Dear friends around the world,
The celebration of Halloween is a growing trend around the world, especially due to the influence of popular American culture. Even though most consider it to be a secular festival, its origins are thousands of years old. Stemming from the ancient Celtic practices of Europe, over the centuries it has transformed into a secular festival, surviving sustained attempts to end its practice. In its form today it is mostly known for its scary costumes and decorations, fun games and trick-or-treating. Halloween is also one of His Eminence the 25th Tsem Rinpoche’s favourite celebrations, as His Eminence fondly remembers his time growing up in the United States of America. We hope you enjoy reading about the history, origins and practices of Halloween.
Pastor David Lai and Pastor Niral Patel.
The Beginnings of Halloween
Beyond the costumes and garish decorations, Halloween has more of an ancient origin than what is commonly known. Halloween itself is a contraction of the older name ‘All Hallows’ Eve’. Throughout history, Halloween was also known by a number of names including Samhain, All Hallows’ Evening, Allhalloween or even All Saints’ Eve.
It was originally celebrated on October 31st in pagan Europe, as an ancient celebration of the coming of winter. This date marked a very important time for pagans who believed that it was a very powerful harvest festival connected with the world of the dead and powerful forces. It was latter appropriated by the Christian faith and transformed into a three-day observance of Allhallowtide. Over time it has become a fun celebration that people all over the world take part in, but still retains it ancient roots.
Most scholars agree that the modern celebration of Halloween began as the Celtic harvest festival of Samhain, which is pronounced ‘Sah-win’. Samhain literally means ‘summer’s end’ and is also the end of the harvest months. This celebration was held between October 31st and November 1st. It was celebrated in Ireland, Scotland, the Isle of Man and other places with Celtic influence. A similar harvest festival was celebrated by Brittonic Celts, called Calan Gaeaf in Wales, Kalan Gwav in Cornwall and Kalan Goañv in Brittany.
In 43 C.E., the Roman Empire had conquered the majority of the Celtic lands. During the four hundred years of Roman rule, two popular Roman festivals came to be incorporated into the traditional Celtic celebration of Samhain. The first festival was Feralia, celebrated at the end of October when the Romans paid their respects to the dead. The second festival was a day honoring Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit and trees. The symbol of Pomona is the apple and the incorporation of this celebration into Samhain probably explains the traditional game of ‘bobbing for apples’ that is played today on Halloween.
According to Celtic tradition the festival began on the evening before November 1st. This is because day was believed to end at sunset. The next day would begin thereafter. In fact, Samhain and Calan Gaeaf are mentioned in some of the earliest Irish and Welsh literature. Furthermore, historians say that Celtic Halloween customs that have survived since the 19th century continue to use the same Gaelic and Welsh names for Halloween.
The Samhain festival occurs at the beginning of winter, which is the colder and darker half of the year. According to Celtic beliefs, this period is seen as a time of transition, when the boundary between this world and the next becomes ‘thinner’. Therefore, during Samhain – summer’s end on 31st October, it was believed that the ghosts of the dead would walk the earth. This means that the Aos Sí, which is pronounced ees shee, or the Celtic ‘spirits’ or ‘fairies’, could easily cross into our world and become particularly active during this time.
The Aos Sí were viewed with fear and respect in equal measure because they could haunt and disturb the living. During Samhain, it was popularly believed that people had to propitiate the Aos Sí so that they would not wreck havoc on the living. They did this by taking sweets, food and drinks out to the edge of the forest and away from the village in a procession in order to lead the spirits away from the homes of the living. It is very possible that the modern tradition of trick-or-treating stems from this ancient Celtic belief of appeasing the spirits. The belief that souls of the dead return home and need to be appeased has more ancient origins as an equivalent is also found in many other ancient cultures.
In 19th century Ireland, candles would be lit and prayers formally offered for the souls of the departed during this festival. After the ritual, feasting, drinking, and games would begin. All throughout Ireland and Britain, household festivities included rituals and games intended to foretell one’s future, especially concerning marriage and death. Apples and nuts were some of the most often used in these divination rituals. These rituals included apple bobbing, scrying or mirror gazing, pouring molten lead or egg whites into water and dream interpretation.
