This essay augments the description in another essay of four Evangelical web sites which spread misinformation about Halloween:
Johanna Michaelsen was interviewed on 1999-OCT-28 during the 700 Club, a program of the Christian Broadcast Network (CBN). She is the author of The Beautiful side of Evil. 1 She believes that she sensed and has seen demonic spirits surrounding her since childhood. She was in training to be a spiritualist medium, but later trusted Jesus and was saved. She believes that when children dress up and go trick or treating, they are particularly targeted by occult forces.
We found some apparent errors in her statements:
– She said that the ancient Celts put criminals, bats and owls into a large wicker basket and set it on fire. This is probably not an historical event. It can be traced back to a single passage by Julius Caesar in a book about the Gauls. There have been countless references to human sacrifice by the Celts since, but all were derived from Caesar’s book. Caesar was fighting a war against the Celts at the time that he wrote this. Participants in wars typically demonize the enemy. Michaelsen said that these human sacrifices were offerings to Satan. But the Celts did not recognize a deity who corresponded to the Christian/Islamic Satan.
– She said that many Pagan Celtic traditions were imported to the U.S. from Europe including the Ouija board. Actually, the Ouija board was invented in Maryland circa 1890, and has no connection whatever to Celtic Paganism. 2
– Immediately after describing some accurate facts about Wicca she suddenly changed topics and said that most of the public school shootings were caused by occultic or demonic influences. She said that a German rock band, Ramstein, [sic] was a deadly influence at Columbine. Rammstein is a heavy metal band that combines industrial rock, metal and prog-rock. 3 Yet, a study of school shootings, shows that many were triggered by the perpetrators’ mental illness. The rest were motivated by revenge against marginalization of the perpetrators by the school’s ruling elite — the jocks and princesses. The violence was facilitated by easy access to guns.
– Satanists take Halloween activities of children very seriously because they expect to reign in the near future. In our studies of Satanism, we have never seen any references to Satanists planning to take over the world. It is unlikely that a group of perhaps 20,000 could engineer such a takeover.
– She drew similarities between the New Age movement and youth recruitment methods of Hitler’s Third Reich. Actually both New Age practitioners and Neopagans do not proselytize.
Jack Chick: His Web page states that:
– We cannot separate Halloween from its origin with the Druids. This is untrue. Christians have quite successfully separated Christmas from its Pagan origins in the winter solstice. Many, perhaps most, Christian seasonal days of celebration have Pagan roots which are unknown to most people. Many dozens of Christian saints were originally Pagan gods and goddesses; yet few realize this today.
bullet Ancient Greek and Roman authors “dwell heavily on their [Druids] frequent and barbaric human sacrifices.”
In reality, all modern and ancient discussions of the Druids’ alleged human sacrifices can be traced back to a single passage by Julius Caesar in a book about the Gauls. He wrote that the Druids employed the death penalty for persons convicted of murderer, theft, robbery and other crimes. This compares favorably with England at the beginning of the 19th century; they punished 222 offences by hanging (or worse). 4 Caesar goes on to assert that if the Gauls ran out of criminals, they substituted innocent people. There is good reason to believe that this addendum is simply a bit of wartime propaganda invented by the author. Caesar was involved in a military campaign against the Gauls at the time that he wrote this passage. He might have easily have been tempted to exaggerate the viciousness of his enemy, in order to inflate his own accomplishments. Truth is often the first casualty of war.
– The Druids used magic “to raise storms, lay curses on places, kill by the use of spells, and create magical obstacles.” Actually, the Druids were the professional class of Celtic society. Their duties included that of modern day priests, ambassadors, educators, judges, physicians, engineers, politicians, etc. As priests, they did bless and consecrate places, but we have not been able to find references to them engaging in black magic. The references to Druids engaging in evil sorcery probably had its origins in the Middle Ages and Renaissance when Witches were believed to kill people, raise storms, damage land etc through the use of curses.
All of these accusations are groundless; the Church invented them in ancient times to justify burning heretics at the stake. Evidence of evil activities was extracted by torture and is thus totally unreliable. 5,6 They have become free-floating legends today. They are frequently picked up and used to attack a variety of benign religious groups, ancient and modern.
– Druids in the 16th century were still engaging in ritual murder. This is unsubstantiated nonsense. Over the past 10 centuries, a variety of groups have been accused of ritual murder, including Jews, little people, Druids, Roman Catholics, Satanists and Wiccans (known popularly as White Witches). All of these unfounded claims can be traced back to the 2nd century CE when similar hate propaganda was circulated by Romans, accusing Christians of engaging in human sacrifice. These stories and urban legends have been with us for millennia; just the names of the perpetrators and victims change.
– Modern day Druids still engage in human sacrifice. This is unsubstantiated religious hate propaganda.
Ken Lanning of the FBI has complied a list of three dozen mostly religious groups which have been called Satanists and associated with ritual abuse and murder. They include Buddhists, Church of Scientology, Hindus, the Masonic Order, the Occult, Rosicrucians, Santeria, Voodoo, and dozens of others. There has never been a US court case involving hard evidence of ritual human sacrifice motivated by religious beliefs. The only reference to human sacrifice that we have uncovered was by the Solar Temple group. This was a splinter religious group with Roman Catholic Christian and New Age beliefs.
There are numerous Fundamentalist and other Evangelical Christians who claim that they once belonged to a Satanic group, rose to a position of great power in the organization, and engaged in evil, criminal acts, including murder and cannibalism. Many of these have been independently investigated; to our knowledge, all have been shown to be frauds and hoaxes.
