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Why The Ancient Pagan Origins of Halloween Should Concern You

Updated: Nov 10, 2019

In the modern world, most people don’t question the roots of holidays that the masses commemorate. We observe these traditions without any regard for the earliest rituals involved in celebrating them. Halloween, is no exception.


We celebrate holidays as special occasions reserved for family time and seasonal vacations. A time of the year that provides a brief respite from the mundanity of everyday life. Men, women, and children across the U.S. (and world) have developed an adamant affinity towards Halloween. Despite the tradition’s ghastly theme, most assume that Halloween is completely innocuous... Ostensibly, the festival is just a time for the kids to trick-or-treat with friends, socialites to show off creative costumes at social gatherings (while getting hammered), and adults to play dress-up at company events. Families carve pumpkins and purchase fun sized candies to give to children, college students prepare spiked punch in cauldrons at parties, and employees bring ghost-shaped sugar cookies to work. What else is there to know?


Upon closer examination of Halloween, one of the world’s oldest traditions, it becomes obvious that this holiday stems from devilish rituals and ancient occult sacraments. The tradition originated with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, when people would ignite massive bonfires and wear costumes to stave off evil spirits.


Modern day druids performing a pagan Samhain blessing ceremony at Stonehenge, in Avebury, Wiltshire, in southern England. (Carl de Souza/Getty Images)

Roughly 2,000 years ago, the Celts, who live mostly in modern-day Ireland, Scotland, Wales, England, and northern France, celebrated their new year on November 1. In Celtic tradition, this day marked the ‘death’ of the summer harvest, and the ‘rebirth’ of the dark half of the year. They believed that on the night before the new year, the liminal boundary (threshold between the realms of the living and dead) was thinnest. This marks the beginning of the most important festival of the Celtic calendar, Samhain, which signified the return of denizens of the dead to the land of the living. The Celts believed that the arrival of spirits from the underworld provided a valuable source for the Celtic priests, or Druids, to prognosticate the upcoming winter.


Samhain was often regarded as a borderline festival, because it took place between the autumnal equinox and winter solstice. Because the Celts believed the threshold between the living and dead was thinnest, they prepared offerings that were left outside villages for the ‘Aos Si’ or sidhs, nature spirits, ancestral spirits, fairies, imps, and demons. In ancient folklore, the Celts would often dress themselves in animal skins and faces to prevent the otherworldly spirits from kidnapping them. A popular set of mythological creatures were the Faery Host which kidnapped people and the Sluagh, who would sneakily enter homes and steal souls (History Channel: Samhain).


To celebrate the festival, practitioners joined the Druids to light bonfires using a wheel (which symbolizes the sun and was used in prayers) to spark the flames in order to burn crops, cattle, and even children as sacrifices to their gods, of which included Celtic renditions of the pagan fertility god Bel or Baal. In Nicholas Rogers’ book Halloween: From Pagan Ritual to Party Night, he writes “First born sacrifices are mentioned in a poem in the Dindshenchas which records that children were sacrificed each Samhain to the idol Cromm Cruaich (the lord of the mound) at Mag Slecht in County Cavan” (Rogers 17).


According to the IrishCentral journalist Ali Issac, ancient Celts considered the head to be ‘the seat of the soul’, according to legendary history, warriors collected the heads of their vanquished enemies after battle as trophies (Issac). The ancient texts of the Metrical Dindshenchas claim that the Celts worshiped Cromm Cruaich by offering up their firstborn child in return for a plentiful harvest in the coming year.


The authentic Killycluggin Stone in the County Cavan Museum Ballyjamesduff. (Ali Isaac)

According to this early Irish literature, the children were killed by smashing their heads on the stone idol representing this deity, and sprinkling their blood around the base of the stone, which was known the Killycluggin Stone.


Issac also mentions that “the stone does, in fact, bear evidence of repeated blows with a heavy implement and was deliberately removed from its central position within the circle and buried.”


