Halloween and Samhain: No Room for Compromise! Part 1

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Authored By  :
Bill Kochman

Published On :
October 31, 1998

Last Updated :
August 22, 2012

NOTE: This article or series has not been updated recently. As such, it may possibly contain some outdated information, and/or ideas and beliefs which I no longer embrace, or which have changed to some degree.

Halloween Challenge, Catholic Practices - All Saints Day, All Souls Day, Day Of The Innocents, Day Of The Dead, Marigold: Flower Of The Dead, Ancient Pagan Rituals Of Mexico, Queen Of The Underworld: Mictlantecuhtli, Lady Of The Dead, Catrina, Santa Muerte: Saint Death, Jose Guadalupe Posada, Experiences With Shintoism, There Is No Conscious Thought In The Grave, Warnings Against Necromancy: Speaking To The Dead, Challenge For Our Children, Faith And Conviction Built On God's Word, Start While They're Still Young, Faith To Stand On Their Own, Is Wearing A Nice Costume A Valid Compromise Solution?, Bible Is Our Body Of Laws And Code Of Ethics, Give No Place To The Devil, Spirit Of Compromise, Contend For The Faith, Separated From The World, Lights In The World, Halloween And Samhain, Theories Regarding Origin Of Celtic Race, Celtic Polytheism, Misinformation Concerning The Name Samhain, No Celtic "God Of The Dead" "Lord Of The Dead" Or Dark "Lord Of Death", Samhain Was A Major Celtic Festival Celebrating End Of The Harvest And Arrival Of Winter Season And Means Summer's End, "God Of The Dead" Theories By Charles Vallency And Godfrey Higgins

Every year, in the United States and elsewhere, sincere, Bible-believing, Christian parents are faced with the challenge of having to explain to their children why they are not allowed to follow the ways of the world, and don a costume on the evening of October 31st, which is known as "All Hallow Eve", or more popularly, as Halloween. Exactly what are Christian parents supposed to tell their young children so that they can begin to understand the long, dark history which lies behind this annual holiday? Perhaps the following information will be of help to you as you tackle this issue with your children.

Halloween marks the eve of All Saints Day, which occurs on November 1st, and is set aside in Catholic countries as a day in which to honor Catholic saints both living and dead. It is followed on November 2nd by All Souls Day. In some Spanish-speaking countries, such as Mexico, together, these two days are known as "El Día de los Innocentes" -- or "The Day of the Innocents" -- and "El Día de los Muertos" -- or "The Day of the Dead". On these two days, typical observers build private altars which are used to honor the deceased. Infants and children are honored on the first day, while the second day is set aside for honoring adults. Objects which are used in the rituals include sugar skulls, marigolds, and the favorite foods and drinks of the departed. These objects are taken to the graves of the deceased. The marigold is of particular importance in these rituals, and is referred to as "Flor de Muerto" -- or "Flower of the Dead" -- and is believed to attract the souls of the dead to the offerings.

While some people may erroneously assume that these unusual beliefs and rituals find their origin in ancient Christian teachings, this is most certainly not the case. In fact, the truth of the matter is that, in the case of Mexico at least, they can be traced back to pagan rituals that were performed by the ancient inhabitants of Mexico as far back as 2,500 to 3,000 years ago. These include the Olmec, Zapotec, Mixtec, Aztec, Maya and other native cultures. It seems that the use of sugar skulls in the modern festivities is a throwback to the ancient practice of keeping skulls as trophies, and then displaying them during these rituals, as a symbol of death and rebirth. To emphasize the pagan origin of this festival, consider that in ancient times, the "Day of the Dead" fell in the ninth month of the Aztec calendar, and was celebrated for the entire month.

