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The Answers to Short Questions from Our Readers
Plain Truth Magazine
October 1969
Volume: Vol XXXIV, No.10
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The Answers to Short Questions from Our Readers
Plain Truth Staff

"Halloween has always seemed a fantastic holiday devoted to revelry and children's pranks. How did it originate? Halloween my dictionary says is a short form of 'All Hallow Even' a religious occasion."

   HALLOWEEN is indeed the strangest holiday of the entire year.
   Every autumn, on the eve of November 1, children in many lands dress as goblins, or as witches, knock on doors, announce "trick or treat," soap windows of schools and stores. Some tear down mailboxes, and give the police a great many headaches with their juvenile vandalism. It is a time when young people "let off steam."
   To perpetuate this spirit at Halloween with its frolicking fun, stores are filled with black and orange masks, with pumpkins and other gaudy decorations to attract the eye. Even some older people enjoy their games and frivolity.
   In this "enlightened" age, with ignorance and superstition supposedly bannished, we find nations still celebrating one of its most ridiculous holidays, with its goblins, the fear of black cats, and children masked as demons and witches. In schools, the children march in weird processions during the day, in anticipation of a hectic night of fun and foolishness.
   Is this the way in which children should be brought up? WHY is this holiday celebrated anyway? Where did the custom of "trick or treat" originate?
   It is time that people who think themselves intelligent began to look into the origin of this spirit of frivolity and understand how it entered a supposedly Christian society.
   Do you know that Halloween was introduced into the professing Christian world centuries after, the death of the apostles, yet it was celebrated by the pagans centuries before the New Testament Church was founded!
   How did we get Halloween?
   Here is the intriguing answer from history: "The American celebration rests upon Scottish and Irish folk customs which can be traced in direct line from pre-Christian times" from paganism! "Although Halloween has become a night of rollicking fun, superstitious spells, and eerie games which people take only half seriously, its beginnings were quite otherwise. The earliest Halloween celebrations were held" not by the inspired early church, but "by the Druids in honor of Samhain, Lord of the Dead, whose festival fell on November 1." (From Halloween Through Twenty Centuries, by Ralph Linton, p. 4.)
   "It is clearly a relic of pagan times"! (The Book of Days, Chambers, v. 2, p. 519.)
   Further, lilt was a Druidical belief that on the eve of this festival Saman, lord of death, called together the wicked spirits that within the past 12 months had been condemned to inhabit the bodies of animals" (Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11th ed., v. 12, pp. 857-8).
   Read what this November celebration was like! It was a pagan belief that on one night of the year the souls of the dead return to their original homes, there to be entertained with food. If food and shelter were not provided. these spirits, it was believed, would cast spells and cause havoc towards those failing to fulfill their requests.
   "It was the night for the universal walling about of all sorts of spirits, fairies, and ghosts, all of whom had liberty on that night" (Highland Superstitions, Alexander Macgregor. p. 44). Literal sacrifices were offered on this night to the spirits of the dead, when, so the belief went, they visited their earthly haunts and their friends.
   There was a reason why November was chosen for that particular event. The Celts and other Northern people considered the beginning of November as their New Year. This was the time when the leaves were falling and a general seasonal decay was taking place everywhere. Thus it was a fitting time, so they reasoned; for the commemoration of the dead.
   Since the Northern nations at that time began their day in the evening, the eve leading up to November 1st was the beginning of the festival. According to the Roman calendar it was the evening October 31 hence, Halloween, or All Souls Eve, was kept throughout the ancient pagan world. The observance was widespread.
   "There was a prevailing belief among all nations that at death the souls of good men were taken possession of by good spirits and carried to paradise, but the souls of wicked men were left to wander in the space between the earth and moon, or consigned to the unseen world. These wandering spirits were in the habit of haunting the living... But there were means by which these ghost! might be exorcised" (Folklore, James Napier, p. 11).
   To exorcise these ghosts, that is, to free yourself from their supposed evil sway, you would have to set out food and provide shelter for them during the night. If they were satisfied with your offerings, it was believed they would leave you in peace. If not, they were believed to cast an evil spell on you.
   "In Wales it was firmly believed that on All Hallows Eve the spirit of a departed person was to be seen at mid~ night on every crossroad and every stile" (Folklore and Folk-Stories of Wales, Marie Trevelyan, p. 254).
