You wanna read something reeeaaallllyyy scary? Then check out this brochure produced by Kenneth Copeland Ministries on the history of Halloween and why good Christians don’t celebrate it. Talk about revisionist history!
UPDATE: OK, I’ve already received an email from someone asking what exactly is wrong with the “history” I linked to and I sometimes forget that I’ve read up a lot more on this stuff than many other folks so I promise to come back and update this more once I get home tonight with a better explanation.
UPDATE: I’ve addressed some of the claims made by the KCM brochure.
OK, let’s see how badly the folks at Kenneth Copeland Ministries have distorted the history of Halloween:
In order to understand Halloween, it is important to understand the history of this fall holiday. Halloween, which directly stems from Irish, Scottish, Welsh and British folk customs, was celebrated as the Druids’ autumn festival. The Druids were an order of priests who worshiped nature. They were accomplished magicians and wizards at the height of their influence some 200 years before the birth of Jesus.
Well, so far it’s not too bad, though one has to wonder what is meant by the Druids being “accomplished magicians and wizards” as it implies they had actual supernatural powers. And it would probably be more proper to identify the ancient Celts as the actual people responsible for creating the holiday.
This holiday was originally celebrated to honor Samhain, lord of the dead, on October 31 (the end of the summer). The Druids believed that on this date, Samhain called all the wicked souls that had been condemned within the last year to live in animal bodies. He was believed to have released them in the form of spirits, ghosts, fairies, witches and elves.
Boy, that didn’t take long to degenerate into nonsense. “Samhain” is not the name of any Druidic Lord of the Dead, it’s just a name for the holiday. Though there is evidence of an obscure mythological Celtic character named Samhain, he wasn’t a deity and there isn’t anything in the way of a Celtic God of the Dead. The myth about a Celtic God of the Dead appears to have started in the year 1770 by Col. Charles Vallency in a series of books he wrote while attempting to prove that Irish people came from Armenia. W.J, Bethancourt III has an excellent essay on his website (currently not responding) where he tracks down the origins of this myth. The rest of the above paragraph is nonsense as the Druids didn’t believe in any Lord of the Dead as claimed.
According to Druidic tradition, these souls of the dead roamed the city on Halloween night and returned to haunt the homes where they once lived. The only way the current occupants of the house could free themselves from being haunted was to lay out food and give shelter to the spirit during the night. If they didn’t, the spirit would cast a spell on them. That is where the phrase “trick or treat” comes from: They would be tricked if they didn’t lay out a treat.
The best lies have a shred of truth to them, or so it is said, and that is certainly the case here. The Celts did believe that on Samhain the veil between this world and the next was at its thinnest making it possible for the spirits of those who had died to cross over for the evening, but not for the purposes of “haunting” their living relatives. Samhain was a festival and there was much feasting and dancing and the like going on and the spirits of the relatives were encouraged to join in on the celebrations. Hardly as sinister as it sounds above, eh? Yes, food was laid out during the night for the visiting spirits, but more out of hospitality than any fear of retribution. As near as some scholars can tell the phrase “trick-or-treat” wasn’t even coined until the early 20th Century, around about 1939.
The jack-o’-lantern was also a part of this belief system. The carved pumpkin symbolized a damned soul named Jack. According to the tale, Jack was not allowed into heaven or hell. So, he wandered around in the darkness with his lantern until Judgment Day. Fearful people hollowed out turnips (and later pumpkins in the United States), carved an evil face on them, and a lit candle inside to scare him and other evil spirits away.
The Jack-O’-Lantern came out of Ireland and Scotland and were carved out of turnips, though not the kind you’re thinking of. Pumpkins originated in North America and never grew in Europe until modern times. There is no historical evidence that suggest the Druids carved Jack-O-Lanterns nor that it had anything to do with a damned soul. Considering that concepts such as souls that could be “damned” and “Judgment Day” are Christian in origin it’s impossible for those to have been a part of the Druid’s belief system.
The Druids had other outlandish beliefs which have since turned into tradition. For example, they were afraid of black cats because they believed that when a person committed evil, he would be turned into a cat. Cats were thus considered to be evil. To scare them away, the Druids decorated their homes with witches, ghosts and the like. They also decorated with cornstalks, pumpkins and other goods in offering of thanks and praise to their false gods.
Wow, the bullshit just keeps getting deeper. Fear of cats, black or otherwise, was common among Medieval Christians and the black cat was feared most of all because it could sneak around “invisibly” in the dark (being black and all). Christians in Europe at that time period killed cats by the tens of thousands giving free reign to rats and mice and probably contributing to the Black Plague in the process. Not that it matters, the Christians just blamed the millions of deaths from the Black Plague on Gothic Witches that the Church conveniently invented. Witches being evil and cats being evil made for a natural association between the two for the Church. Let’s also consider that cats weren’t even introduced into Northern Europe until around 1050 CE and as such don’t show up in any Celtic myths or legends. The Druids certainly didn’t decorate their homes with pumpkins for the previously stated reason that they didn’t exist in Europe at all during that time and witches, again, were a Christian concept the Druids wouldn’t have been familiar with.
In addition to being Halloween, October 31 was also the New Year’s Eve of the Celts and Anglo-Saxons. To celebrate, they built huge bonfires on hilltops to frighten away evil spirits, and often offered their crops and animals to them as a sacrifice – sometimes they even offered themselves or others.
Again with the lie that holds a shred of truth. Samhain is, indeed, the Celtic New Year as the word literally means “summer’s end” (Sam + Fuin = Samhain) and there was only Summer and Winter as far as they were concerned. Yes, they did celebrate by building big bonfires on hilltops, but not to frighten away evil spirits. Bonfires were built during all four of the major Celtic holidays with Samhain being but one of them and the rest being Oimelc, Beltane and Lughnasadh. Fire was a physical symbol of divinity for the ancient Celts as well as most other Indo-European Paleopagans. Offering crops and animals up as sacrifice isn’t surprising at all. Fall was a common time to cull sick or old animals from the herds as they wouldn’t be likely to survive the winter anyway and the offering of sacrifices of both crops and animals to the Christian God is described in many places in the Bible. Human sacrifices by the Celts are hard to document, though some scholars do think they happened on occasion though, again, that wasn’t uncommon in a number of different cultures. Julius Caesar used tales of such as propaganda to justify trying to conquer the Celts which is ironic considering the Romans had only abandoned the practice a short while earlier.
The rest of this “history” doesn’t get much better and I think I’ve made my point so I’m going to stop now. It appears the folks at KCM adapted the writings of Sylvan Margadonna and Mrs. Gloria Phillips along with two additional tracts on the holiday that were written anonymously which make many of the same claims that this brochure throws out. All four of those texts are rebutted quite well by W.J, Bethancourt III’s essay which I mentioned earlier.