Halloween Movie Theme © John Carpenter, 1978

This story probably comes from the Irish folklore. Once upon a time there lived a drunkard and a trickster named Jack. One night he ran into the Devil in a pub. The Devil tried to tempt him into giving him his soul. But Jack managed to trick the Devil by offering his soul in exchange for one last drink. The Devil turned himself into a sixpence to pay the bartender, but Jack quickly pocketed him in his purse. Because Jack had a silver cross in his purse, the Devil could not change himself back. Jack did not let the Devil go until he promised not to claim his soul for ten years. The Devil agreed.

Ten years later Jack came across the Devil while walking on a country road. The Devil reminded Jack that he had come for his soul. Jack thought quickly and asked the Devil to get him an apple by climbing an apple tree before he gave up his soul to him. Jack then tricked him by carving a cross in the tree's trunk, trapping the Devil up the tree. Jack made the Devil promise never to ask for his soul again.

When Jack finally died, he was denied entrance to Heaven because of his evil ways, but he was also denied access to Hell because he had tricked the Devil. Instead, the Devil gave him a single ember, to light his way through the frigid darkness. The ember was placed inside a hollowed-out turnip to keep it glowing longer. Ever since, Jack has been doomed to wander in the darkness with his lantern. And that is how Jack of the lantern (jack-o'-lantern) came to be. This is just one of the versions of the story, but it is the oldest. Pretty interesting, don't you think?

The reason why pumpkins are used instead of turnips

The Irish Potato Famine (1800's) prompted a lot of people to immigrate to the Americas. These immigrants brought with them their traditions of Halloween and jack-o'-lanterns, but turnips were not as readily available as there were back home. They found the American pumpkin to be more than an adequate replacement. Today, the carved pumpkin is perhaps the most famous representation of the holiday. Not only is it used outside front doors in traditional form, but it has become the veritable treat container for trick or treaters. While the face of the jack-o'-lantern has changed over the years with the advent of pumpkin carving kits, it's still an ongoing tradition that will continue for years to come.

This story probably comes from the Irish folklore. Once upon a time there lived a drunkard and a trickster named Jack. One night he ran into the Devil in a pub. The Devil tried to tempt him into giving him his soul. But Jack managed to trick the Devil by offering his soul in exchange for one last drink. The Devil turned himself into a sixpence to pay the bartender, but Jack quickly pocketed him in his purse. Because Jack had a silver cross in his purse, the Devil could not change himself back. Jack did not let the Devil go until he promised not to claim his soul for ten years. The Devil agreed.

Ten years later Jack came across the Devil while walking on a country road. The Devil reminded Jack that he had come for his soul. Jack thought quickly and asked the Devil to get him an apple by climbing an apple tree before he gave up his soul to him. Jack then tricked him by carving a cross in the tree's trunk, trapping the Devil up the tree. Jack made the Devil promise never to ask for his soul again.

When Jack finally died, he was denied entrance to Heaven because of his evil ways, but he was also denied access to Hell because he had tricked the Devil. Instead, the Devil gave him a single ember, to light his way through the frigid darkness. The ember was placed inside a hollowed-out turnip to keep it glowing longer. Ever since, Jack has been doomed to wander in the darkness with his lantern. And that is how Jack of the lantern (jack-o'-lantern) came to be. This is just one of the versions of the story, but it is the oldest. Pretty interesting, don't you think?

The reason why pumpkins are used instead of turnips

The Irish Potato Famine (1800's) prompted a lot of people to immigrate to the Americas. These immigrants brought with them their traditions of Halloween and jack-o'-lanterns, but turnips were not as readily available as there were back home. They found the American pumpkin to be more than an adequate replacement. Today, the carved pumpkin is perhaps the most famous representation of the holiday. Not only is it used outside front doors in traditional form, but it has become the veritable treat container for trick or treaters. While the face of the jack-o'-lantern has changed over the years with the advent of pumpkin carving kits, it's still an ongoing tradition that will continue for years to come.



History of Samhain I

Titled: Samhain

(Sow-in, Sah-vin, or Sam-hayn)

October 31

There are two possible sources for the origin of this Sabbat's name. One is from the Aryan God of Death, Samana. The other is from the Irish Gaelic word samhraidhreadh, which literally means "The Summer's End." For the Celts, Samhain marks the end of Summer and the beginning of Winter. The day after Samhain is the official date of the Celtic New Year. They chose this time rather than Yule because the Sun is at its lowest point on the horizon as measured by the ancient standing stones of Britain and Ireland.

In the European traditions, this is the night when the old God dies and the Crone Goddess mourns deeply for him throughout the next six weeks. The Halloween hag menacingly stirring her cauldron comes from the Celtic belief that all dead souls return to her cauldron of life, death, and rebirth to await reincarnation.

In the Norse tradition this is a time when the power of Loki, the trickster God, reached its peak. He is a God who delights in playing tricks on humans, animals, spirits, and other deities.

In Rome, Samhain is a day in which everything was turned upside down... when kings were slaves and slaves were kings. This was done in honor of the Apple Goddess, Pamona, for this was her sacred holiday. At night they lit fires in honor of the next day's festival, the Festival of Fortuna, Goddess of wealth and luck. There would be feasting and drinking to her honor, as well as performing rituals so that she might favor the petitioners. Pamona and Fortuna were thought to be able to go into the Land of the Dead together and bring recently departed relatives back from the spirit world to join with their living families for the celebrations.

Mexico, a land thoroughly immersed in patriarchal religion, nonetheless maintains many small ties to its pagan past. Two days after Samhain they celebrate El Dia de Muerte (The Day of the Dead). This is a time to honor one's ancestors with drinking and feasting, and to toast the personification of Death, who was once believed to take this day as his one day off for the year. Businesses and schools close on El Dia de Muerte and picnics are packed and taken to graveyards, where families sit near their relatives markers and share their feast with them. Individuals dressed as Death dance among the revelers and convivial music is always played nearby.

Unfortunately the Crone Goddess has been an object of fear and revulsion in modern society. This is definitely not the way our pagan ancestors viewed her. The Crone Goddess was always revered as a woman of power, whose vast wisdom came with her great age and the life long practice of her many skills.

Halloween retains much of its original form and meaning it had long ago in the Celtic lands, despite the efforts of the church to turn it into an observance day of feasting and praying for their vast pantheon of saints. The church tried calling it Michaelmas, The Feast of St. Michael, but the old Samhain proved to be too potent for one lone Saint to combat. So it became the Eve of All Saints, or All Hallows Eve, which precedes All Saints Day and is still one of the holiest days in Catholicism. Finally the Church figured the only way to get rid of the original of Samhain was to diabolize paganism and its deities. They began a successful campaign of fear among Christians concerning Samhain.