Special bonfires were lit and their flames, smoke and ashes were deemed to have protective and cleansing powers, and were also used for divination. In some places, torches lit from the bonfire were ritually carried around homes and fields to protect them. It is suggested that the fires were a kind of imitative or sympathetic magic. The fires mimicked the Sun, tapping into the ‘powers of growth’ to hold back the decay and darkness of winter. In Scotland, the local church elders in some parishes outlawed Samhain bonfires and divination games. Later, these bonfires evolved to keep away the devil himself.
The Celts believed in animal sacrifice, especially during Samhain in order to honour and appease the gods. They believed that since the earth had bore them bountiful harvest during the summer months, it was only right that they return the favour. Therefore, they offered animals onto the bonfires and from the charred remains the Druid priests would read the future much in the same way as reading tea leaves.
Aside from causing mischief and destroying crops, the Celts also believed that the presence of the otherworldly spirits made it easier for their Druid or Celtic priests, to make predictions of the future. The medieval Celtic people’s livelihood and survival depended on the volatile seasonal weather. Therefore, these predictions and prophecies became an important source of comfort and direction during the long, dark winter.
From the 16th century, the harvest festivities included mumming and guising in Ireland, Scotland, the Isle of Man and Wales. This meant that people would go house-to-house disguised in a costume, usually reciting a few verses of poetry or song in exchange for food. It is thought that the tradition may have originally began with people impersonating Aos Sí, or the spirits of the dead. They received offerings on their behalf, similar to the custom of souling, in which ‘soulers’ would go from house-to-house, offering prayers for the departed in exchange for ‘soul cakes’.
According to Celtic beliefs, impersonating spirits by wearing a disguise was believed to protect oneself from them. It is suggested that the mummers and guisers personify the old spirits of the winter, who demanded reward in exchange for good fortune. In Scotland, youths went house-to-house with a mask on, painted or blackened faces and these mischievous youths would often threaten to wreak havoc if they were not welcomed.
Folklorist F. Marian McNeill suggests that the ancient festival included the tradition of people in costume representing the spirits with their faces blackened by ashes taken from the sacred bonfire. At the turn of the 20th century, youths in Glamorgan and Orkney cross-dressed during the festival. Elsewhere in Europe, mumming and hobbyhorses were part of other yearly festivals. Since the 18th century, the tradition of disguising oneself as a malignant spirit led to playing pranks in Ireland and the Scottish Highlands.
The tradition of wearing costumes and playing pranks during Samhain spread to England by the 20th century. The traditional lanterns for guisers or pranksters at night during the festival were carved out of turnips or mangelwurzels – hollowed out and often carved with contorted faces. According to tradition, the lanterns were made to resemble the faces of spirits and were used to ward off evil spirits. This was common in parts of Ireland, Somerset and the Scottish Highlands in the 19th century. In the 20th century they spread to other parts of England and became the precursor to what is known as the ‘jack-o’-lantern’.
The Original Meaning of Halloween and What it is Today
Halloween is thought to have originated with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, when people lit bonfires and wore costumes to ward off roaming spirits. Samhain is also known as summer’s end and this is reflected in the meaning of this harvest festival. Halloween straddles autumn and winter, plenty and scarcity, life and death. The festival is steeped in medieval European superstition as Samhain is celebrated as a means to prepare for the long cold, winter months.
The Celtic tradition of celebrating Samhain encountered its biggest threat when it came face-to-face with the Roman Catholic Church. The Catholic Church sought to convert the pagan Celts. Around 600 C.E., Pope Gregory I felt that it was not possible to convert all the pagans to Christianity immediately. Therefore, he decreed that missionaries should graft the new religion of Christianity onto the old. He used the example that if the pagans were worshiping a tree, the missionaries should consecrate the tree and encourage the pagans to continue to worship, but this time they would worship God.