   In Cambodia people used to chant: "O all you our ancestors, who are departed, deign to come and eat what we have prepared for you, and to bless your posterity and to make it happy" (Notice sur le Cambodge, Paris l 875, E. Aymonier, p. 59).
   This sort of Halloween festival was strenuously observed throughout the non-Christian world. Pagans would pray to their false gods to prevent "demons" and "witches" from molesting them.
   Notice! "The Miztecs of Mexico believed that the souls of the dead came back in the twelfth month of the year, which corresponded to our November. On this day of All Souls the houses were decked out to welcome the spirits. Jars of food and drink were set on a table in the principal room, and the family went out with the torches to meet the ghosts and invite them to enter. Then, returning to the house they knelt around the table, and with their eyes bent on the ground, prayed the souls to accept the offerings" (Adonis, Frazer, p. 244).
   This, then, is the way the heathen world celebrated their Halloween, their All Souls Day. Although some aspects of the Halloween festival varied with each country, the overall pattern and purpose remained the same.
   When the German Frankish king Charlemagne invaded and conquered parts of Eastern Germany, he compelled the conquered German king, Wittekind, to be baptized and to accept Christianity.
   Wittekind's Germans, now professing Christians, and other conquered pagans, had a profound influence on the ecclesiastical affairs of the church in the early 800's A.D. These barbaric and uncultured people brought with them many outright pagan practices and celebrations, Halloween merely being one of many. They were fervent in clinging to their past ceremonies and observed them openly yet supposedly converted to Christianity.
   What was the church to do? Excommunicate them and thus reduce her membership? This she would not do. Was she to force them into discarding their heathen practices and adopt Italian or Roman ones? This, as she had learned in past times, was not possible.
   There remained only one other way.
   Let the recently converted pagans keep certain of their heathen festivals, such as Halloween or All Souls Day but label it "Christian." Of course the Germans were asked not to pray to their ancient pagan gods on this day. They must now use this day to commemorate the death of the saints.
   If a pagan practice or festival could not be forbidden, it was reasoned, "let it be tamed." Thus many were persuaded to transfer devotion from their former gods to the Christian God. So it was with the festival of All Sat/is Eve. Notice:
   "Thus, at the first promulgation of Christianity to the Gentile nations they could not be persuaded to relinquish many of their superstitions, which, rather than forego altogether, they chose to blend and incorporate with the new faith" (Popular Antiquities of Great Britain, John Brand, p. xi).
   Now come down to the twentieth century. You'll be surprised to what extent we have inherited pagan rites and ceremonies from our forefathers, so obvious in the celebration of Halloween.
   What about you and your children? What comes to your mind when thinking about Halloween? Weird and frightening masks persons portrayed as witches and demons. Pumpkins and turnips hollowed out in the shape of eerie-looking faces! Lighted candles are placed inside to help bring out the more frightful side of these carvings. Dough is baked into small figurines resembling witches, and spider's web cakes are baked by the dozen for this occasion. Children, dressed up in the most revolting garments, are let loose On the neighbors, so they may scare the daylights out of them.
   Let's be honest. The Good Housekeeping Book of Entertainment, on page 168, has a section on what to do on Halloween. Notice the astonishing advice given!
   "Halloween decorations are quite as important as the food. When planning them, remember that if the room is to be dimly lit (preferably by candle and firelight) the decorations must be bold to be effective. Orange, black and red, the devil's colours, are the colours associated with Halloween and this scheme should be carried out as far as possible... Have paper streamers and lanterns hanging from the ceiling, or, if you would like to have something less usual, you could make a giant spider's web with black and orange strings, or in narrow strips of crepe paper coming from the four corners of the room, complete with a large spider one of the devil's favourite followers."
   Notice where the stress lies!
   Read further of the black magic associated with this festival. "To decorate the walls, make large silhouettes of cats, bats, owls and witches on broomsticks.. For the supper table small witches with broomsticks can be made by using lollipops on 4-inch sticks."
   Weird lanterns, witch balls, and witches' cauldrons are some other objects, the book suggests, which must fit into the evening somehow.
   How pagan can you get?
   Halloween and other common festivals which people observe in the Christian-professing world have no Biblical basis. They originated in paganism.
   The testimony of history stamps Halloween as a heathen festival. It's built on a pagan foundation.
   What is the BASIS of your practice and belief?

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Plain Truth MagazineOctober 1969Vol XXXIV, No.10
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