The pagan Samhain is not and never was associated with evil or negativity. It has always been a time to reaffirm our belief in the oneness of all spirits and in our firm resolution that physical death is not the final act of existence. Though death is very much a part of Samhain's symbolism, this Sabbat also celebrates the triumph of life over death.

The idea that evil spirits walk the earth at Samhain is a misinterpretation of the pagan belief that the veil of consciousness which separates the land of the living from the land of the dead is at its thinnest on this night. This does not mean that hordes of evil entities cross the chasm. Though it is true that Samhain is no more evil than any other holiday, it is also a fact that evil does exist and pagans have always been aware of this.

www.pagandragon.att.net/sabbats/samhain/samhain_page.html 5/6/01

“From Wheel of the Year by Teresa Moorey and Jane Brideson

History of Samhain II

Titled: Samhain

by Mara Freeman

Samhain marks one of the two great doorways of the Celtic year, for the Celts divided the year into two seasons: the light and the dark, at Beltane on May 1st and Samhain on November 1st. Some believe that Samhain was the more important festival, marking the beginning of a whole new cycle, just as the Celtic day began at night. For it was understood that in dark silence comes whisperings of new beginnings, the stirring of the seed below the ground. Whereas Beltane welcomes in the summer with joyous celebrations at dawn, the most magically potent time of this festival is November Eve, the night of October 31st, known today of course, as Halloween.

Samhain (Scots Gaelic: Samhuinn) literally means “summer's end.” In Scotland and Ireland, Halloween is known as Oíche Shamhna, while in Wales it is Nos Calan Gaeaf, the eve of the winter's calend, or first. With the rise of Christianity, Samhain was changed to Hallowmas, or All Saints' Day, to commemorate the souls of the blessed dead who had been canonized that year, so the night before became popularly known as Halloween, All Hallows Eve, or Hollantide. November 2nd became All Souls Day, when prayers were to be offered to the souls of all who the departed and those who were waiting in Purgatory for entry into Heaven. Throughout the centuries, pagan and Christian beliefs intertwine in a gallimaufry of celebrations from Oct 31st through November 5th, all of which appear both to challenge the ascendancy of the dark and to revel in its mystery.

In the country year, Samhain marked the first day of winter, when the herders led the cattle and sheep down from their summer hillside pastures to the shelter of stable and byre. The hay that would feed them during the winter must be stored in sturdy thatched ricks, tied down securely against storms. Those destined for the table were slaughtered, after being ritually devoted to the gods in pagan times. All the harvest must be gathered in -- barley, oats, wheat, turnips, and apples -- for come November, the faeries would blast every growing plant with their breath, blighting any nuts and berries remaining on the hedgerows. Peat and wood for winter fires were stacked high by the hearth. It was a joyous time of family reunion, when all members of the household worked together baking, salting meat, and making preserves for the winter feasts to come. The endless horizons of summer gave way to a warm, dim and often smoky room; the symphony of summer sounds was replaced by a counterpoint of voices, young and old, human and animal.

In early Ireland, people gathered at the ritual centers of the tribes, for Samhain was the principal calendar feast of the year. The greatest assembly was the 'Feast of Tara,' focusing on the royal seat of the High King as the heart of the sacred land, the point of conception for the new year. In every household throughout the country, hearth-fires were extinguished. All waited for the Druids to light the new fire of the year -- not at Tara, but at Tlachtga, a hill twelve miles to the north-west. It marked the burial-place of Tlachtga, daughter of the great druid Mogh Ruith, who may once have been a goddess in her own right in a former age.

At at all the turning points of the Celtic year, the gods drew near to Earth at Samhain, so many sacrifices and gifts were offered up in thanksgiving for the harvest. Personal prayers in the form of objects symbolizing the wishes of supplicants or ailments to be healed were cast into the fire, and at the end of the ceremonies, brands were lit from the great fire of Tara to re-kindle all the home fires of the tribe, as at Beltane. As they received the flame that marked this time of beginnings, people surely felt a sense of the kindling of new dreams, projects and hopes for the year to come.

The Samhain fires continued to blaze down the centuries. In the 1860s the Halloween bonfires were still so popular in Scotland that one traveler reported seeing thirty fires lighting up the hillsides all on one night, each surrounded by rings of dancing figures, a practice which continued up to the first World War. Young people and servants lit brands from the fire and ran around the fields and hedges of house and farm, while community leaders surrounded parish boundaries with a magic circle of light. Afterwards, ashes from the fires were sprinkled over the fields to protect them during the winter months -- and of course, they also improved the soil. The bonfire provided an island of light within the oncoming tide of winter darkness, keeping away cold, discomfort, and evil spirits long before electricity illumined our nights. When the last flame sank down, it was time to run as fast as you could for home, raising the cry, “The black sow without a tail take the hindmost!”

Even today, bonfires light up the skies in many parts of the British Isles and Ireland at this season, although in many areas of Britain their significance has been co-opted by Guy Fawkes Day, which falls on November 5th, and commemorates an unsuccessful attempt to blow up the English Houses of Parliament in the 17th century. In one Devonshire village, the extraordinary sight of both men and women running through the streets with blazing tar barrels on their backs can still be seen! Whatever the reason, there will probably always be a human need to make fires against the winter’s dark.

www.chalicecenter.com/samhain.html 5/6/01 © by Mara Freeman, 1999

History of Samhain III

Titled: The High Holy Days

Samhain ~ The Celtic New Year

by SpringIce, Inc

Samhain (commonly pronounced as Sam-hayn; ancient pronunciation is sow-en) is also know as Hallowmas and All Saint's Day. For the Celts, it marks the new year and the renewal of the Wheel of Life. It is the time when the old God dies and returns to Avalon (the land of the dead) and the Old Crone goddess falls into mourning for her son/consort.

In the annals of Celtic mythology (The Lebhar Gabhala Eireann), Samhain is a time when people had to pay homage to the Fomorians by giving them two-thirds of their corn, wine and even children. The Fomorians were hideous half human creatures with supernatural powers, who are seen as the "original" invaders of Ireland and it's first inhabitants, the people of Cesair. This was the first of 6 major invasions of the Celts. The first 5 of these were by Gods or supernatural beings like the Fomorians.

Some Celtic mythological scholars see this invasion as the original inspiration for the Samhain festival. It became a time when the Cesair mourned for their children that were taken by the Fomorians. All Saint's Day became the day when the veil between the living world and the Otherworld all but disappears and parents can communicate with their lost children.

This concept is seen again 290+ years later during the third invasion, led by Nemed mac Agnoman. The Nemedians met no resistance from the first Celts. These mythological Gods were able to clear more plains and create more lakes for them to inhabit. When Nemed died a plague fell upon the land and the remaining Nemedians were forced to pay homage to the Fomorians. And being compelled to hand over two-thirds of their children born that year, two-thirds of their corn, wine and milk. Once again mourning for their children during All Saint's Day.

