The Plain Truth
THE ORIGIN OF HALLOWE'EN
What about this strange festival? What have goblins, witches and ghosts to do with
this feast of All Hallows Eve? And why the demoniacal masks and gaudy
by Gerhard O. Marx
EACH YEAR millions around the world observe the strangest of all festivals,
Hallowe'en -- All Hallows Evening. Especially so in Great Britain, Scandinavia and the
United States. Every autumn, young and old alike anticipate its revels. It's a night of
frolicking fun and frivolous foolishness. All kinds of nonsense and superstitions are
associated with this festival.
On the eve of this night children dress in outrageous costumes and put on witch-like
masks. Then they are turned loose to frighten or otherwise induce people into giving
them food items and other gifts. Millions are familiar with the "trick-or-treat" threat
associated with Hallowe'en. Buildings are desecrated, windows broken and other
fooleries are resorted to.
WHY do so many keep Hallowe'en? What useful purpose does such a celebration
fulfill in this "enlightened" scientific twentieth century? What purpose did it ever serve?
Is it merely a harmless celebration to amuse our children? It's about time we checked
into this observance to see WHERE and WHEN it really originated and FOR
WHAT PURPOSE it was established.
You may not have realized it, but the ancient pre-Christian Druids in Britain, the
pagan Romans and Greeks, and even the Babylonians, among others, kept a
Yes, Hallowe'en long antedates Christianity! It was only later introduced into the
professing Christian world -- centuries AFTER the death of the Apostles.
Notice! "The earliest Hallowe'en celebrations [in Britain] were held by the Druids in
honour of Samhain, Lord of the Dead, whose festival fell on November 1" (see
"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, "It 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" ("Enc. Brit.", 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 walking 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, Hallowe'en
-- the evening of All Hallows.
Hallowe'en, 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 GHOSTS 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 midnight 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 1875, E. Aymonièr, p. 59).
This sort of Hallowe'en 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 Miatecs 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 Hallowe'en, their "All Souls
Day". Although some aspects of the Hallowe'en festival varied with each country, the
overall pattern and purpose remained the same.
But how did the professing Christian world come to accept and keep such a day?
Here is what you, probably, haven't been told. In 607 A.D. the Roman Emperor
Phocus defeated the Barbarians who were in control of Rome. The Pantheon in
Rome, a pagan edifice which had been wrested from the barbarians, was given
to pope Boniface IV. Originally, Emperor Hadrian built the Pantheon -- around
100 A.D. He dedicated it to the pagan goddess Cybele and to the other Roman
deities. This temple became the central place in Rome where the pagans honored and
commemorated their gods. With this splendid edifice now falling into the hands
of professing Christians, the question was, What should be done with it?
The pagans had dedicated it to Cybele and all their gods. But the Roman bishop
now CONSECRATED IT TO THE VIRGIN MARY AND ALL THE
SAINTS of both sexes (see "The Mysteries of All Nations", Grant, p. 120). Thus this
pagan building became "holy." No more did the pagan Romans use this edifice to
pray for their dead. It was now the professing Christians who employed the Pantheon
in praying for their dead.
This re-dedication of the pagan temple to Mary and others occurred in 610 A.D.
Now converted into a Christian shrine, an annual festival was instituted to
commemorate the event. The day chosen was May 13.
This May 13 commemoration of the dead saints was known by the name of "All
Saints Day." It continued to be held in May for over two centuries -- until 834 A.D.
In that year the NAME and the DATE WERE CHANGED.
Notice! "The time of celebration was altered to the FIRST OF NOVEMBER,
and it was then called ALL HALLOW" -- from where we get the name Hallowe'en,
ALL HALLOW merely meaning ALL HOLY, and the "een" is a contraction of
evening ("Folklore", James Napier, p. 177).