The earlier missionary efforts were met with little success as the regular folk felt little interest in the new religion. They were disinterested in the Christian doctrine of waiting for the afterlife to be rewarded by God. By the 8th century, Pope Gregory III (731–741) had enough of accommodating the pagans and so, he decided to launch a direct counter. He established the Christian festival of All Saints Day on the very same day that Samhain was celebrated. This festival honoured all the saints that did not have their own day throughout the Christian calendar. This was his attempt to counter the worship of the Celtic gods during Samhain. Hence, Samhain was hijacked and appropriated as a Christian celebration. Despite this effort, there were still many who continued to hold on to the customs and beliefs of their Celtic heritage.
Subsequently, the church sought to seize power from the Druid priesthood, primarily the priestesses. The word witch comes from the word Wicca or ‘Wise One’. These priestesses were primarily healers and soothsayers and they lived alone in the forest. The church sought to demonize them, as they were the holders of the Celtic faith.
By the 9th century, Christianity had spread all over the Celtic lands of Europe, where most of its spiritual traditions gradually supplanted the older Celtic rites. By 1,000 C.E., the church began celebrating November 2nd as the new feast of All Souls’ Day, a day to honour the dead. This was a direct counter to the Celtic tradition of honouring the dead during the Samhain period.
It is evident that the newly consolidated Catholic Church in medieval Europe decided to replace the folk tradition of celebrating the Celtic festival of the dead with a Christianised version of the celebration. All Souls Day was celebrated on the same day and in a similar fashion to Samhain, with its big bonfires, parades, and costumes as saints, angels and devils.
The All Saints Day celebration (November 1st) became known as All-hallows or All-hallowmas (from the Middle English ‘Alholowmesse’ meaning All Saints’ Day) and the night before it (October 31st), the traditional night of Samhain in the old Celtic religion, was called All-hallows Eve. This eventually became known as Halloween.
Countries that Celebrate Halloween
Many countries all over the world celebrate Halloween or have festivals similar in nature to Halloween. The United States of America and Canada are the two countries that are most known for their Halloween festivities. It is said that over 65% of Americans decorate either their homes, offices or work places in preparation for the event.
In Europe, countries such as the United Kingdom, Ireland, Austria, Belgium, France, Germany and Sweden all celebrate Halloween, but not on the scale that it is celebrated in the United States of America and Canada. The tradition of Halloween has spread to other European counties due to its celebratory nature rather than historical relevance to cultural practice. Likewise Halloween is gaining popularity in Australia and New Zealand. These two countries do not have a strong cultural link to Halloween. However due to popular American influence, the practice of celebrating Halloween is on the rise. This influence also occurs wherever there are American or European expatriate communities.
In Asia, many countries have festivals somewhat similar in nature to Halloween such as the Hungry Ghost Festival in China or Kali Chaudas in India, though they are celebrated in very different ways. In other countries around the world that have been influenced by American culture or have a history of Catholic practice, people also celebrate Halloween in different ways. For example in Mexico, which has strong Catholic and also ancient Aztec roots, the festival is known as Dia de los Muertos or the Day of the Dead. It is a time in which adherents honour their beloved ancestors and others who have passed away.
The Spiritual Dimension to Halloween
From a Western Christian perspective, October 31st is known as All Hallows’ Evening or All Saints’ Evening. Western Christian churches include the Catholic Church and a wide group of Protestant churches. This celebration is the first in a three-day event known as Allhallowtide. It is followed by All Saint’s Day or Hallowmas and All Soul’s Day. During this festival, practitioners remember the dead, including the various martyrs who gave their lives to preserve their religion from persecution from the Roman Empire, the saints and faithful Christians who have passed on. The word ‘hallows’ is in reference to all the saints within Christendom. After its establishment, All Soul’s Day became a day during which Christians pray for the dead.
