by: Ryan Gable – excepted from his NEW book The Persistent Illusion (Available – HERE)
Halloween was not a widely celebrated Holiday inside of the United States until the early 1900s. Many traditions Americans hold dear actually stem from the Catholic Irish, whom migrated in large numbers to the States in the 1840s due to the potato famine. When they arrived they carried with them a version of the Harvest Festival that we now refer to as Halloween. Some modern traditions have also been the product of changes and alterations over the years, with much of the message being lost. The message is that Halloween is a festival of fertility, protection and the harvest.
A dark allure seems to set towards the end of October as many see the celebration either as ‘demonic’ or ‘evil’, but these again are modern views that have lost their historical context. The concept of ‘darkness’ refers to a changing of seasons and the ‘satanic’ view of such ‘darkness’ is a modern mutilation of ancient concepts of duality.
Historically, Halloween was known as Sahmain (pronounced sowen), a harvest festival taking place towards the end of October on the Gregorian calendar. This festival was very important as it was considered to be the final harvest of the year before the Earth fell into darkness. Of course with the misunderstandings of ‘light’ and ‘dark’ as we have discussed, many purposefully mutilated by the Black Magicians, it’s no wonder why many today see the date as ‘satanic’. The festival was also a fertility festival because it was to provide insemination for the coming year – once the darkness of winter (evil) was vanquished by the sun (god).
The reason for the Irish celebration of Samhain being the foundation for our modern celebrations goes back in history to a group of people called the Celts whom also referred to this time as the Witches’ New Year. The Celtic priests were called the Druids and they celebrated their New Year the day after Samhain on November 1st instead of during the spring or strangely as we do on the first day of a new calendar. This has nothing to do with witches from some bad B-movie and instead relate to the Witches’ Calendar and the ‘Turning of the Wheel’.
The Celts once inhabited the area known as France, Germany, England, Scotland and Ireland. Although many claim to be Druidic today, most of their ‘teachings’ and practices have been lost to time due to the fact they passed most traditions orally and committed few to text. They were known for being very in touch with nature and having the ability to control storms, lay curses and cast magical spells. Although I use the word ‘magical’ it does not mean the Druids were anything like our modern interpretation of magic in Hollywood. Groups like the Druids far predated our modern films so it is the film industry that has taken from history, obviously not the other way around. It is also from this group of Celtic Priests that we get the term Holy-Wood, named after the wood they used to make ‘magical’ wands to perform some of their rituals. Rune Stones, cast for divination purposes as well, were also made from Holy-Wood.
The Celts, like many others, believed the night before October 31st was a time when the boundaries between the worlds of the living and dead became blurred. This resulted in spirits and ghosts of the dead returning to roam the earth. Of course this kept some fearful and others joyous as some of the dead were loved ones whom they attempted to communicate with, thus the origins of certain rituals. Other spirits were perhaps not as benevolent and there was a sense of some need for protective measures.
During the three-day festival of Samhain many believed that since the spirit and physical worlds came into contact that it was made easier for priests to predict the future through forms of divination. This is similar the act of conjuring the dead to predict the future. The prophecies handed out acted as a source of comport and a feeling of protection during the long, cold, dark winter months following the final harvest of the year.
One aspect of these celebrations was to feast in thanks for the harvest and also to perform sacrifices to either appease or ward off ‘evil’ spirits whom might cross over into the physical world to haunt humans. The Druids had their feast on November 1st.
Samhain (Sowen / October 31st) or Witches’ New Year (November 1st) was further celebrated with the construction of magnificent bonfires where the Celts gathered to make sacrifices to the gods. So far it is obvious how this festival is directly parallel to other Sabbats such as Saturnalia (Christmas) or Easter (Ostara) in that the festival lasted three days (the trinity in nature), included lights and fire, as well as sacrifices. Few also consider Sowen a time of cleansing and this connects Samhain to Lupercalia (Valentine’s Day) and Ostara (Easter). Bonfires during Samhain and other Sabbats were not only used to ward off roaming spirits, or for a sacrifice to appease them, but they were seen as a ‘doorway’ to another world. This makes sense seeing that the physical and spiritual world was believed to come into close contact during this time of the year.
The worship of fire deities and serpents has already been discussed (See Chapter 14) and this is important to relate to the symbolism of fire breathing dragons or lizards associated with fire, a source of illumination literally and conceptually. It rings true of the ancient occult belief in fire elementals such as the Salamanders. There are also stories of the Djedhi, Djin, Gnostic Archons, genies, and demons, all of which were made of luminous or smokeless fire, or are directly associated with fire or hell. These beings are seen as minions of a darker force, but the darker force is simply Saturn (Satan) who endows the physical world with glamour, or Lucifer (Trickster) who causes roadblocks to occur in your life and force you to take what you perceive as an easier path. Due to the relationship with the physical world, these beliefs center on a pagan personification of nature, which is given human or animal attributes in the same way ‘god’ is literally depicted as a man.