The Fomorians were eventually defeated, on what is seen as the second major festival of the year, Bealtaine. But that's a different story. ;-)

www.paganspath.com/magik/samhain.html 5/7/01 © SpringIce, Inc. 1996-1999

History of Samhain IV

Titled: Celtic Calender: Seasonal Observances


by The An Ceangal Mara Foundation


The beginning of this time is marked by the rising of the star cluster Pleiades and is the start of the New Year.

This is a reflective, introspective time when the barriers between human, ancestral, faery and animal realms are thin: a time for Ancestral Communion. All household lights are extinguished and re-lit from the ceremonial bonfire. Small groups (usually families) share stories and sing songs, specifically about and for the Ancestors. It is a time for completions, for honoring and acknowledging teachers, parents, and other guides.

La Fheile Brighid

Emerging from the introspection of winter,this is a time of primal innocence and new beginnings.

Brighid, the ancient one with an affinity for creative activity, rekindles the fire of the earth, preparing it for rebirth. A much venerated personage of prime importance to all Celtic tribes, Brighid's variant names reveal her in many lands. She is the keeper of the sacred flame and healing waters and is said to govern and assist the fire of the poet's heart, of the healer's hands and the fire used by the smith to alchemically change stone to metal, metal to tools and amulets. Household fires and the smith's forge are blessed by a woman who plays the role of Brigantia. It is said that Brigit's snake comes out of its mound in which it hibernates and its behavior is used to determine the length of remaining frost. Agricultural tools are reconsecrated for use and egg and cheese-rolling games are a symbolic reminder of the returning sun. Traditionally feasts are held to welcome Bhride and ask for blessings for the coming year.

www.celtic.net/acm/summer_lughnasadh.html 5/7/01 all contents © 1997 An Ceangal Mara Foundation

History of Samhain V

Titled: A Brief History of Hallowe'en
by Peg Aloi

Hallowe'en has its origins in the British Isles. While the modern tradition of trick or treat developed in the U. S., it too is based on folk customs brought to this country with Irish immigrants after 1840. Since ancient times in Ireland, Scotland, and England, October 31st has been celebrated as a feast for the dead, and also the day that marks the new year. Mexico observes a Day of the Dead on this day, as do other world cultures. In Scotland, the Gaelic word "Samhain" (pronounced "SAW-win" or "SAW-vane") means literally "summer's end."

Other names for this holiday include: All Hallows Eve ("hallow" means "sanctify"); Hallowtide; Hallowmass; Hallows; The Day of the Dead; All Soul's Night; All Saints' Day (both on November 1st).

For early Europeans, this time of the year marked the beginning of the cold, lean months to come; the flocks were brought in from the fields to live in sheds until spring. Some animals were slaughtered, and the meat preserved to provide food for winter. The last gathering of crops was known as "Harvest Home, " celebrated with fairs and festivals.

In addition to its agriculture significance, the ancient Celts also saw Samhain as a very spiritual time. Because October 31 lies exactly between the Autumnal Equinox and the Winter Solstice, it is theorized that ancient peoples, with their reliance on astrology, thought it was a very potent time for magic and communion with spirits. The "veil between the worlds" of the living and the dead was said to be at its thinnest on this day; so the dead were invited to return to feast with their loved ones; welcomed in from the cold, much as the animals were brought inside. Ancient customs range from placing food out for dead ancestors, to performing rituals for communicating with those who had passed over.

Communion with the dead was thought to be the work of witches and sorcerers, although the common folk thought nothing of it. Because the rise of the Church led to growing suspicion of the pagan ways of country dwellers, Samhain also became associated with witches, black cats ("familiars" or animal friends), bats (night creatures), ghosts and other "spooky" things...the stereotype of the old hag riding the broomstick is simply a caricature; fairy tales have exploited this image for centuries.

Divination of the future was also commonly practiced at this magically-potent time; since it was also the Celtic New Year, people focused on their desires for the coming year. Certain traditions, such as bobbing for apples, roasting nuts in the fire, and baking cakes which contained tokens of luck, are actually ancient methods of telling fortunes.

So What About Those Jack-O-Lanterns?

Other old traditions have survived to this day; lanterns carved out of pumpkins and turnips were used to provide light on a night when huge bonfires were lit, and all households let their fires go out so they could be rekindled from this new fire; this was believed to be good luck for all households. The name "Jack-O-Lantern" means "Jack of the Lantern, " and comes from an old Irish tale. Jack was a man who could enter neither heaven nor hell and was condemned to wander through the night with only a candle in a turnip for light. Or so goes the legend...

But such folk names were commonly given to nature spirits, like the "Jack in the Green, " or to plants believed to possess magical properties, like "John O' Dreams, " or "Jack in the Pulpit." Irish fairy lore is full of such references. Since candles placed in hollowed-out pumpkins or turnips (commonly grown for food and abundant at this time of year) would produce flickering flames, especially on cold nights in October, this phenomenon may have led to the association of spirits with the lanterns; and this in turn may have led to the tradition of carving scary faces on them. It is an old legend that candle flames which flicker on Samhain night are being touched by the spirits of dead ancestors, or "ghosts."

Okay, What about the Candy?

"Trick or treat" as it is practiced in the U. S. is a complex custom believed to derive from several Samhain traditions, as well as being unique to this country. Since Irish immigrants were predominantly Catholic, they were more likely to observe All Soul's Day. But Ireland's folk traditions die hard, and the old ways of Samhain were remembered. The old tradition of going door to door asking for donations of money or food for the New Year's feast, was carried over to the U. S. from the British Isles. Hogmanay was celebrated January 1st in rural Scotland, and there are records of a "trick or treat" type of custom; curses would be invoked on those who did not give generously; while those who did give from their hearts were blessed and praised. Hence, the notion of "trick or treat" was born (although this greeting was not commonly used until the 1930's in the U. S.). The wearing of costumes is an ancient practice; villagers would dress as ghosts, to escort the spirits of the dead to the outskirts of the town, at the end of the night's celebration.

By the 1920's, "trick or treat" became a way of letting off steam for those urban poor living in crowded conditions. Innocent acts of vandalism (soaping windows, etc.) gave way to violent, cruel acts. Organizations like the Boy Scouts tried to organize ways for this holiday to become safe and fun; they started the practice of encouraging "good" children to visit shops and homes asking for treats, so as to prevent criminal acts. These "beggar's nights" became very popular and have evolved to what we know as Hallowe'en today.

www.witchvox.com/holidays/samhain/1031_samhain_history.html 5/7/01 © Witches’ Voice, Inc 1995-2001

Essay on Samhain

Titled: The Real Origins of Halloween

Part #1

by Isaac Bonewits

People with poor self-images always want to inflate the power and evilness of their real or imagined opponents. After all, if there's a Gigantic Global Satanic Conspiracy® to defeat the Forces of Goodness,® the people believing in it can think of themselves as "fighting on the side of the angels," instead of as the pathetic, demon-obsessed, xenophobes that they really are. Of course, my pointing out that these folks are bigots will make them claim that I'm "Christian-bashing," so they can retain their precious sense of victimhood. It's infuriating how many racist, sexist and creedist groups in current or former power have twisted the term "bashing" away from its original reference to members of minority groups being physically beaten and killed to mean themselves being verbally criticised, and I refuse to capitualte to this linguistic hijacking, as I've said before. However, I'm going to steal Dr. Victor's term for the rest of this essay, and refer to these extremists as Satanic Panic-ers, in order to distinguish them from other Christian Fundamentalists who may not be as nasty towards us Neopagans and our holy days.