In countries with a strong Catholic background, Allhallowtide retains its spiritual significance. It was traditionally believed that on this night the veil between the world of the living and afterlife thinned, therefore people wore masks so that they would not be recognised by any spirits. In parts of Europe, such as Poland, people would pray out aloud as they walked through the forests so that the spirits could find comfort. In Spain, churches would ring their bells to remind practitioners to remember the dead. On this night, the Catholic Church holds a church service, known as the Vigil of All Hallows, after worshipers prepare themselves through prayer and fasting.
Amongst Pagan and Neo-Pagan traditions, it is the night on which Samhain is observed. Reconstructionist Pagans base their practices on historical records and traditional folklore. For them it is a time to honour the dead. Often bonfires are lit and meals are set out on dining tables for the dead. Traditional tales are told, songs sung and dances are performed. If a door or window faces east, it is left open with a candle burning on the sill to guide the dead back home. Those who are sensitive or mystically inclined see this as a time to commune with the Celtic gods who preside over this autumnal festival.
In Wicca, Samhain is considered to be a festival of darkness, which has its counter-balance in the festival of Beltane, the festival of light during the spring months. The festival includes praying for all those who have passed away including family, friends and even one’s pets. It used to be celebrated by leaving food out for the dead. During some rituals in which the Celtic gods are invoked, the dead are also invited to participate. It symbolises the beginning of the dark half of the year and the oncoming of winter. Rituals invoke the Wiccan Goddess in her form as the Crone and her consort in the form of the Horned One. These rituals include communicating with the dead, casting of magical spells and divinatory readings for the upcoming year through the use of runes, tarot or scrying. The original forms of divination during Samhain would have included reading the bones of the animals that were sacrificed to the gods during ritual. In fact is it said that Samhain is the best night to predict the future and prophecies were read deep into the night. This may in fact be one of the origins of telling ghost stories during Halloween.
How Halloween is Celebrated in Popular Culture
Many popular North American ways of celebrating Halloween have been adopted by countries all over the world, including in Europe where the festival has its original roots. These include:
Wearing Masks or Costumes
This tradition has its roots in the old European and Celtic traditions of wearing masks and costumes in order for people to protect themselves from being recognised by spirits. Other records say that people wore masks so the spirits didn’t mistake the living for the dead, and inadvertently take them to the afterlife once the night was over. Some religious scholars have argued that the tradition of dressing up in outlandish or ghoulish costumes is to poke fun at the concept of ‘satan’, who at one time caused terrible fear and anxiety within society.
Over time, the masks and costumes took on the characteristics of supernatural creatures of the dark such as vampires, ghosts, witches or devils. Nowadays, it is also very common to see costumes and masks of celebrities, superheroes and even cartoons. It is also common to see generic costumes that are easily recognisable such as princesses, ninjas or pirates. Dressing up in costumes became really popular in 1930s America, with the mainstream adoption of trick-or-treating.
This tradition has its roots in the ancient Celtic custom of leaving food out for the dead, in order to appease them, ensuring that they would stay away from the living. Amongst the Christians of Medieval Europe there developed a practice of offering ‘soul cakes’ to the impoverished, who would beg for food in return for praying for the souls of the departed, an act known as ‘souling’. These soul cakes were made especially during Halloween. The impoverished would go about the villages, towns and cities, praying for the dead or singing songs in return for the food.
This tradition was encouraged by the various Christian churches in an attempt to stamp out the pagan traditions of leaving food out for the dead. The act of leaving food was something that was seen as encouraging worship according to the pagan tradition, which ran at odds with the authority and practice of the churches. It was also viewed as a practice associated with witchcraft and therefore by association the devil, which the Church also sought to stamp out. Over time this became a practice in which only children participated.
In the contemporary era, this tradition transformed into something that children engage in whilst dressed in costumes and masks during Halloween night. Typically under adult supervision, children knock on people’s doors and exclaim “trick-or-treat?” In the case the person who answers the door is agreeable, they give the children candy, sweets or other small and edible gifts, reminiscent of the soul cake. Those who do not give sweets, enough sweets or acceptable edible items are often the victim of ‘tricks’ which range from amusing and scary, all the way to criminal damage in some extreme cases. For adults, Halloween themed parties have become very popular in recent decades as well.
