Halloween or the Devil. . . .

Which came first?

Let's put it bluntly. Halloween and Satan have ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO WITH EACH OTHER. There. I said it. Plain and simple.

You see, there's a lot of hoopla every year about how Halloween is where a bunch of Witches conjure up the dead, or worship Satan, or that it's the Devil's birthday or some other such nonsense. It's funny that the people accusing us of this behavior haven't even bothered to check out what we're doing, eh, eh? I guarantee you that if Witches *had* a Bible, most of the people calling Halloween a Satanic holiday would not have read it. Wicca is a religion whose practitioners often practice Witchcraft, and some people who practice Witchcraft do not consider themselves Wiccan. Neither Wicca nor Witchcraft has as many "laws" as Bible-based religions, and neither has a specific general document whose rules are followed to the letter.

Despite this, there are some basics, which I know most Christians don't know either. I find it funny at this point that they can say Witches sacrifice animals to the dark lord on Halloween or something, when they don't even know that the basic tenets of Witchcraft have absolutely nothing to do with their Devil. That has something to do with the fact that Witchcraft came BEFORE Christian teachings, thank you.

I'm trying not to make this into an attack on Christians, so I'm sorry if my language sounds bitter and harsh, but as I write this I am very annoyed. The first version of this little essay was drafted about a week before Halloween 1999, and I'd been hearing lots of anti-Halloween propaganda lately so I was really reacting to that. The truth is, people who call it "Halloween" are mostly just plain old everyday non-"Witch" Americans who have accepted some of the hoopla that goes along with celebrating this pagan-in-roots holiday. These people who run from house to house in cute costumes collecting treats are not taking part in a celebration for Lucifer or anything like it; they're participating in a now very secular custom. It doesn't even have to do with Witchcraft, much less the Christian personification of evil.

Those that ARE Witches generally refer to the holiday as Samhain, and yes it DOES have to do with dead people but not any more than Heaven does. It is a holiday on which living people remember their dead relatives, ancestors, friends, and sometimes pets, and invite the spirits of those people to have food and drink and share wisdom and memories. The folklore says that the "veil" between the worlds is thin at this time (well, and at Beltane, but that's another story), which aids communication with those who are already in "Summerland" (akin to Heaven in some ways). The holiday is also a time to acknowledge the coming of winter, the "death" of the God (heh, don't worry, folks, He gets born again at the Yuletide--remind you of anyone?), and the acceptance of death and the ever-turning cycle. This communication with the dead is by no means a raising of evil spirits or even of benign ones; it's just that the Summerland is not really considered as separate from "our" realm as most Christians consider Heaven. The two are coexisting and regularly intersecting in a way, allowing people to continue their relationships with those who have passed on. It is simply a different idea of how it works out; it's not the polar opposite of any Christian teaching. (Not all Witches and Wiccans believe the above--myself included--but it's a general idea of what some people who practice Earth religions believe about the spirit world.)

Now that you know a bit about what Samhain/Halloween really is about, I think I'll discuss why it's really ridiculous to bicker about who's worshipping the wrong God. You see, if you want to get real technical, Pagan and Christians are very much alike in that they both revere and respect the divine. You won't see Christians casting circles and you won't see Wiccans or Witches praying to Jesus (well, unless it's being done by someone who's managed to be at peace with loving Jesus and practicing Witchcraft). You won't see them doing the same things, but be assured that in all actuality they are. When Christians want something important, they generally feel they can pray to God, and if they are deserving, God will grant the wish. This is a Christian's way of putting energy into having something come to pass. Now if Witches wanted something, they might do that thing Witches are so famous for: Casting a spell (which has NOTHING to do with invoking Satan, thank you, even if the God IS often envisioned as humanlike with horns. Horns are an ancient symbol of masculine power). Casting a spell involves putting one's energy into a cause while aligning oneself with the higher powers and energies, using materials and words deemed appropriate by the practitioner (and whatever inspirations being used as influences). Wiccans/Witches cast spells because they believe the divine is within us all. In both the case of praying for a miracle and that of casting a spell, a conception of God's energy is being used. (Well, or God/Goddess/Whatever.) It's just that the two groups seem to have different ideas of how to use the power of nature/God and different ways of doing it. On the molecular level (tee hee) it's all the same thing. And if you wanna get right down to it, if Christians believe they're worshipping the one and only all-powerful God and Wiccans/Witches believe they're worshipping the entirety of creation, they are worshipping the same thing. If there's only one and you're both worshipping it, you're worshipping the same one. At this point it doesn't matter if you call Him/Her/It God or Goddess or Diana or Jesus or Thor or Yoda . . . if you understand what I've said, you must understand that you're only arguing about what to name Him/Her/It, and claiming that you know what the deity(ies) might want from you.