Paleopagan Druidism in Ireland and the British Isles was wiped out by Christianity long before anyone was building medieval castles with "princesses" in them.

Virginity simply wasn't as important to European Paleopagans as some would assume -- except for occasional political purposes -- and was certainly a condition that lusty Celtic women had little problem removing in pre-Christian days.

Virginity simply wasn't as important to European Paleopagans as some would assume -- except for occasional political purposes -- and was certainly a condition that lusty Celtic women had little problem removing in pre-Christian days.

There's a distinct lack of historical or archeological evidence that the ancient Druids ever sacrificed anyone other than criminals, prisoners-of-war, or volunteers -- if them. The human sacrifices called "missions," "inquisitions," "crusades," and "pograms," however, have killed innocent men, women and children by the millions -- and this is very well proven by mainstream historians.

The pumpkin is a New World plant that never grew in Europe until modern times, so it couldn't have been used to make jack-o-lanterns by the Druids. Human fat (so I'm told by a biologist) would make a lousy candle fuel even if anyone were psychotic enough to try. Apparently turnips were used to make lanterns in Ireland, and I said in earlier versions of this essay that one would need some darned big turnips to make jack-o-lanterns, but I've been informed by several former or current Irish residents that Ireland does, indeed, grow some mighty big turnips! They tell me they were used for lanterns in previous generations, and that they are much harder to carve than pumpkins, which is probably why Irish immigrants to North America switched to using the lattrer. I'm unaware of any historical references to the turnips being used as jack-o-lanterns in Ireland until modern times, or of the turnips being used in any of the many other Celtic territories where the Druids once worshipped. Stay tuned for further developments.

There's zero evidence that the ancient Druids or their congregants ever dressed in costume or engaged in ritualized begging at harvest time. It's possible, but by no means certain, that this was a Paleopagan custom. (see later in this essay for medieval and modern customs of this). As for the dark medieval monks' robes depicted by Chick in his comics, since the ancient Druids considered white their caste color and brown or black the color associated with the servant caste, they probably wouldn't have been caught, you should pardon the expression, "dead" in them!

There is no historical or archeological evidence of any Celtic deity, of the dead or any other topic, named "Samhain." We know the names of some 350 Celtic deities from all over Europe and the Celtic Isles, and "Old Sam Hain" ain't one of 'em.

Major dictionaries of Celtic Languages don't mention any "Samhain" deity either: McBain’s Etymological Dictionary of the Gaelic Language says that "samhuinn" (the Scots Gaelic spelling) means "Hallow-tide" (the holiday), probably from roots meaning "summer's end;" with a possible derivation from the annual assembly at Tara every November 1st. MacFarlane’s School Gaelic Dictionary defines it simply as "Hallowtide." I have several Irish/English dictionaries in my home, and they all say that "samhain" or "La Samhna" (to use the Irish spellings) is the first of November, or the month of November, or "Hallowtide/Halloween."

So where do Satanic Panic-ers get their weird beliefs about Halloween? One correspondent asked me, "How can these things never happen if so many people preach that it does? ... Where would Christians get these ideas if they weren't fact?" The short answer, of course, is that preachers are people and (1) all people make mistakes, (2) some people are ignorant, and (3) others just tell lies. After all, lots of people used to believe that the Earth was flat and that the sun moved around the Earth,. The Church quoted scriptures to "prove" these beliefs and burned early scientists at the stake for disagreeing. Yet merely saying, "They're lying to you," though true, can easily be thrown back into our own faces, if it's only a matter of one group's word against another (assuming neither group can get away with silencing the other). A more useful answer, one with the weight of solid academic research behind it, will take us a bit more time.

The sources of information that Satanic Panic-ers use are few: (1) books written over a century ago, especially Two Babylons or the Papal Worship, a work of anti-Catholic propaganda written in 1873 by Alexander Hislop, and a book by a man named Godfrey Higgins, The Celtic Druids published in 1827; (2) decades-old editions of encyclopedias which simply quote Hislop or Higgins; (3) sermons, books and broadcasts by so-called "Ex-Grand-High-Druid-Witch experts" on the occult -- all of whom turn out to be phonies and often criminals as well; and (4) decades of sermons by pastors repeating unquestioningly the statements made by other pastors before them.

An essay called Halloween: Myths, Monsters & Devils by W.J. Bethancourt III, contains a superb and detailed analysis of Satanic Panic-ers' literature on the topic (his Bibliography page should not be skipped either). His essay says, among many other interesting things:

As for "Samhain" or "Saman" being the 'lord of the dead,' this is a gross fallacy that seems to have been perpetuated in the late 18th and 19th centuries CE. I have found it in Higgins (first published in 1827, and trying to prove the Druids emigrated to Ireland from India!) where he quotes a Col. Charles Vallency (later a General, who was trying to prove that the Irish were decended from the inhabitants of Armenia!!!) Higgins also refers to an author named "Pictet," who gives this name as that of a god, associating the word with "sabhan," (which word I cannot find in any Gaelic dictionary at mydisposal) and trying for a connection with "Bal-sab," to prove a Sun god and Biblical association.

The full title of Higgins' book (leaving out the solid capital letters) is: The Celtic Druids; or, An Attempt to shew, that the Druids were the priests of oriental colonies who emigrated from India, and were the introducers of the first or Cadmean system of letters, and the builders of Stonehenge, of Carnac, and of other cyclopean works, in Asia and Europe. Browsing through the facsimile 1829 edition of Higgins' book (published by Kessinger Publishing, LLC, Kila MT), it quickly becomes clear that the Honorable Godfrey Higgins, Esq. while astute enough to notice the similarities between the Sanskrit, Latin and Irish languages, was working without the tools or knowledge of those disciplines which were to become known as linguistics, anthropology, archeology, or indeed any modern social or physical science. He made up for his ignorance with an obsession to reconcile what he knew of Celtic languages, cultures and history with Semetic languages, cultures and (the Christian Bible's version of) history. The results, despite his prescient guesses about what would someday be known as the Indo-European languages and the common Indo-European clergy caste, are so far off the mark about almost every subject he touched upon, as to appear pathetic to even the most charitable modern scholar.