Thus in 834 A.D. the Church in the Middle Ages began to celebrate Hallowe'en on
the FIRST OF NOVEMBER for the first time. This was the very same day the
Druids in Britain, the Norsemen in Scandinavia, and the pagan Germans among others
were keeping their festival of ALL SOULS EVE, in commemoration of Saman, lord
of death, and his demons.
Reason for Change
Why did the church change the date to November 1st, thus coinciding with the
pagans' feast of ALL SOULS? There is a reason!
It was a general practice of the restored Roman Empire, now professing
Christianity, to "convert" the pagans within the empire as quickly and on as large a
scale as possible. Changing dates of festivals often made it easier to influence
newly conquered peoples.
Ever since the time of Constantine -- who made a state religion out of Christianity --
the Roman emperors realized how essential it was to have a UNIFIED empire, in
which as many as possible would be of ONE MIND. The civil and religious leaders
saw how important it was for the sake of unity to ALLOW ONLY ONE
RELIGION within the restored Roman domain. It became therefore a stringent state
policy to force all non-Christians to accept the new state religion. Here is how the plan
was carried out.
Conversion of Germans
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. Having no choice and seeing his life was at
stake, this heathen ruler who knew little or nothing about Christ -- was forced into this
"conversion." And with him his entire people. This policy brought complex problems.
These pagans, who were usually baptized EN MASSE, were still pagans at heart.
Even though they became nominal Christians, they still yearned for many of their
heathen practices, which they were expected to discard.
With Wittekind's baptism, for example, a vast number of barbarians were suddenly
added to the roll call of the church. 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, Hallowe'en 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 Hallowe'en 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.
To make it easy for them, the Roman Church even CHANGED HER DATE of All
Saints Day from May 13 to November 1st to satisfy the growing numbers
of Germanic adherents. The Church understood the yearnings the Germans and
others had for their old ways.
Throughout history, the Christian-professing world has resorted to this action. We
have the theological explanation of this given to us by Pope Innocent. He refers to a
heathen festival the pagans kept in the early part of the Roman Empire and explained
how the professing Christian world should treat this day:
"The heathen dedicated this month [2 Feb.] to the infernal gods ... In the beginning
of this month the idolaters walked about the city with lighted candles, and as some of
the holy fathers COULD NOT EXTIRPATE SUCH A CUSTOM, they
ORDAINED that Christians should carry about candles IN HONOUR OF THE
"VIRGIN MARY" ("Folklore", James Napier, p. 181).
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 SOULS EVE. Notice this
admission: "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).
What About Our Time?
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 Hallowe'en. Note this classic example. "In many Catholic countries the
belief that the DEAD RETURN on this day is so strong, that food is left on the tables
and people still decorate the graves of the dead [on this day]" ("Dictionary of
Folklore", Funk and Wagnalls, v. 1, p. 38).
In Protestant countries many pagan superstitious beliefs and practices have become
an integral part of
In many parts of Britain, BONFIRES are set alight on the eve of Hallowe'en. Of
course fire has nothing to do with praying for dead saints. The original reason for the
fire, however, was to frighten away witches and evil spirits on this night. Fire has
always been an essential part of Hallowe'en in Great Britain.
You and Your Children
What about you and your children? What comes to your mind when thinking about
Hallowe'en? The truth of the Bible? Not at all! Instead, 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, trying to scare the daylights out
Let's be honest. I have before me the "Good Housekeeping's Book of
Entertainment", which my wife picked up from the local library. On page 168 of this
much-read book, there is a section on what to do on Hallowe'en. 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?
NOWHERE does the Bible command us to observe Hallowe'en. Hallowe'en 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 Hallowe'en as a HEATHEN festival. It's built on a
PAGAN FOUNDATION. Your Bible warns: "For other foundation can no man
lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ" (I Cor. 3:11).
Which is the BASIS of YOUR practice and belief?
Turn to Deuteronomy 12:29-31 and read God's condemnation of Hallowe'en! And
write for our free article on Hallowe'en which covers many other startling facts not