During the bonfires of the Samhain harvest/fertility festival some, including the Celts, wore costumes in the form of animal heads or skins to ward off ‘evil’ spirits. These costumes were typically worn during the burning of the fire and during secessions of divination to scare the spirits. Of course costumes later became popular in the modern holiday. They became popular among many people as a way to disguise themselves with masks or animal skins in order to hide from roaming spirits. While some dressed up to disguise themselves others dressed as the dead in order to make them feel more welcome. This relates to Egyptian depictions of half animal, half human gods, or other gods of Mesopotamia with half fish, half human depictions. It represents a connection between man and nature, and explains ancient evolutionary beliefs about humans, personified as fish, evolving from the sea. It is from this practice we further get the tradition of leaving candy.
As many dressed in disguises they still worried that malevolent spirits may invade their home and so they left bowls of food outside to appease them and prevent them from coming inside. This also relates to the fact that Samhain was a Harvest Festival, which was celebrated with feasts of food.
The concept of going door-to-door asking for food or candy can thus be directly related to modern trick-or-treaters whom are simply dressing in spooky costumes and acting out the roaming of the dead form home to home. Modern participants in this ancient tradition unknowingly leave candy as a symbolic way of saying ‘don’t bother our home’. As trick-or-treaters offer the option of a ‘trick’ or ‘treat’, they are actually in a way threatening the provider of the food. It was believed if roaming spirits were not satisfied with the food, or if there was no ‘treat’, they would curse the home, and that is the ‘trick’, which relates directly to the modern mischief night when many people cause damage to property, and also to angry or confused roaming spirits perhaps doing the same. Other stories in England later tell of poor citizens begging for food and families giving them pastries called ‘Soul Cakes’ in return for promises to pray for their dead relatives. The cakes were called ‘soul’, relating to the later transformation of the pagan festivals into All Souls Day by the Church, which actually encouraged the practice of leaving wine and food for spirits. The tradition known as ‘trick-or-treat’ further has its roots in the tradition called ‘going-a-scowling’, where children would visit the home of their neighbor and be given food, ale, and even money.
The sacrifices performed at the Samhain fires were meant to appease the gods, specifically the Irish god Samhain who is known in Ireland as the ‘Lord of Darkness’, which is really Satan, the god of physical matter. This reminds me of the Gnostic observation of Yahweh as evil and calling him Ialdobaoth, the ‘Son of Darkness’. Other stories call Samhain the ‘Lord of the Dead’, but some say this is incorrect. According to certain translations, Samhain literally means ‘Summer’s End’ and relates to the belief that there were only two (dual) real seasons, the winter and summer. These two seasons represent the concepts of dark and light, the end and beginning of the year, which is why the Druids celebrated their New Year on November 1st, calling the date the Feast of Samhain.
Celtic belief professed that due to the blurred line between the spiritual and physical realms, the sinful souls of those who died during the year were placed in torment, and that they would only be released if the gods were appeased, such as Samhain, the ‘Lord of the Dead’.
Sacrifices during the harvest festival included the sacrifice of animals and perhaps humans as well. Many Greek and Roman writers documented the Druidic practices relating to their performance barbaric human sacrifice. However, these writings may also be somewhat bias depending on the intention of the writer at the time. It is no different than how we typically see Halloween as a demonic day, when it has nothing to do with the traditional Devil, but has been given that impression by the Church. Many ‘sacrifices’ were a means of purification and even though humans many have been claimed victim, some actually wanted the honor. Other participants played out a mock sacrifice, where they where symbolically thrown into the Samhain fire and then ignored as if dead for the remainder of the festival.
When Rome later attacked and conquered large portions of land occupied by those of Celtic beliefs, their festivals again merged with outside influences. This is the origin of the Roman Saturnalia turning into Christmas and the Roman Spring festival known as Februa, a time for ritual cleaning (spring cleaning), turning into Easter. Two more Roman festivals thus merged with the Celtic celebration of the Harvest Festival (Samhain) and the Druidic Feast of Samhain on November 1st.
The first Roman festival was Feralia, a day in late October when the Romans traditionally commemorated the passing of their dead. The second day was to honor Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit and trees. The symbol of Pomona is an apple and other than the association with similar goddesses and the biblical text, this is strongly related to the modern tradition of bobbing for apples. The practice was also an old pagan tradition equated with our modern wedding celebrations of tossing a bouquet of flowers. The woman catching the flowers is then seen as the next to be married and the woman able to bite into an apple is likewise the next to married. Essentially the act of bobbing for apples is another form of divination associated with these festivals, and more proof these traditions are still alive today.
Irish record tells of Catholic monks whom had a fascination with the Druids and they soon became important members of their monasteries; Pope Gregory thus attempted to incorporate their beliefs into the Church. When he attamped to do this, he made the proclamation, “They are no longer to sacrifice beasts to the devil, but they may kill them for food to the praise of god.”
When Pope Gregory attempted to merge pagan beliefs with Christian beliefs he designated the former Witches’ New Year (November 1st) as All Saints Day, previously celebrated on another day, to honor all Saints, and October 31st, as All-Hollows Eve. Pope Boniface IV later confirmed these dates.
Pope Gregory moved the previous Samhain celebration from October 31st to November 1st. The All Saints Day celebration was also referred to as All-Hallows or All-Hallowmas.