Pardon me if the following seems a long digression, but the influence of this author's book has been so long lasting and so pernicious to the reputations of the ancient Druids, and of Halloween, that it's reasonable to quote several key paragraphs. Here, set in underlined type to distinguish it from real scholarship, or my own opinions, is what Higgins has to say about "Samhan or Bal-Sab" in Chapter V, Section XVII:

The God Samhan is placed by M. Pictet ["of Geneva, a learned friend of the author's"] at the head of his double series, with the following explanation: Samhan eadhon Ceisil, eadhon Giolla; Samhan, that is to say the evil spirit, (Satan,) that is to say, the Serviteur.

Samhan appears to have been one of the Gods, the most revered, in Ireland. An annual solemnity was instituted to his honor, which is yet celebrated on the evening of the first day of November; which yet at this day is called the Oidhche Samhna, or the night of Samhan.

This solemnity was consecrated by the Druids, to the intercession of the living for the souls of those who had died the year preceding, or in the current year. For, according to their doctrine, Samhan called before him these souls, and passed them to the mansions of the blessed, or returned them to a re-existence here, as a punishment for their crimes. He was also called Bal-Sab or Lord of Death. It was probably this epithet which induced the commentator to call Samhan by the name of Ceisil, which, in modern Irish, means devil.

Samhan was also the Sun, or rather the image of the sun. This word is found in many Semitic languages: in Arabic, Schams, the sun; Hebrew, sms; Chaldean, smsa; Syrian, Schemscho; in Pehlvi, Schemsia; in Sanskrit, Hamsa, the sun. The Sun was the first object of worship of all the Heathens, either as Creator, or as an emblem or Shekinah of the Divinity. The attributes of Samhan seem at first contradictory, but they are not unusual amongst the Heathen Gods. With the Greeks, Dionysos, the good Demiurge, is identified with Hades. In Egypt, Osiris was the Lord of death; with the Scandinavians, Odin, the God beneficent, was, at the same time, king of the infernal regions. This deity was above all others whom we have named [in the preceding sections], but he was below the supreme being Baal. If Samhan were the Sun, as we see he was, he answers to Mithra of the Persians, who was the middle link between Oromasdes and Arimanius -- between the Creator and the Destroyer, and was called the preserver.

Schelling says, the Irish doctrine was, that souls did not descend to the severe Zeus, (Pluto, the Jupiter of the Styx,) but that they ascended to the merciful Osiris. Such is the meaning of the Irish Samhan, who is a merciful judge, not deciding by his caprice, but holding his power from the God Supreme, of whom he is the image. In all this is a curious mixture of physical and moral doctrines.

I will leave as an exercise for the reader to count all the outright mistakes and obvious lapses in logic. That some Fundamentalist Christians should, to this very day, use such an abyssmal example of obsolete scholarship -- he thought Irish was a dialect of Hebrew, and the Celts descendents of Moses for crying out loud! -- as a primary source for their anti-Halloween propaganda, shows just how desperate they are.

For the real origins of Halloween customs and the identity of "Samhain," we have to look a great deal deeper than Christian comic books, 19th century fantasies/speculations, or Sunday morning sermons to investigate the Paleopagan and Neopagan Celtic and Germanic calendars.

There were four Major High Days celebrated by the Paleopagan Druids throughout the Celtic territories: Samhain, Oimelc, Beltane & Lughnasadh (in the Irish spellings). Four additional High Days (Winter Solstice or "Midwinter," Spring Equinox, Summer Solstice or "Midsummer," and Fall Equinox), which are based on Germanic or other Indo-European cultures, are also celebrated in the Neopagan Druid calendar along with others based on mainstream holidays (visit the linked essay for details).

The most common practice for the calculation of Samhain, Oimelc, Beltane & Lughnasadh has been, for the last several centuries, to use the civil calendar days or eves of November 1st, February 1st, May 1st and August 1st, respectively. You can see the just-cited essay for other methods used by Neopagans today, however, since we have conflicting evidence on how the Paleopagan Druids calculated these dates, modern Neopagans just use whichever method is most convenient. This means, of course, that we aren't all doing anything uniformly on any given night, which fits perfectly with the Neopagan saying that, "organizing Pagans is like herding cats," but doesn't match the Evil Conspiracy theories about us very well -- which have us all marching to a strict drumbeat in perfect Satanic unison.

These four major holy days are traditionally referred to as "fire festivals" because to the ancient Celts, as with all the Indo-European Paleopagans, fire was a physical symbol of divinity, holiness, truth, and beauty. Whether in Ireland or India, among the Germans or the Hittites, sacred fires were kindled on every important religious occasion. To this very day, among Eastern and Western Catholics, you can't have a satisfying ritual without a few candles being lit -- of course, the Satanic Panic-ers consider them Heathen too!

Samhain or "Samhuinn" is pronounced "sow-" (as in female pig) "-en" -- not "Sam Hain" -- because "mh" in the middle of an Irish word is a "w" sound. It's known in Modern Irish as Lá Samhna, in Welsh as Nos Galen-gaeof (that is, the Night of the Winter Calends), and in Manx as Laa Houney (Hollantide Day), Sauin or Souney. Samhain is the most important of the fire festivals, because it marks the Celtic New Year (a week later the Celt's Indo-European cousins in India celebrate Divali, which is their New Year's festival). Samhain was the original festival that became "All Saints' Day" in the Christian calendar. Since the Celts, like many cultures, started every day at sunset of the night before, this became the "evening" of "All Hallows" ("hallowed" = "holy" = "saint") which was eventually contracted into "Hallow-e'en" or the modern "Halloween."

Among other things, Samhain is the beginning of the Winter Half of the Year (the seasons of Geimredh & Earrach) and is known as "the Day Between Years" (the year, like the day, began with its dark half). The day before Samhain is the last day of the old year and the day after Samhain is the first day of the new year. Being "between years," it is considered a very magical time, when the dead walk among the living and the veils between past, present and future may be lifted in prophecy and divination.

Many important mythological events are said to have occurred on that day. It was on a Samhain that the Nemedians captured the terrible Tower of Glass built by the evil Formorians; that the Tuatha De Danann later defeated the Formors once and for all; that Pwyll won his wife Rhiannon from Gwawl; and that many other events of a dramatic or prophetic nature in Celtic myth happened. Many of these events had to do with the temporary victory of the forces of darkness over those of light, signaling the beginning of the cold and dark half of the year.

There is some evidence to indicate that three days were spent celebrating this festival. Philip Carr-Gomm, Chosen Chief of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids, speaking of both Paleopagan and Mesopagan Druids in England, had this to say about it in his Elements of the Druid Tradition:

Samhuinn, from 31 October to 2 November was a time of no-time. Celtic society, like all early societies, was highly structured and organised, everyone knew their place. But to allow that order to be psychologically comfortable, the Celts knew that there had to be a time when order and structure were abolished, when chaos could reign. And Samhuinn, was such a time. Time was abolished for the three days of this festival and people did crazy things, men dressed as women and women as men. Farmers' gates were unhinged and left in ditches, peoples' horses were moved to different fields, and children would knock on neighbours' doors for food and treats in a way that we still find today, in a watered-down way, in the custom of trick-or-treating on Hallowe'en.