I can understand that people think their Gods/Goddesses have different attributes, and that they have different ideas of what gets you into whatever paradise is out there, but please. Remember that words are just fluff, the rules and regulations are stories, the tools you use are just focusing devices. Fact is, you love your deity whatever you call Him/Her/It, whether you're Christian or Pagan (well, and a lot of other religions that are theistic, but I'm not going into that now because this was about the Christian accusation that Witches worship some evil dude that only exists in Christian beliefs). This love is behind every action that you commit in the name of your religion, and if you try to tell other people that their way isn't the right way, you are telling them that they don't know how to love God as well as you do, and what right do you have to say that? What in the world do you know as an admitted puny human?

Well, I must say that I'm still annoyed that people are still out there saying they're not going to let their children trick-or-treat since it's in celebration of the Devil's birthday. There is nothing inherent in running around in the dark dressed up and getting candy that causes children to think about the Devil; you're the one making them think about the Devil when you assign that holiday that meaning. It means what you put into it and nothing else. And on top of that, when you and your children fear the Devil, you're admitting he has power over you. Why give something evil that influence on you? It makes no sense to say that those people who celebrate Halloween are worshipping the Devil through their actions if they have no such intention. That would be like saying the Devil wrote the Bible, then made it seem as if God did, and that everyone who read and believed in the Bible was *actually* worshipping Satan. Your energy that you put into praying/worshipping/celebrating is going to exactly the purpose you intended. It's possible that it's doing little else besides making you happy, but at least it's doing that. You have no right to rain on someone else's parade.

I can wrap this up with a couple of interesting bits. Basically, I've got a little scrap from both Wicca/Witchcraft and Christianity that more or less proves that EVEN BY THEIR OWN DEFINITION the other religion is just as right. (This is a little off-base considering that Witches never claimed to be practicing the only true religion, which is the only "beef" with Christianity at all.) But hey, here's what I've got:

Wicca has no Bible, and Wiccans/Witches follow no widespread, specific sorts of rules, but there are a couple of basic beliefs (as mentioned). One of these goes something like this: "An it harm none, do what thou will." In other words, as long as ya don't hurt nobody, do whatever ya want. Implicit in this is the idea that everything is okay as long as it doesn't hurt anyone or yourself. That includes the practice of Christianity (and all other religions); Wiccans and Witches are open to the idea that anyone else's way is just as good for that person as Witchcraft is for a Witch; the important thing is that it works for the person practicing it. All paths lead to Summerland, they say. So by Witchcraft's own definition, both are just fine.

Christianity is a bit more difficult to "assume" things about since ultra-conservatives will claim that if it ain't in the Bible, it ain't truth. So, I had but to quote from the Bible. :) Here goes: "Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again" (Matthew 7:1-7:2). In other words, it ain't up to you to tell me what's wrong with how I believe. Also, there's this: "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of Heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in Heaven" (Matthew 7:21). So, in other words, not everyone who accepts Jesus is going to Heaven; only the people who work in accordance with God's will are. (Wiccans and Witches don't believe in Heaven the same way and don't believe in Hell at all, but that's sort of beside the point.) Now it is up to argument what exactly "God's will" is; I'm sure Christians would argue that that's in the Bible too, but nowhere in the Bible could it possibly say that the honoring of Him is forbidden. And though Wiccans and Witches may break up the God concept into the One, the God, and the Goddess, that is no different from breaking it up into the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, and is therefore not worshipping of "other" gods. It is recognized that they are simply different aspects of the same being. As I said before, calling it something different and worshipping it differently does not make the one all-powerful God into two different entities, one being false and one being true.