This festival was dedicated to the goddess Mictecacihuatl, who was the wife of the Aztec god Mictlantecuhtli. In her role as Queen of Mictlan -- or the underworld -- Mictecacihuatl ruled over the afterlife and watched over the bones of the dead. In fact, according to the tradition, it is believed that she was born, and then sacrificed as an infant. Thus, Mictecacihuatl was known as the "Lady of the Dead". In our modern times, she is known in Mexico as both "Catrina" and "Santa Muerte", which means "Saint Death". During the past few decades, the worship of this demoness of darkness has increased, and it is believed that there are some two million worshippers of "Santa Muerte" in Mexico, and in some Mexican communities of the USA. This demoness is usually displayed in the form of a skeleton which is clothed in a long robe. The idol is usually holding one or more objects, the norm being a scythe and a globe.

Concerning "Catrina", this modern name for the Aztec goddess Mictecacihuatl originated with the engravings of a nineteenth century Mexican engraver, illustrator and artist by the name of Jose Guadalupe Posada. In his satirical engravings, Posada depicted "Catrina" as a skeleton wearing fancy clothes. This particular engraving -- titled "La Calavera de la Catrina" -- was meant to serve as a parody of Mexican upper class women, but more recently, it became associated with the "Lady of the Dead" -- Mictecacihuatl -- and the "Day of the Dead" events.

What also bothers me concerning the festival of the "Day of the Dead" is the blatant attempt to attract and communicate with the dead. The Wikipedia website states the following:

----- Begin Quote -----

"Many people believe that during the Day of the Dead, it is easier for the souls of the departed to visit the living. People go to cemeteries to communicate with the souls of the departed, and build private altars, containing the favorite foods and beverages, as well as photos and memorabilia, of the departed. The intent is to encourage visits by the souls, so that the souls will hear the prayers and the comments of the living directed to them. Celebrations can take a humorous tone, as celebrants remember funny events and anecdotes about the departed."

----- End Quote -----

Regarding offering food and drink to the deceased, I am also reminded of my almost three-year stay in Japan almost three decades ago. As you may know, practitioners of Shintoism -- who basically worship their deceased relatives -- have small altars set up in their homes. These altars contain images of their deceased relatives and other objects. In addition to performing a ritual which involves clapping one's hands and ringing a bell, a Shintoist leaves food and drink for the deceased. I observed this on a regular basis in the home of my host at that time. In my view, it was a dead, meaningless ritual, because the Bible informs us that the dead are quite unconscious in their graves, as we read here:

"For in death there is no remembrance of thee: in the grave who shall give thee thanks?"
Psalm 6:5, KJV

It is my opinion that the reason why there is no remembrance of the Lord in the grave, is because the brain is dead, and there is therefore no conscious thought. In fact, you may be interested to know that in Psalm 88 -- which also speaks of death and the grave -- this state of being is referred to as "the land of forgetfulness", as we see here:

"Shall thy wonders be known in the dark? and thy righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?"
Psalm 88:12, KJV

The author of the Book of Ecclesiastes confirms these very same thoughts when he writes the following:

"Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest."
Ecclesiastes 9:10, KJV

If there is no knowledge or wisdom in the grave, it can only be because there is no conscious thought. While this is the fate of our physical bodies following death, what about our spirits? For the saved Christian, the scenario is actually quite different. As the Apostle Paul informs us:

"We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord."
2 Corinthians 5:8, KJV

"But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not. For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you."
Philippians 1:22-24, KJV

As I explain in other articles, the Bible strongly condemns any attempt to communicate with the dead, and refers to it as necromancy, wizardry, witchcraft and sorcery. Consider the following verses:

"Regard not them that have familiar spirits, neither seek after wizards, to be defiled by them: I am the LORD your God."
Leviticus 19:31, KJV

"And the soul that turneth after such as have familiar spirits, and after wizards, to go a whoring after them, I will even set my face against that soul, and will cut him off from among his people."
Leviticus 20:6, KJV

"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."
Deuteronomy 18:10-11, KJV