Decorations, Games, Attractions & Food
During the Halloween period many people decorate their homes, front garden, offices and work places with scary decorations. These include figures of witches, ghosts, skeletons, zombies, etc. They do this as a form of secular celebration and for fun.
One such decoration is the Jack-o’-lantern. This tradition traces back to an Irish tale told about a man known as Jack the Stingy. He was a cruel and stingy man, who was also a drunkard. He would often play mean tricks on people, including his friends, family and even the devil. It is said he tricked the devil to climb an apple tree, and then placed crosses around the trunk of the tree. As the devil was unable to touch the crosses, he was unable to climb down the tree and return to hell. Jack made the devil promise him that he would not take his soul once Jack died. The devil agreed, Jack removed the crosses and the devil returned to hell. Once Jack had died, he arrived at the pearly gates of heaven and was greeted by St. Peter who told him that he had not led a good life, therefore had to go to hell. Arriving in hell, the devil remembered his promise and told Jack that he would not take his soul. Rather he would be banished to roam the world of the living in spirit form. Unable to see his way back to earth, he asked the devil how he would see the path back. The devil tossed him an ember from the fires of hell. Jack carved a turnip into a lantern, in which he placed the ember and used it to light the way back to earth. Jack was fond of eating turnips and would always carry one with him. Over time the tradition of carving turnips with scary faces developed.
During the settlement of the Americas by Europeans, the Irish brought over the custom of carving turnips and even potatoes with ghoulish faces, placing candles in them and leaving them outside the front door. This was an ancient custom to ward off Jack the Stingy, evil and protect against negative entities who roam around in the world of the living during Halloween. The faces are carved in a ghastly manner to scare these negative spirits away.
When they arrived in America, they found that pumpkins were easier to carve. Therefore the tradition of carving pumpkins evolved. Jack-o’-lanterns have become an image synonymous with Halloween. Nowadays, one can buy pre-carved pumpkins or even plastic decorative ones that have electric candles in them. The containers in which children collect their sweets while they trick-or-treat are often in the form of Jack-o’-lanterns or even a witch’s cauldron.
There are a variety of unique games played during Halloween. One such game is ‘bobbing for apples’. This game involves a large barrel or bucket filled with water and apples are set afloat on the it. Participants must use their teeth to remove the apples from the water, while their hands are behind their backs.
Another game includes hanging candy apples (also known as toffee apples) or doughnuts from string. Participants eat the apples as they swing on the string, again without being allowed to touch the apple or doughnuts with their hands. The use of apples is a facet of Halloween laden with cultural and historical significance. In ancient times, apples were associated with goddesses, immortality, resurrection and knowledge, as such they are associated closely with the harvest, which Halloween represents since it falls in the autumnal months. This is even more evident given the ancient Roman influence in Celtic lands and the association with the Roman goddess Pomona, whose symbol was an apple.
A more recent phenomena are attractions during the Halloween period. These attractions are purely for entertainment purposes, aimed at scaring or thrilling visitors. As technology advances, the sophistication at which these attractions are built and maintained, together with realistic costumes has led to a boom in such attractions all over the world. While most of these only appear during the Halloween season, they are known to make an estimated $300-500 million each year in the United States of America alone, making it big business. This goes to show that more and more people need forms of entertainment to take them away from the pressures of daily life, even if only for a short while.
During the Halloween season, one often sees food that although have come to signify the festival, were originally autumnal treats. These include the toffee apple as mentioned above, barmbrack (a bread with sultanas and raisins), caramel apples, caramel corn, cakes with Halloween decorations, cookies in the shape of Halloween themes, pumpkin pie and novelty sweets.
Common Halloween Imagery
Coupled with the iconic Jack-o’-lantern imagery mentioned above are many others that are popular during Halloween celebrations. Here are some of the most common.