From Middle English Allhollowmas literally means ‘All Saints’ and the previous night before, became known as Halloween. By 1000 AD the Church made November 2nd All Souls Day in honor of all the people whom died during the year. This is directly related to the original beliefs in this time of the year held by the Celts. Thus we can see an absolute connection between pagan beliefs and modern Christian or Catholic practices.
To summarize the transition: Samhain (October 31st) and Witches’ New Year (November 1st / Celts) led to the creation of All Saints Day or Allhollowmas (November 1st / Church). The night before this day was called All-Hallows Eve (October 31th / Church), which eventually became what we now call Halloween. The third day of the festival then became All Souls Day (November 2nd / Church).
The celebration of Samhain is very similar in nature to Imbolc on February 2nd, which also included leaving food and drink for the goddess Brigid to invoke a blessing upon them. It was also known as a time for divination and special feasts.
JACK OF THE LANTERN
It was because of the pre-mentioned fear of sprits that the Celts would dress up in disguises to ward them off, but this is also the reason for carving of ‘scary’ faces into vegetables, such as turnips. They would then place a candle in them to bring light to the darkness. This tradition stems form the Samhain fires where participants would take a burning coal and place it inside of the carved out turnip in order to help guide their way home. Some people say they used pumpkins, but the Celts didn’t have pumpkins, as far as we know; they were more of a North American food. However, they did have beets, turnips, potatoes and other root vegetables.
The first example of the Jack O’Lantern appearing in American literature was an 1837 story by Nathaniel Hawthorne, who also wrote The Scarlet Letter. However, the carved lantern didn’t become officially associated with modern Halloween until around the time of the Civil War. In the more ancient world the lighted Jack O’Lantern came form the celebration of Samhain.
One of the most famous stories, though still probably forgotten among the masses, is the Irish myth of a man nicknamed ‘Stingy Jack’ (stin-gee). The story goes that Stingy Jack invited the Devil to have a drink, but Jack didn’t want to pay for his drink so he tricked the Devil into turning himself into a coin that he could use to buy their drinks. Once the Devil did this Jack decided to keep the money [devil] and put it into his pocket next a silver cross, which prevented the Devil from returning to his original form. Eventually Jack freed the Devil, but only if he agreed not to bother Jack for one year. The agreement included a provision that if Jack should die within this time, the Devil would not claim his soul. The next year however, Jack played another trick on the Devil by convincing him to climb into a tree for a piece of fruit. While he was in the tree, Jack carved a cross into the tree’s bark, which thus prevented him from coming down from the tree. Jack again made the Devil promise before allowing him to come down, that he would not bother him for another decade.
Not too long after, Jack died and God would not allow him into heaven. The Devil who was upset by being twice tricked by Jack kept his word and did not claim his soul, but would not allow Jack into hell. Due to his rejection from both heaven and hell, Jack was sent into the darkness of night with only a burning coal for illumination and the legend goes that he has been roaming the Earth ever since with a carved-out turnip where he placed the burning coal. Jack as an unsavory character tricking the Devil therefore makes him the Trickster.
Irish myth began to refer to this figure as Jack of the Lantern, and later this simply became Jack O’Lantern. The Irish and the Scottish made their own versions of Jack’s Lantern by carving scary faces into vegetables such as potatoes and placing them in their windows or near their front door to frighten away spirits including Stingy Jack. Large beets were used in England and it was an assortment of immigrants from these countries that brought with them the traditions not only of Halloween, but of the Jack O’Lantern, which later became iconic with the use of pumpkins and our modern celebrations of Halloween.
Although we have heard a lot about the evil spirits and disruptive ghosts entering people’s homes, there is also a less ‘dark’ side to our modern Halloween. Because the line between our world and the spirit world is blurred, spirits of loved ones also passed through. Some families, feeling especially close to the deceased during this time of the year, would set places at the dinner table, or leave treats on the doorsteps while lighting candles to help their loved ones find their way back to the spirit world, reminiscent of placing burning coals in turnips to light your way home and handing out food for trick-or-treaters.
Other superstitions such as black cats have much of its roots in the Middle Ages. During this time, many believed that witches avoided detection by turning themselves into cats. The idea of not walking under a ladder is one of safety, and one that some believe holds roots in Egypt, as they held triangles to be sacred.
No matter what you believe, you can be sure someone else believes the opposite. Sacrifices take place, divination occurs, food is left for literal or symbolic spirits represented by trick-or-treaters, and pumpkins are carved and lit. With nearly 7 billion dollars spent annually on Halloween, this makes the ancient holy-day feast and fertility festival the second largest commercial holiday in America. Even with all of that money spent, few understand or care to hear of the origins of what they invest so much time, energy, and money. The old adage goes that ‘where attention goes energy flows’ and this is vital in understanding one minor Sabbat within the Wheel of the Year known as Beltane or May Day. As most Wiccans know Samhain as a time of darkness and a major Sabbat, the opposite on the ‘Wheel’ is Beltane, known to be a time of light.
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The Grand Illusion Slaves to Perception (BUY HERE)
False Profits & the Lovers of Children (BUY HERE)
The Persistent Illusion (BUY HERE)
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