"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?"
Isaiah 8:19, KJV

"But these two things shall come to thee in a moment in one day, the loss of children, and widowhood: they shall come upon thee in their perfection for the multitude of thy sorceries, and for the great abundance of thine enchantments . . . Stand now with thine enchantments, and with the multitude of thy sorceries, wherein thou hast laboured from thy youth; if so be thou shalt be able to profit, if so be thou mayest prevail. Thou art wearied in the multitude of thy counsels. Let now the astrologers, the stargazers, the monthly prognosticators, stand up, and save thee from these things that shall come upon thee."
Isaiah 47:9, 12-13, KJV

"Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God."
Galatians 5:19-21, KJV

But let us return our attention now to the annual event that we refer to as Halloween; that is, the evening which occurs just prior to the aforementioned Catholic holidays. For some Christian children, particularly those who happen to be of school age, the fact that they must stand out from amongst their peers by not being allowed to wear a Halloween costume to school, can present quite a challenge for them. They may feel uncomfortable and embarrassed; particularly if they do not fully understand why mommy and daddy won't allow them to simply follow the crowd and do as the rest of the children do. However, this doesn't need to be the case, if we take the time to properly prepare our children for this yearly event.

While some Christian parents may feel that a short, simple explanation regarding the ancient, pagan origin of Halloween will suffice, as a Christian parent myself, I believe that it is important, and that we in fact owe it to our children, to strengthen their Christian faith. Blind obedience to our word is not enough. We need to establish a strong conviction in their hearts regarding why we choose to not observe this worldly holiday. The way that we do this is by giving them a strong foundation in the Word of God from the time that they are young. As God's Word plainly informs us:

"Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it."
Proverbs 22:6, KJV

"So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God."
Romans 10:17, KJV

As I point out in other articles, such as "The Public School System and School Prayer", and "The Plight of the Children", while our children may currently believe as we tell them to believe, someday soon, they are going to have to stand upon their own faith, upon their own moral convictions, and upon their own knowledge of God's Holy Word. Thus, I believe that it is imperative that we begin to establish that foundation while they are still young. We should not procrastinate. We need to start doing it right now. Satan certainly won't wait until we have firmly established our children's faith before he starts to destroy any concept of God that they may have, so why should we be so foolish as to wait on building and strengthening their Christian faith? It is my hope that with this article, I will help you parents to lay that foundation of faith for your children; at least insofar as Halloween is concerned.

In discussing Halloween with a number of my online Christian friends, one man asked me for my opinion concerning the idea of reaching a compromise solution. In other words, he was wondering if it would be alright if Christians simply avoid dressing up in costumes which are obviously symbolic of the negative nature of Halloween -- such as witches, goblins and vampires -- and dress up instead in what he regarded as more "innocent" costumes, such as farmers, cowboys and "Indians", famous movie stars, famous movie and book characters and the like. My immediate reaction to such a question is to ask the following questions:

In arriving at such a decision as this, what was and is your standard of reference? What was and is your department of weights and balances? What moral foundation do you rely upon in order to make such a decision?

For me personally, the answer to these questions is clear. The world has its laws and code of ethics, and we Christians have ours as well. As I explain in a number of my articles, our central Body of Laws which defines the Christian mode of thinking and behavior is quite simply the Word of God; that is, the Bible. So then, if our standard is truly the Word of God -- as it should be -- then according to the Scriptures, we are not to compromise our faith or water down our beliefs in the least. As the Apostle Paul informs us, we are to give no place to the devil, and we are to stand fast in the faith. The Apostle James also admonishes us to submit ourselves to God, and to resist the Devil. Finally, Jude tells us that we are to contend for our faith. Consider the following verses:

"Neither give place to the devil."
Ephesians 4:27, KJV

"Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong."
1 Corinthians 16:13, KJV

"Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage."
Galatians 5:1, KJV

"Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;"
Philippians 1:27, KJV

"Therefore, my brethren dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved."
Philippians 4:1, KJV

"For now we live, if ye stand fast in the Lord."
1 Thessalonians 3:8, KJV

"Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle."
2 Thessalonians 2:15, KJV

"Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you."
James 4:7, KJV

"Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints."
Jude 1:3, KJV

By simply choosing to wear costumes which we feel are less offensive, or which remind us less of the evil nature of the Halloween celebration, we are in essence compromising with Satan instead of outright resisting him. We are likewise compromising with the world and lowering our standard. We are not truly standing fast in our Christian faith, and much less contending for our faith as we have been instructed to do.