The characteristic look of a witch has been corrupted over time and they have become demonised from what they actually were. The origin of the word is ‘wicca’ (male) or ‘wicce’ (female) and originally meant ‘wise one’. In ancient European societies, such as the Celts and among the pagan traditions, these were men and women who were natural healers. They used herbs and natural remedies to cure people of their ailments. They were very close to nature, so would live away from towns and villages, by themselves in the countryside. As they lived in the countryside their skin would have been calloused from working on the land, therefore they would have had a very tough look to them. They would communicate with the spirits of nature and were able to use powerful magic to heal and for divination of the future. Due to these roles, they were held in very high regards by pagan practitioners.
With the rise of Christianity in Europe, these people were demonised, especially the women. From a Christian viewpoint, these women directly countered Christian doctrine and practice, which were often centered around men. Since they worshiped the spirits of nature, rather than God, they were seen as evil. They also posed a threat to the growing reach and authority of the Catholic church, so their influence needed to be removed. Over time, with the influence of the Catholic church, these women became associated with the devil and evil practices. They were hunted down and punishments for continuing their practice was cruel.
In 1486, Pope Innocent VIII actually published a book in which he claimed a direct link between witches and the devil. Since that point, the persecution of traditional witches heightened. In fact at this time he even outlawed the pagan Celtic religion altogether. Those found guilty were brutally killed, often by being burned alive. This period in time is referred to as The Burning Times.
As part of this persecution, the popular image of witches was transformed from women who were in tune with the natural elements, to those who were evil. The notion that witches did evil deeds such as killing babies for their rituals spread. They began to be portrayed as old and crooked, with long ugly noses often with large warts, long disheveled hair, wearing long and flowing black garments. This imagery continues until today, and plays an important part of Halloween tradition.
The Broomstick and Cauldron
Associated with witches are the images of the broomstick and cauldron. These are traditionally thought to be implements witches used to engage in their evil acts. However, the implements were everyday items that a person would use back in the time of the Celts. The broom is a simple cleaning device. As witches lived in the countryside, there would have been a lot of natural debris, such as leaves. These would obviously have to be cleared up and people would use simple brooms made from sticks and branches for this purpose.
The cauldron is another simple implement. It is one of the earliest forms of a cooking pot. These would have been used by witches and in fact all people during that time to cook with, over an open fire. They would have used large spoons to stir whatever they were cooking. Over time this imagery became synonymous with a witch brewing an evil potion, as witches came to be demonised.
Pentacle – the Five-Pointed Star
The pentacle is often associated with witchcraft and evil, however its real meaning is not evil at all. In fact, the pentacle as a religious symbol from ancient times, represents the balance of the natural elements: earth, water, air, fire and space. It is a symbol that was used to invoke the energies of nature in order to restore balance. It can also be linked to the apple, which is also a symbol of the ancient traditions. If you cut an apple length ways, the core of the apple actually forms a five pointed star. Since its association with pagan rituals, it is considered a symbol that is negative in the world today due to the influence of Christianity.
This imagery stems from the earliest origins of Halloween among the Celts. It was commonly believed that black cats were once human beings who had been transformed into cats as punishment for evil acts they had committed or as victims of black magic. Over time, as Christianity gained ground, this notion was corrupted so that black cats became the witch’s familiar, or animal-spirit that aided a witch to cast magic, act as a spy or a friend. Over time it was also thought that a witch could turn into a black cat as well.
Bats, Owls and Creatures of the Night
Many animals are associated with Halloween such as the bat or owl. This association stems back to the Celtic tradition of lighting bonfires during Samhain. Before electricity and modern lighting was invented the only source of light at night was obviously fire. Light from these bonfires would have attracted mosquitoes and other flying insects. Since bats and owls feed on these insects, they would have been drawn to the fire as well. Therefore bats and owls were seen overhead and near the Samhain bonfires, and became associated with the festival. As pagan traditions were demonised, so were bats and owls. Overtime as Samhain transformed into Halloween, this imagery continued. Other creatures such as spiders, newts, or any creature of the night came to be associated with Halloween over time as people have a natural fear of such creatures.