All questions or comments, as always, can be sent to swankivy2@aol.com. But I warn you not to send me ridiculous e-mails insisting in a childish manner: "REPENT OR GO TO HELL, SINNER!!!! JESUS IS LORD BECAUSE THE BIBLE SAYS SO AND SO THERE'S NO WAY TO ARGUE WITH THAT!!!!" I certainly can argue with that, very convincingly I might add, and though I have no interest in dragging you kicking and screaming away from your concept of God I will defend my right to believe the way I choose. I'm open-minded and interested in your viewpoint but I will not tolerate attacks. Of course, all comments about how insightful and well-spoken I am will be accepted too. :) Amen, blessed be, and may the force be with you. Heh.

Any comments left here are PUBLIC. If you are not comfortable with that, mail me directly.

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Comments from others:

Mikey: Well this was awesomely said. (Long live Samhain!)

Diana Amado: I am Christian.But I don't believe you,your religion and Halloween have anything to do with the devil. I knew it!!!!!!Now I can brag about it at school.Ha Ha IN THEIR FACE.I love Halloween. It is fun. I also have a relation with you I hate it when my family critisizes me cause I am Christian not Catholic(I am only 12!). My mom says not to listen to them, but, it is hard cause it's my family who is saying this to me. At least my church believes Halloween is not devilish.Do not worry you did not offend me at all! I loved your speech and your attitude. By the way just today the doorman at my builing said that Halloween was devilish. I said"All kids really do is go out and have fun."And he says how about those costumes."So what it is still fun right.Although I don't practice witchcraft or anything of that sort I think thatit is so cool.

Torrye: I don't beleive in the devil.But some people tell me that they hear him chasing rabbits(LOL).What I want to know is if halloween really is the devil's birthday?

By the way I'm only 9.

Marintha: Another thing is that some sects of old Celts used to dress up on Samhain to frighten "evil spirits" away. Thus, costumes! ^^* I like the holiday "halloween" because I get to dress up, party, and get candy from random kind-hearted strangers.

...... no. It's not the devil's birthday. If you're 9 you shouldn't be on this site. Not trying to be mean but you're too young for some of this material. O.o

SinOan: One of the reasons I always wanted to live in America is because they at least know how to have fun on Halloween. Over here in Britain, no one ever seems to bother with it because they are all getting ready for Christmas. Its sad really, my birthday is Halloween and I love all the fun stuff involved with it, but no one ever seems to get into the spirit of it, so to speak.

Oh, and am I the only one who thinks the idea of Hell is kinda stupid? Bad people go to this place to be punished for all time by ... the No.1 bad guy of all time. Why? I mean why would someone who wants people to be bad, punish them for doing just that? If anything it makes more sense for the Devil to reward sinners in Hell, not punish them. Mind you, if that WAS the case, you can see why people would want to keep that quiet, hmm? And at least Hell is warmer and has far better company.

Ken: The American Christian denunciation of Halloween as "Of The Devil" and "SAY-TANN-IC!" came out of the fringe and into the mainstream with the "Satanic Panic" of the early 1980s, when a Big Name Christian Celebrity named Mike Warnke started a Conspiracy Theory in the Evangelical Christian community that Satanists were infiltrating everything in preparation for a Satanic Takeover. (Warnke claimed to have been a Satanic High Priest who was involved in The Conspiracy at the highest levels.)

Some years later, a Christian magazine called Cornerstone investigated Warnke and exposed him as a complete fraud from Day One, but by then the damage had been done and the "Satanic Panic" Conspiracy beliefs had become self-sustaining. (Punch "Mike Warnke" into Wikipedia search for an overview.)

Internet Monk is the nom de blog of a chaplain and teacher at a Baptist school in rural Kentucky who has his head screwed on very straight. The first part of this podcast describes how Baptist Christians celebrated Halloween in "the pre-Mike Warnke days".

commenter: Lol. All you had to do to disprove their claims that it's Satanic was do a wide history lesson from the Wiccans to the Celtic.
I personally have heard this before from a fundamentalist (though peaceful) Christian as the two of us respectfully tried to have the other see the other side of the discussion over Halloween (while I'm Christian, I think in a very abstract manner in contrast to following things exactly by the letter). Just when the woman left, she told me to "educate myself." It took me a long moment for that to sink in and for my pride to get jabbed. In the end, after a bit of research over the history behind Halloween, you can guess who really needed to "educate" themselves.