However, it must be noted that Rogers intimated at the ambivalence of the historical records. He noted that it’s possible that the Christian anthologist was attempting to embellish the role of St. Patrick in eliminating such practices from Ireland. Additionally, Rogers noted that St. Patrick apparently never mentioned human sacrifice in Ireland. Therefore, he concludes some of the evidence of fifth century human sacrifice is relatively ambiguous, however, there are earlier documents of this social custom in the Celtic region. As stated earlier, the Celtic Dindshenchas even state that human sacrifice was integral to their rituals.


Nevertheless, when we consider Celtic archaeological discoveries from classical antiquity, more questions emerge. By no means is there substantial evidence to suggest that the Celts were peace-loving hippies who simply worshiped trees and nature. If anything, there is more evidence to the contrary. Ancient remains reveal that the northern peoples of the Roman and Pre-Roman era did sacrifice humans. The mounds of skulls at temple sites suggest Celtic warriors kept the decapitated corpses of their opponents as trophies and offerings to their gods. Rogers writes,


“the discovery of pits in the sanctuary floor of an Irish site on the hill of Tara in County Meath, all filled with the bones of animals and humans, also suggest sacrificial rites” (Rogers 18).


Illustration of druids preparing a wickerwork full of live humans to be burned as sacrifice. (Encyclopedia Britannica/Photos.com/Thinkstock).

On the other hand, he suggests that early sagas and ancient Celtic lore are rife with notions of human sacrifice, but may just be rhetorical in intention rather than clear-cut evidence of a social practice. I tentatively accept this premise, but deny the conclusion. Ultimately, we are working with historical accounts from opposing nationalities, so we can only infer to the best possible explanation. Considering the degree to which human sacrifice has been recorded in that particular part of the world in antiquity, it certainly is not unrealistic to surmise that portions of the Celtic practitioners were a product of their cultural epoch, and therefore worshiped death through human sacrifice. Those who ingratiate themselves with the underworld, death, demons, and plunderous spirits should not be regarded as inherently harmless.


Paranormal writer Rosemary Ellen Guiley recorded in Harper’s Encyclopedia of Mystical & Paranormal Experience, “They [Druids] sacrificed victims by shooting them with arrows, impaling them on stakes, stabbing them, slitting their throats over cauldrons [and then drinking the blood]” (Guiley). Now, although this does not specifically refer to the celebration of Samhain, it points to the spirit of early Celtic culture.


The first century Roman author and philosopher Pliny wrote, “the Romans put an end to this monstrous cult, whereby the murder of a man was an act of the greatest devoutness, and to eat his flesh was most beneficial.”


Modern Gaelic celebrants of Samhain. (Patheos)

Even the author of Modern Druidism: An Introduction Yowann Byghan, acknowledges the historicity of Pliny’s remarks, but he writes them off as “the standard xenophobic Roman charge of cannibalism” (Byghan 58). Byghan is a Celtic historian and Bard of the Cornish Gorseth, so it is understandable why he would repudiate such Roman claims, however, Pliny is a reputable first century scholar. There are extant cannibalistic societies, but hundreds of millions of people have not adopted their rituals. And why would we?


Former Satanic High Priest John Ramirez joined CBN News to discuss the harsh reality of celebrating Halloween. This is a man who himself said he was “a general to the kingdom of darkness in witchcraft”. Ramirez said he would speak to devils on an interpersonal level. He went on to explain the inimical spiritual ramifications of celebrating such a holiday.


"Sometimes people say, 'I celebrated Halloween 10 years ago, I did this 15 years ago, I did this 20 years ago.' But the door's still open. You just cursed your family from three to four generations," Ramirez said.


Whether your Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, agnostic or secular, this should disturb you. There are clearly evil forces in the universe because evil human beings exist. It is well documented that ancient cultures sacrificed and cannibalized other people. What type of energy/force would encourage entire cultures to practice such rituals? If a former devil worshipper admonished you to refrain from celebrating Halloween, would you still trick-or-treat and go to Halloween-themed parties anyway? Think about it for a moment.