But behind this apparent lunacy, lay a deeper meaning. The Druids knew that these three days had a special quality about them. The veil between this world and the World of the Ancestors was drawn aside on these nights, and for those who were prepared, journeys could be made in safety to the 'other side'. The Druid rites, therefore, were concerned with making contact with the spirits of the departed, who were seen as sources of guidance and inspiration rather than as sources of dread. The dark moon, the time when no moon can be seen in the sky, was the phase of the moon which ruled this time, because it represents a time in which our mortal sight needs to be obscured in order for us to see into the other worlds.

The dead are honoured and feasted, not as the dead, but as the living spirits of loved ones and of guardians who hold the root-wisdom of the tribe. With the coming of Christianity, this festival was turned into Hallowe'en (31 October), All Hallows [All Saints Day] (1 November), and [All Souls Day] (2 November). Here we can see most clearly the way in which Christianity built on the Pagan foundations it found rooted in these isles. Not only does the purpose of the festival match with the earlier one, but even the unusual length of the festival is the same.

The Christian Church was unable to get the people to stop celebrating this holiday, so they simply sprinkled a little holy water on it and gave it new names, as they did with other Paleopagan holidays and customs. So when Satanic Panic-ers come to your local school board and try to get Halloween removed from the public schools because "it's a Pagan holiday," they are perfectly correct. Of course, Valentine's Day/Lupercalia, Easter/Eostre, and Christmas/Yule also have many Paleopagan elements associated with their dating and/or symbols, as the Jehovah's Witnesses and others have pointed out for decades. So if we decide to rid the public schools of all holidays that have Pagan aspects to them, there won't be many left for the kids to enjoy.

I find it amusing that American teens and preteens seem to have instinctively expanded their seasonal celebrations to add another night before Halloween, one on which they commit various acts of harmless (or unfortunately not) vandalism, including pranks on neighbors. If we assume that All Saints Day was invented to co-opt the central day of Samhain and was associated originally with the Gods and Goddesses of the Celts, and All Souls Day was supposed to co-opt the worship of the Ancestors, then the modern "Cabbage Night," "Hell Night" (boy does that push the Satanic Panic-ers' buttons!), or simply "Mischief Night" (which used to be April 30th -- the night before May Day -- in Germany, and is the 5th of December or Krampus Tag in Austria) would correspond to a celebration of the often mischievous Nature Spirits or Sidhe. This then nicely covers the Indo-European pattern of the "Three Kindreds" of Deities, Ancestors, and Nature Spirits.

The Real Origins of Halloween

Part #2

by Isaac Bonewits

Where does this custom come from? Is it really ancient, a few centuries old, or relatively modern? Let's look at the evidence:

Kevin Danaher, in his remarkable book The Year in Ireland, has a long discussion of the traditional Irish celebrations of this festival. In one section on "Hallow-E'en Guisers," he says:

A familiar sight in Dublin city on and about October 31 is that of small groups of children, arrayed in grotesque garments and with faces masked or painted, accosting the passers-by or knocking on house doors with the request: "Help the Hallow E'en party! Any apples or nuts?" in the expectation of being given small presents; this, incidentally, is all the more remarkable as it is the only folk custom of the kind which has survived in the metropolis.

A couple of generations ago, in parts of Dublin and in other areas of Ireland, the groups would have consisted of young men and grown boys, who often travelled considerable distances in their quest, with consequently greater reward. The proceeds were usually expended on a 'Hallow E'en party," with music, dancing, feasting and so on, at some chosen house, and not merely consumed on the spot as with the children nowadays...

Irisleabhar na Gaedhilge, ii, 370, states that in parts of Count Waterford:'Hallow E'en is called oidhche na h-aimléise, "The night of mischief or con". It was a custom in the county -- it survives still in places -- for the "boys" to assemble in gangs, and, headed by a few horn-blowers who were always selected for their strength of lungs, to visit all the farmers' houses in the district and levy a sort of blackmail, good humouredly asked for, and as cheerfully given. They afterward met at some rendezvous, and in merry revelry celebrated the festival of Samhain in their own way. When the distant winding of the horns was heard, the bean a' tigh [woman of the house] prepared for their reception, and got ready the money or builín (white bread) to be handed to them through the half-opened door. Whoever heard the wild scurry of their rush through a farm-yard to the kitchen-door -- there was always a race amongst them to get possession of the latch -- will not question the propriety of the word aimiléis [mischief] applied to their proceedings. The leader of the band chanted a sort of recitative in Gaelic, intoning it with a strong nasal twang to conceal his identity, in which the good-wife was called upon to do honour to Samhain..."

A contributor to An Claidheamh Soluis, 15 Dec. 1906, 5, gives a example of these verses, from Ring, County Waterford:

'Anocht Oidhche Shamhna, a Mhongo Mango. Sop is na fuinneogaibh; dúntar na díirse. Eirigh id' shuidhe, a bhean an tighe. Téirigh siar go banamhail, tar aniar go flaitheamhail. Tabhair leat ceapaire aráin agus ime ar dhath do leacain fhéin; a mbeidh léim ghirrfiadh dhe aoirde ann ages ciscéim choiligh dhe im air. Tabhair chugham peigín de bhainne righin, mín, milis a mbeidh leawhnach 'n-a chosa agus uachtar 'n-a mhullaigh; go mbeidh sé ag imtheacht 'n-a chnocaibh agus ag teacht Ôn-a shléibhtibh, agus badh ó leat go dtachtfadh sé mé, agus mo chreach fhada níor bhaoghal dom.'

'("Oh Mongo Mango, Hallow E'en tonight. Straw in the windows and close the doors. Rise up housewife, go inside womanly, return hospitably, bring with you a slice of bread and butter the colour of your own cheek, as high as a hare's jump with a cock's step of butter on it. Bring us a measure of thick fine sweet milk, with new milk below and cream above, coming in hills and going in mountains; you may think it would choke me, but, alas! I am in no danger.")'

Wow, that chant sure sounds Satanic, doesn't it?

As I mentioned before, because it was an "in-between" kind of holiday, spirits (nice or nasty), ancestors (ditto), or mortals (ditto?) were thought to be more easily able to pass from This World to the Other World and vice versa. It was also a perfect time for divination or "fortune telling" (Danaher talks about all of this at great length). While some monotheists may consider either or both of these activities to be "Evil", most religions in human history have considered them perfectly normal. Samhain Customs in Scotland by L. MacDonald contains a brief discussion of the meaning of Samhain to the ancient Scottish Celts. There are also many other relevant articles on the customs of the ancient Celtic peoples on this Dalriada Celtic Heritage Trust website.