Ghosts and Monsters
The origins of Samhain stem from the ancient pagan belief that the spirits of the dead can come back and harm us in this life during Halloween. This fear of the spirit world has been ingrained in the festival since its very beginning. This continues until this day with a strong fear of being attacked by ghosts. Other monsters such as ghouls is another attempt to demonise the ancient pagan religions. These were originally the nature spirits that the Celts, druids and witches worshiped and communicated with. As their practices were thought to be evil, the spirits transformed into menacing creatures over time.
The Devil Who is Actually a God
The strength of the Christian demonisation of pagan culture is best exemplified in the common portrayal of the devil. The devil is depicted as a being with the body and face of a man, but the horns and legs of a goat. This is actually the portrayal of the Horned One, a god known throughout the ancient world, including both European pagan traditions and in ancient Greece, where he was known as Pan. Within pagan culture and modern Wicca, he is the male side of divinity, associated with nature, wildness, hunting, fertility and the life cycle. He was a god of great importance within the pagan traditions, especially since he was associated with bountiful harvests. During the time of the ancient pagans, ensuring one had a bountiful harvest in order to survive the harsh winter was of great importance, therefore the Horned One was especially worshiped. He was a benevolent god, who helped those who were close to nature grow good harvest and have abundance.
Over time however, with the growing influence of Christianity, he became heavily demonised just like the witches. Since his worship was so wide spread and ingrained in pagan culture, the Catholic church sought to equate him with the evil devil himself in order to persuade pagans to convert to Christianity. Therefore, he became synonymous with the devil. Before this period in Medieval history, the devil was only ever portrayed as the serpent Satan in the garden of Eden, who tempted Adam and Eve, or as Lucifer, the fallen angel. Strikingly, the form of Pan was to become the most common and well-known depictions of the devil to this day.
Despite this overt attempt to destroy pagan history and culture, the Catholic church has never been wholly successful in eradicating belief and worship of the ancient gods and their associated practices. To this day modern Wicca practitioners invoke the Horned One during their rituals, especially when celebrating Samhain. Even spiritual communities such as Findhorn invoke the god in his form of Pan to aid them in their endeavors to be closer to nature and for the growth of their various plants and vegetables. Paul Hawken in his book ‘The Magic of Findhorn’ describes him as a being with “shaggy legs and cloven hooves, pointed chin and ears, and two little horns on his forehead” and that he “lived in the Garden, and that his work was to help the growth of the trees.” Given the lengths that he was demonised and equated with the devil, it is testament to ancient beliefs that the Horned One is still remembered in his original form with his original functions in this day and age. The Horned One or Pan is not evil but a nature elemental who helps in bountiful harvests and fertility and should be remembered as so. One who encounters Pan should not think him the devil as that is the Christian corruption of his true nature in their power bid to convert the masses. Pan himself says in the book ‘The Magic of Findhorn’ the elementals and nature spirits that help and assist all natural growth have been abandoned. This is wrong to do so as man should not think he can live without nature. For the proper growth and health of nature, the assistance of elementals and nature spirits such as Pan and many others are needed. So the next time you see the image of the ‘devil’ remember that it is the corrupted form of the helpful elemental Pan and there is nothing evil.
Halloween as a contemporary holiday has a long and varied history, stemming from the ancient Celtic celebration of Samhain, which was supplanted with the Christian festival of Allhallowtide. Though people tried to destroy the various practices and beliefs of the festival, they have continued until today, albeit in a different form. While the form in which it is celebrated has changed, the deeper notions behind it, such the coming of the winter and fear of the spirit world still remain.
With growing acceptance all over the world, Halloween incorporates practices and imagery laden with meaning, though most of those who celebrate are often unaware of the historic roots of the celebration. As we have seen Halloween has now become a secular celebration, compared with its spiritual origins. Millions of people will celebrate Halloween in some way or another this Halloween. We hope this post has provided you a further insight into the rich and cultural history of Halloween.
For more interesting information:
- Halloween 2013
- Halloween Greetings
- My Halloween in Salem
- Shangmo Dorje Putri – The Bamo of Sakya
- The Burning Times
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