So how did Samhain develop into the modernized tradition of Halloween we know today? Like most other major holidays, the Catholic Church gave the festival its stamp of approval in efforts to amalgamate pagan customs with Christianity. In the 7th century, Pope Boniface IV dedicated the Roman Pantheon to memorialize all Christian martyrs, and soon thereafter, ‘All Martyrs (or Saints) Day’ was established in the Western Catholic church. Pope Gregory III later expanded the festival to include all saints, and moved the observance to November 1 (History Channel).


By the 9th century, Roman Catholicism had garnered enough influence in Celtic territory to blend its traditions with Celtic festivals. At the turn of the millennium, the church made November 2 ‘All Souls Day’, dedicated to honoring the dead. All Souls Day followed a similar procession as Samhain, with celebrants lighting bonfires, dressing up in costumes as saints, angels, and demons, and attending parades. Neither new Catholic holidays did away with the pagan origins of Samhain. October 31 became known as ‘All Hallows Eve’ or Halloween and was eventually adopted in America in the 19th century (History Channel).


In Mexico, where Dia de los Muertos is the largest gathering of the year. (acityamonth.com)

The globalization of cultures, religions, and ideas has resulted in Halloween or Halloween-esque traditions all around the world. In Mexico, Latin America and Spain, All Souls Day day and 'Dia de los Muertos' is commemorated with a three-day celebration that begins on October 31. According to the detailed Pew multi-country survey in 2014, 69% of the Latin American population is Catholic (Pew Research Survey). Therefore, it is reasonable to conclude that Roman Catholic influence in the region contributed to a similar convention of honoring dead spirits. The celebration is designed to honor the dead, who practitioners believe, return to the land of the living on Halloween. Many families construct an altar to the dead in their homes to honor deceased relatives.


In Ireland, where Halloween originated, the festival is still celebrated as much as it is in the U.S. In fact, many of the locals still celebrate Samhain. In rural areas, bonfires are ignited as they were in the days of the Druidic priests, and all over the country, children get dressed up in costumes and spend the evening trick-or-treating in their neighborhoods. After trick-or-treating, most people attend parties with neighbors and friends (and get hammered).


People gathered together for a Halloween-themed party. (Downtown Magazine)

Today, more than 172 million Americans celebrated Halloween this year, with 69% of consumers handing out candy. Total spending in 2019 will reach $8.8 billion, with the average consumer planning to spend $86.27 on decorations, candy, costumes and more (CNN). In our consumer culture, Halloween is undoubtedly one of the most expensive holidays. Taxpayers would collectively save billions of dollars if they opted out of Halloween, however, the tradition runs too deep for most folks to consider that option.


In essence, there are only three plausible explanations for this common general lack of knowledge regarding Halloween:

1. We have not closely examined where the origin of this tradition.

2. We don’t care to know.

3. We have been miseducated.


For many religious and secular celebrants of Halloween, the logic is to celebrate, not abrogate, regardless how heinous the history may seem. People still out here glorifying Columbus Day and Thanksgiving, so clearly historical atrocities and evils aren’t enough to forestall such conventions. After reading this post, you still might say, “people just want to have fun with family and friends… what’s the big deal?”


Memory is inherent in nature, therefore, we share a collective unconscious transmitted through coalescing behaviors across various cultures in human history. Protect your energy, it’s precious. Energy flows through your mind, will, memories and emotions, which are essential components of the soul. Halloween manipulates all of these elements of self, even if it’s subconscious. Why pollute your being with a tradition that is rooted in wicked pagan rituals? Everything is not always as it seems, therefore remain vigilant.


Remember, “The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. Is there anything whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us.”

- Ecclesiastes 1:9-10.




References:

https://www.history.com/topics/halloween/history-of-halloween

https://www.history.com/topics/halloween/halloween-around-the-world

https://www.cnn.com/2013/06/13/us/halloween-fast-facts/index.html

https://www.pewforum.org/2012/12/18/global-religious-landscape-christians/

Halloween: From Pagan Ritual to Party Night by Nicholas Rogers (2003)

Harper's Encyclopedia of Mystical & Paranormal Experience by Rosemary Ellen Guiley (1991)

The Natural History by Pliny the Elder (1st century AD)

Modern Druidism: An Introduction Yowann Byghan (2018)

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