Before and after the arrival of Christianity, early November was when people in Western and Northern Europe finished the last of their harvesting, butchered their excess stock (so the surviving animals would have enough food to make it through the winter), and held great feasts. They invited their ancestors to join them, decorated family graves, and told ghost stories -- all of which may strike some monotheists today as spiritually erroneous, but which hardly seems "evil" -- and many modern polytheists do much the same. So where does "trick or treating" come in?

According to Tad Tuleja's essay, "Trick or Treat: Pre-Texts and Contexts," in Santino's previously mentioned anthology, Halloween modern trick or treating (primarily children going door-to-door, begging for candy) began fairly recently, as a blend of several ancient and modern influences. I'm mixing Tuleja's material here with my own insights, see his essay for details of his opinions, which I'll mark with italics to separate from mine:

(1) At various times and places in the Middle Ages, customs developed of beggers, then children, asking for "soul cakes" on All Souls Day.

(2) At some other Medieval times and places, costumed holiday parading, singing and dancing at May Day, Halloween, and Yule (with different themes, of course, though sometimes with similar characters, such as the "Hobby Horse") became popular in Ireland and the British Isles. Originally these costumed celebrants were adults and older teens, who would go from house to house (as Danaher describes above) demanding beer and munchies in exchange for their performances, which mixed Pagan and Christian symbols and themes. While many Neopagans may think these folk customs go all the way back to Paleopagan times, the evidence to support that is thin.

(3) To the medieval householders, of course, being thought stingy (especially in front of the visiting ancestors and faery folk at Halloween) would be very bad luck, as it would violate the ancient laws of hospitality. Perhaps there were some inebriated paraders who might have decided to come back later in the night and play tricks upon those who hadn't rewarded them properly, but any references to such are fairly modern.

(4) In 1605 c.e., Guy Fawkes' abortive effort to blow up the British Parliament on November 5th, led to the creation of "Guy Fawkes Day," celebrated by the burning of effigies of Fawkes in bonfires and children dressing in rags to beg for money for fireworks. As the decades rolled by, this became thoroughly entwined with Halloween celebrations and customs. This is not surprising, considering that bonfires were a central part of the old Samhain/Halloween tradition, and that Nov. 5th was actually closer to the astrological date for Samhain than the 1st was!

(5) In 19th Century America, rural immigrants from Ireland and Scotland kept gender-specific Halloween customs from their homelands: girls stayed indoors and did divination games, while the boys roamed outdoors engaging in almost equally ritualized pranks, which their elders "blamed" on the spirits being abroad that night.

(6) Also in mid-19th Century New York, children called "ragamuffins" would dress in costumes and beg for pennies from adults on Thanksgiving Day.

(7) Things got nastier with increased urbanization and poverty in the 1930's. Adults began casting about for ways to control the previously harmless but now increasingly expensive and dangerous vandalism of the "boys." Towns and cities began organizing "safe" Halloween events and householders began giving out bribes to the neighborhood kids as a way to distract them away from their previous anarchy. The ragamuffins disappeared or switched their date to Halloween. The term "trick or treat," finally appears in print around 1939!

Pranks became even nastier in the 1980's, with widespread poverty existing side-by-side with obscene greed. I find myself agreeing with the words of one of my wisest correspondents, a student Christian, who echoed those 1930's civic leaders when he suggested, "if Halloween is to survive as a non-controversial institution, we need to first clean up the simple and obvious criminal element. Without that, many so-called-Christians [opposed to Halloween] would lose their leg to stand on." Unfortunately, as criminologists, military recruiters and historians know, the most dangerous animals on our planet are unemployed teenaged males. Bored kids in a violence saturated culture slip all too easily from harmless "decoration" of their neighbors' houses with shaving cream and toilet paper to serious vandalism and assaults. Blaming either Neopagans or Halloween for this is rather like blaming patriots or the Fourth of July for the many firecracker injuries that happen every year (and which are also combatted by publicly sponsored events).

By the mid- 20th century in Ireland and Britain, it seem only the smaller children would dress up and parade to the neighbors' houses, do little performances, then ask for a reward. American kids seem to remember this with their chants of "Jingle bells, Batman smells, Robin laid an egg," and other classic tunes done for no reason other than because "it's traditional."

Several correspondents have said, if the holiday isn't evil why are there so many evil images associated with it such as ghosts, skeletons, black cats, ugly witches, demons, monsters, and Jack O'Lanterns? The answer, of course, is that most of these images aren't evil, and the ones that are were added by people opposed to the holiday.

Ghosts have always made perfect sense, for Samhain was the festival where the Gates Between the Worlds were open wide and departed friends and family could cross over in either direction. As I mentioned earlier, people invited their ancestors to join them in celebration. The only ones who would cower in fear would be people who had wronged someone dead and who therefore feared retribution of some sort. The often repeated folk tale that the dead roamed the earth after dying until the next Samhain, when they could then pass over to the afterlife, makes no sense in either Celtic Paleopagan or Medieval Christian beliefs, so is probably fairly modern.

Samhain was the time of year when the herds were culled. That means that farmers and herders killed the old, sick or weak animals, as well as others they didn't think would make it through the winter with that year's available food. Prior to the last few centuries in the West, most people lived with death as a common part of life, especially since most of them lived on farms. Samhain became imbued with symbolism of the death of the old year and the rebirth of the new year. So skeletons and skulls joined the ghosts as symbols of the holiday. Again, there's nothing evil here, at least to the innocent in heart. Indeed, in Mexico, where the holiday is known as Las Dias del Muertes, or "Days of the Dead," skeleton and skull toys and even candies are made and enjoyed by the millions, many by and for devout Roman Catholics.

Medieval Christians feared cats, for reasons as yet unclear, and especially feared the black ones who could sneak "invisibly" around at night. It's ironic that they feared cats so much that they killed tens of thousands of them, leaving their granaries open to rats and mice, no doubt causing much food to be wasted, and leaving Europe as a whole open to the Black Plague, which was carried by the fleas on those rats and mice. Unfortunately, the millions of human deaths caused by the Black Plague were later blamed on the Gothic (Satanic) Witches the Church invented, then murdered. Cats, as "evil" animals, became associated with the "evil" witches.

Witches as figures of unalloyed evil were invented by the medieval Church. Paleopagan witches were simply local herbalists, midwives, healers and fortune tellers, who might sometimes be suspected of doing evil magic (see my essay elsewhere on this site for details). As diviners, they may well have been consulted on the best divination night of the year, but I know of no formal association of witches with Samhain until the late Middle Ages.