We are clearly told throughout the Scriptures that we are a called-out people. We are a separated people from the world. In other words, we are not to think like them; we are not to act like them; we are not to talk like them; we are not to follow their latest fashion of dress simply to fit in with them; and we are most certainly not to follow their pagan customs, traditions and rituals. In short, as I have shared many times before, and as James and Paul both wrote, we are not to be friends of the world; because this is committing spiritual adultery against our true spiritual Husband; that is, Jesus Christ. Please consider the following verses:

"Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God."
Romans 7:4, KJV

"Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God."
James 4:4, KJV

"If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you."
John 15:19, KJV

"I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world."
John 17:14-16, KJV

"Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you,"
2 Corinthians 6:17, KJV

"No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier."
2 Timothy 2:4, KJV

"Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world."
1 John 2:15-16, KJV

"That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world;"
Philippians 2:15, KJV

Please ask yourself this: How can we shine as lights in the world, as the Apostle Paul writes in the previous verse, if we do everything in our power to blend in with the rest of the world? Obviously, we cannot. In fact, we are doing the exact opposite of what Jesus told us to do, as we see by the following verses:

"Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven."
Matthew 5:14-16, KJV

"Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels."
Mark 8:38, KJV

As a sincere Christian, surely you the reader can agree that the Word of God is the primary Standard that all Christians should follow; and that all of the verses I have shared thus far are a part of that Standard. That being the case, there should be absolutely no doubt then that there is no room for celebrating Halloween -- or any other pagan, secular holiday for that matter -- in the lives of Bible-believing Christians. Even if we endeavor to do away with the evil nature of the occasion -- that is, the increasingly-realistic, evil costumes which portray witches, demons, warlocks, the walking dead and other ghoulish things -- it still does not dismiss the simple fact that the origin of the Halloween holiday is steeped in the occult, and is not rooted in the doctrine of Christ and the Christian faith.

Let us now take a more in-depth look at the source of this gruesome holiday. Halloween finds its origin in an ancient Celtic -- properly pronounced "Keltic" -- festival known as Samhain. According to historical sources, the Celts were an ancient, pre-Christian, tribal people of central Europe who in time migrated as far north and west as Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Cornwall, the Isle of Man and Brittany. Today, these areas of Great Britain are referred to as the "Six Celtic Nations" because the ancient Celtic culture and languages of Irish Gaelic, Scottish Gaelic, Welsh, and Breton are still practiced and spoken to some degree in these regions.

There are also some remaining Celtic influences in Portugal and Spain; although the Celtic languages are no longer spoken there. In ancient Roman manuscripts, the Celts are referred to as Gauls. They inhabited what is today known as France and northern Italy. The Romans, in fact, waged a series of wars against the Gauls/Celts -- known as the Gallic Wars -- at the time of the Caesars.

While this is the predominant view concerning the origin of the Celtic race, over the decades a few other theories have been proposed as well, which haven't received quite as much traction. These theories place the Celts' origin in Armenia, Iran and India, and possibly even in Greece; although it is supposed that the similarity to the Greeks may possibly be a result of their original, alleged migration from Iran.

In a religious sense, the Celts were polytheistic; that is, they worshipped many gods. In fact, some sources state that they worshipped literally hundreds of gods and goddesses. A few of their more notable gods and goddesses include Lugh, Dagda, Boann, the Morrigan, the Fomorians, the Tuatha De Danann, Ogma, Brighid and Epona. But at this point in our discussion, there is one name in particular which I wish to discuss with you. That is the name "Samhain".

According to my research, apparently for quite some time now -- many decades in fact -- certain erroneous information has been propagated regarding the name "Samhain", by a number of Christian writers and Christian websites. According to these writers, Samhain was supposedly the name of one of the gods of the Celts. More specifically, Samhain was the Celtic "God of the Dead", "Lord of the Dead" or the dark "Lord of Death". At least so say these particular Christian writers.

