rest of eternity in hell.
H: That’s impossible … Jesus loves us and Jane was a good person.
D: I’m sorry, but that’s not how it works … you see, the Bible says we’re all sinners and need to accept Jesus. Jane didn’t do that, so she’ll spend eternity in Hell.
So, people put these tracts, with the candy, into kid’s trick-or-treat bags. My guess is that this year, as is the case many years, you’ll see tracts like this lying around, discarded by kids with no interest in them, trees having been sacrificed so that some people can feel better about the holiday that they’ve been tricked into believing is evil.
What’s the truth about Halloween? It’s a dark time of the year … days are getting shorter, the weather is getting colder. Animals had to be sacrificed so that people could live off what had been stored up over the fruitful part of the year.
It’s a time when Pagans do honor their dead. As death was an issue that had to be dealt with at this time of the year, that only makes sense. Some pagans do work with divination at this time of year. Some believe that the veil that separates this world from the next is thin at this time.
But modern pagans do NOT sacrifice animals to some dark god.
Modern Pagans don’t worship Satan at Halloween. In fact, Pagans don’t believe in Satan. Satan is a creature from Christianity and has never been a part of Paganism. Actually, any relationship between Satan and Paganism has been imputed by Christians, but has no bearing in reality.
What you will see at this time of year is a number of very public rituals, Witches’ balls, dances, parties and the like. Many of these are set up for tourists, for those who like to play at being witches. Some of them hint at some of the elements of what is really being celebrated, but most do not.
If you have the opportunity to celebrate this day with a real coven or real practitioners, what you’ll find is a very different, very reverent celebration; one which bears little resemblance to the loud parties held by some. If you have the opportunity to join such a gathering, in lieu of mish-mash of traditions that some bring together on Halloween, take that opportunity. It’s likely that you’ll see that Halloween, or Samhain, or the Feast of the Dead is just a bit different, and far more meaningful than you thought.
© 2008, Deirdre A. Hebert