As the Church tried harder and harder to make people abandon their Paleopagan customs for the new Christian ones, Samhain became a prime target. The Church began to say that demons were abroad with the dead, and that the fairy folk were all monsters who would kill the unwary. When Gothic Witchcraft was invented, the "Devil-Worshipping Witch" became the newest monster to add to the others. The green skin was a touch the Wizard of Oz movie added to the "evil old hag" version of the Gothic Witch. Halloween became a holiday in modern times for which half the fun was being scared out of one's wits.

Modern fiction added new monsters to the American mix, including vampires (previously known mostly in Eastern Europe), werewolves (a remnant of the berserkers of Scandinavia), mummies (after modern Egyptology started), and various psychopathic killers and ghouls. These are not images anyone actually needs to perpetuate, but the teens certainly enjoy them.

Jack O'Lanterns, as mentioned earlier, became popular as house decorations in the USA after immigrant Irish discovered how much easier pumpkins were to carve than turnips, unleashing what has turned into quite an art form in the last decade or so. They certainly add a spooky touch, especially when the glowing faces appear from the darkness.

Most psychiatrists and psychologists seem to agree that Halloween's emphatic celebration of death serves to bring out our culture's suppressed feelings about the topic, and this can be a healthy experience for both children and adults. I strongly suspect that the primary reason for American culture's aversion to thinking about death and dying is that most modern Westerners don't believe the mainstream monotheistic religions' doctrines on the topic, or if they do, they fear eternal punishment more than they expect an eternal reward. The Paleopagan/Neopagan views that death is a transition to a new state of being where things go on much as they have here, at least until one reincarnates, is much less frightening (at least for those having a relatively happy life now), and makes the spirits of the dead unthreatening.

Certainly, Halloween gives parents an opportunity to discuss their beliefs and attitudes about death with their children, one hopes with no recent close death to cloud the issues, and to soothe whatever fears their children may have.

Reporters are always asking us what we Neopagans "do" for Halloween. Well, usually we take our kids around our neighborhoods trick or treating, as cautiously as any other parents. Those who stay at home may hand out commercially packaged candy to those who visit our houses (that's the only thing that's safe for us to give out). Over the weekend, our circles of friends will have rituals that might include "dumb suppers" (silent, saltless meals) for the Ancestors, or separate "kid circles" and costume parties for the children in our community -- and we always wind up with at least as many kids as we started out with! Most of us will do some divination, give honor to those who have died in the past year, play traditional games, and meditate on our own mortality.

In 1997 c.e., something new was added to our Neopagan Samhain traditions in the United States. Hundreds of us met in Washington, DC (as well as in other cities) wearing green clothes, bringing food donations for the local food banks, cleaning up local parks and monuments, and just being visible as part of the American religious landscape. We brought thousands of flowers (both silk and real), to represent those Neopagans who could not join us because of travel or job scheduling difficulties, or because they rightfully fear Satanic Panic-er persecution in their home towns should their names or faces become publically known as belonging to a minority belief system. The flowers were later taken to local hospitals and nursing homes.

At midnight on Halloween night (12:00 am Eastern Standard Time) three minutes of silence were observed in memory of those who have suffered for their beliefs and in solidarity with our fellow Pagans around the world. Throughout the weekend, Neopagans finally fulfilled the Satanic Panic-ers' fondest fantasies and performed the dreaded "blood sacrifices" they keep insisting they want us to do -- but we did them at blood-mobiles and local blood-banks across the country! (If the hatemongers want to prove how spiritually "superior" to everyone on the planet they are, why don't they do the same thing -- organize a mass blood donation event for the holiday? They might find out that those nice folks lying next to them in the blood-mobile are Pagans!)

So what do we American Neopagans really do on Samhain? No blood drinking, no baby sacrifices, no orgies -- just good, clean, all-American festivity with some thoughtful additions appropriate to the season and a few gentle political and social statements about our right to exist and our presence in the vibrant fabric of American religious pluralism. I know that disappoints the Satanic Panic-ers -- especially the ones who run around on the 31st of October looking for Occult Crimes In Progress, or who try to crash any Neopagan rituals they can find that night. (Note for law-and-order types: it's a violation of state and federal laws to disrupt any religious ritual in progress unless there's a clear felony happening -- which you won't find at our rites.)

Some of the Satanic Panic-ers (as well as other conservative Christians) spend Halloween engaging in what they call "spiritual warfare" against local Neopagans. While for some Christians this phrase (at least on Halloween) refers only to saying prayers for "peace, protection, safety and for God's influence," as one correspondent told me, to the Satanic Panic-ers, spiritual warfare means saying "imprecatory psalms" and praying for the destruction of all of us folks they think are Evil Incarnate. Oddly enough, when members of competing religions do such things, the process is labled "casting curses" or "evil black magic" by these very same folks!

Don't believe it? Here's a quote (minus the all-caps shouting) from an email I received on October 19th, 1998 c.e.:

"...just keep your mouth shut! and don't ever try again to make those web pages! ... You better erase your web pages as soon as possible otherwise you will be sick to death within two month. Two month! Remember this!"

Since I'm still alive a year later, we know that this one illiterate "spiritual warrior" was sorely disappointed. Of course, so was the one who promised to pray me to death the year before... I get a half a dozen emails every year now, challenging me to battle them on the astral plane and promising to destroy me and all other Neopagans, Druids, Witches, etc., in the name of and by the power of their God. Funny how there's more of us every year, despite the "spiritual warriors" and their supposedly inevitable victory over all of us Heathen.

Witches, Druids and other Neopagans are not responsible for the Satanic Panic-ers' bizarre fantasies of who and what they think we are. We will no longer let them get away with commiting or advocating hate crimes against us -- and then whining that they're the ones being persecuted because we're allowed to exist and to celebrate our own holy days according to our own beliefs.

Other Christians may join the mother who told me, "I choose to believe the Bible principals verbatim, but I do not agree with everything my church leaders tell me as addendums. I require solid evidence." I hope this essay has provided just that kind of evidence.

For everyone else, as one Pagan couple put it a couple of years ago. "Have wonderful and thoughtful memories, and plan a fantastic and responsible future, as our year ends and the New Year starts."

Copyright © 1974, 2001 c.e., Isaac Bonewits. This text file may be freely distributed on the Net, provided that no editing is done, the version number is retained and this notice is retained. This webpage is copyright © 2001 c.e., Isaac Bonewits

www.witchvox.com/holidays/samhain/1031_realorigins.html 5/7/01 © Witches’ Voice, Inc. 1995-2001

It is interesting to note the calm good sense of the Quaker rulers when dealing with that question of witchcraft which a few years later was to upset all the best judgment of New England. In 1688 a woman was brought to trial as a witch. The jury - in which Quakers predominated - after listening to the testimony and the Governor's charge, brought in this verdict: "The prisoner is guilty of the common fame of being a witch, but not guilty as she stands indicted." It was the first and last trial for witchcraft which took place in Pennsylvania.



Visited: 10/1/04


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