Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Pagan Roots of Halloween: How It All Began

As Halloween is approaching, I've been doing a little study on its past. Over the next several days, I will be posting some specifics of what I've learned about Halloween's traditions and where they came from. This first post is about the origin of the festival itself. How did this whole thing get started?

Well, in ancient Ireland, the Celtic people had a festival which they called "Festival of Samhain" (pronounced sah-win) on October 31. During this time, they believed barrier between the supernatural and the natural world was very thin. Souls of the dead would revisit their homes, hostile supernatural forces were active, and ghosts and spirits would wander the earth.

The Celtics had special pagan priests called Druids, who would carry out the rituals of magic, contact with the Celtic deities, and attempts to commune with the spirits of ancestors. In order to appease the gods, the Druids would hold huge bonfires and offer sacrifices. These sacrifices were usually of crops or animals, but sometimes even humans! (Yuck!) The word "bonfire" actually derived from "bone-fire." Sometime around 1600, though, the sacrifice of humans stopped.

Over the years the Festival of Samhian picked up some Roman aspects (after most of the Celtic territory was taken over by the Romans), but it still continued in its pagan rituals and traditions.

In an attempt to "sanctify" this season, pope Gregory IV established "All Saints' Day" on November 1. This day was used to remember the dead saints and martyrs. The day before this was, of course, October 31 and therefore referred to as All Hallows Eve ("Hallow" meaning "saint"). So, All Hallows Eve was the evening before All Saints Day, but it was also the same day as the Festival of Samhain.

As the Irish flocked to America because of the great potato famine, they brought along their pagan ideas, traditions, and customs. Halloween is basically an Irish holiday, with origins in an ancient pagan festival. It still has its roots in occultic rituals - and it is still seen today in many aspects of Halloween today. I will be going over some of those things in some later posts.

Deuteronomy 18:10-14
There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For all who do these things are an abomination to the LORD, and because of these abominations the LORD your God drives them out from before you. You shall be blameless before the LORD your God. For these nations which you will dispossess listened to soothsayers and diviners; but as for you, the LORD your God has not appointed such for you.

2 Corinthians 6:14-17
Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said, “ I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” Therefore, “ Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you.”


  1. Ick. We did Reformation Day a few years ago at the church, since Martin Luther nailed his 95 thesis up on a church door. Were you there for that? Anyway, we passed out candy last year, but I'd rather eat it myself! lol, I know. That was selfish, but common! How can any red-blooded American girl GIVE AWAY chocolate?!?!?! I just don't get it.........Oh, well. We aren't passing out anything except tracts this year!:D


  2. Jessie,
    Haha! I think I was there for "Reformation Night." I'm glad we do that rather than a "Fall Festival" or something... I feel like church activities like that are still "celebrating" Halloween, in a way. Thanks for your comment!



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