When I first came upon this information, I found it unusual; because in the years that I have been a Christian writer, I had never heard this before. So, being a careful writer who endeavors to present only the facts as clearly, accurately, and honestly as possible, as is my usual custom when writing a new article, I researched the matter for myself. I surfed the web looking for any credible information that might link the name "Samhain" with these various phrases; that is "God of the Dead", "Lord of the Dead" or "Lord of Death".

Contrary to what was being stated by these other Christian writers, I found absolutely no historical or archaeological evidence to support the belief that Samhain was the name of a so-called Celtic "God of the Dead", "Lord of the Dead", or dark "Lord of Death". What I did find was information which confirms what I had already learned previously concerning Samhain, which I will now share with you.

Samhain -- pronounced "so-win", "sah-van" or "sow-in" -- was one of the four major festivals that was celebrated by the ancient Celts. It occurred at the time of the Fall harvest, and marked the arrival of Winter. Samhain was celebrated on October 31st, and was followed a day later by the Celtic New Year on November 1st. According to McBain's Etymological Dictionary of the Gaelic Language, "samhuinn" -- which is the the Scots Gaelic spelling -- literally means "summer's end". Other sources confirm these very same facts, as we can easily determine by the following:

Patrick Dineen's "An Irish English Dictionary", published in Dublin, Ireland in 1927 by the Irish Texts Society, states the following:

----- Begin Quote -----

"Samhain, All Hallowtide, the feast of the dead in Pagan and Christian times, signalizing the close of harvest and the initiation of the winter season, lasting till May, during which troops (esp. the Fiann) were quartered."

----- End Quote -----

Malcolm MacLennan's "A Pronouncing and Etymological Dictionary of the Gaelic Language", published in Aberdeen, Scotland in 1979, states the following:

----- Begin Quote -----

"Hallowtide. The Feast of All Souls. Sam + Fuin = end of summer."

----- End Quote -----

J.C. Cooper's "The Dictionary of Festivals", published by HarperCollins now-defunct imprint Thorsons in London, England in 1995 states the following:

----- Begin Quote -----

"Samhain or Samhuinn: (Celtic). 31 October, Eve of 1 November, was the beginning of the Celtic year, the beginning of the season of cold, dearth and darkness."

----- End Quote -----

As you can see, all of these sources confirm that Samhain was the name of a Celtic festival which occurred at the end of the harvest; bid farewell to the Summer and welcomed the arrival of the Winter season; and celebrated the Celtic New Year on November 1st. It was also a festival to honor the dead. It was by no means the name of a Celtic "God of the Dead", "Lord of the Dead" or dark "Lord of Death", as has been erroneously promoted by certain misguided and overly zealous Christian writers. Furthermore, I also discovered that neopagans such as the Wiccans -- who celebrate eight annual festivals which they refer to as "Sabbats" -- don't acknowledge the existence of a "God of the Dead", "Lord of the Dead", or a dark "Lord of Death" named Samhain in their modern belief system.

According to one theory -- which I was not able to fully confirm, because certain web pages are no longer online -- the idea of Samhain being associated with a Celtic "God of the Dead" or "Lord of the Dead" may have originated during the Eighteenth Century. This theory posits that in 1770, a certain colonel named Charles Vallency authored a series of six books -- the name of which I do not know -- in which he endeavored to prove that the Irish originated in the nation of Armenia. Whatever this man wrote, apparently, some of his ideas regarding Samhain being a Celtic god were picked up a few decades later in a book that was written by one Godfrey Higgins in 1827. In his book, Higgins endeavored to prove that the Druids originated in India. It has been suggested that Higgins may have become confused with an ancient god that is found in the Hindu sacred scriptures -- the Vedas -- by the name of Samana.

Please go to part two for the continuation of this series.

⇒ Go To The Next Part . . .

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