– The Druids celebrated OCT-31 with many human sacrifices. This is creative fiction, not based on the historical record.
– Halloween is a Druidic festival honoring their sun god and Samhain, the lord of the dead. Identifying Samhain as a Celtic god of death is one of the most tenacious of errors associated with Halloween. The mistake is seen throughout Fundamentalist Christian literature and has even been picked up by secular media. Most Conservative essays on Halloween contain this error. In reality, Samhain means “end of summer”. The Celts observed two seasons: summer and winter. They may have had an obscure deity called Samhain; however he was not a major god, a sun god or a god of the dead.
– Ancient Celts gave out food on Halloween in order to appease the spirits of the dead. They feared that the spirits would harm them if sacrifices were not made to appease the God Samhain. The reverse is closer to the truth. The ancestral dead were believed to rise from their tombs on Halloween, “bringing gifts to the children of their living descendants.” 7
– Modern day Satanists put razor blades, drugs, poisons, needles etc in Halloween treats in order to kill or injure children. This is one of the most tenacious of Christian urban folk tales. Many cases of such poisonings have been reported by the media; all or essentially all are hoaxes.
Jack Chick publishes a series of cartoon tracts. 8 Most have salvation as their theme; three deal with Halloween:
-“T he Trick” describes how a group of Satanists (interchangeably called Witches in the tract), need to “prepare more children to worship and serve our father” (Satan). This involves placing razor blades, crushed glass, pins etc. in candy given out at Halloween. Poisons and drugs will be used to create “total sacrifices.” (murder of children). That Halloween, the TV newscast talks about many children being taken to hospital.
Becky, an ex-witch who now serves Jesus explains that the ancient Druids sacrificed humans on Halloween. They would go through the neighborhood and demand a child or virgin for sacrifice. She says that “The children who are mutilated and murdered every Halloween are no accident. They are carefully planned sacrifices to Satan, carried out by those who serve and worship him.” 9
– “Boo” describes how a group of youths rent a camp to hold a Halloween party. They decide to sacrifice a cat. But Satan breaks in with a chainsaw and kills most of them. He goes into the town, but is stopped and runs away when he comes across a Christian praying. Halloween is described as the most solemn ceremony of the year to Satanists and Witches. They show an apparently naked woman lying on an altar who is about to be stabbed to death. The caption reads that Satanism is increasing and with it, there are more human sacrifices. They repeat the fable about the original Druids demanding victims for human sacrifice on this night. Again, “Satanists” and “Witches” are two terms that are used interchangeably throughout the tract. 10
– “Happy Halloween” describes how some youths visited a haunted house on Halloween. They met an evil Witch, and narrowly missed being captured by some rather scary individuals. Timmy was accidentally killed in an unrelated car accident, and went directly to Hell where he will exist for eternity, being continuously tormented. His friend Bobby was so shocked by this experience that he became saved and thus believes that he will go to Heaven at his death. The comic strip is available on-line 8
Tricia Schnell: Her essay “Is Halloween in Harmony with Christianity?” repeats many of the same falsehoods as Jack Chick. 11 She mentions some additional points:
– In ancient times, animals were sacrificed during Samhain. There is an element of truth in this statement. In earlier eras, domesticated cattle herds would be thinned out at the end of October, in order to match the size of the heard to the available food supply. Also, animals, which would not likely survive the hardships of the winter, were weeded out. The Celts would slaughter some animals and hold a great feast at that time of year. People in North America do much the same: Flocks of turkeys are decimated each year at Thanksgiving.
– Can a Christian, knowing the occultic origins of this day, participate in Halloween? She, like many conservative Christians, lumps together many unrelated religions, men’s fraternal orders, methods of foretelling the future and harmless pastimes into a box and labels it “The Occult”. Most people view the Occult as a very large collection of various unrelated activities, none of which involve human abuse or sacrifice.
– October 31 has been and is a day of fear. It is highly doubtful that most people react to Halloween with real fear, either in the past or present. If they did, then the holiday would have fallen into disuse. Much of the popularity of Halloween is due to the joy people have in being scared. Horror movies fulfill the same need. Everyone knows that they are just pretend fantasy; they like being safely terrified out of their wits for a few hours each year.
William J. Schnoebelen: He is introduced as a Satanist, yet identifies himself as a “witch high priest”. This is not a term used by either Satanists or Neo-Pagans. A book reviewer pointed out that Schnoebelen claims to have studied four different traditions within Wicca, and became a “high priest” in each of them:
– Alexandria Wicca
– Druidic Craft of the Wise (Actually Druidism is not a part of Wicca)
– Church of All Worlds
– Church and School of Wicca.
Another Amazon.com book reviewer wrote: “This from a man who supposedly, in one lifetime, has been A Catholic Priest, a high degree Mason, A Wiccan High Priest, Hard-core (baby sacrificing) Satanist, a Mormon, AND an evangelical Christian…”
In his essay, “Should Christians celebrate Halloween?” he explains that children will open up a spiritual doorway that may lead to demonic possession or oppression by going house to house, trick or treating. He makes some additional points: 12
– Halloween is the Number One satanic ‘helliday’ of the year. Actually, a Satanist’s main day of celebration is his/her own birthday.
– Halloween is still celebrated as an ancient pagan festival of the dead by witches all over the world. Actually, the festival is primarily a harvest celebration, and a time to foretell the future.
– During Halloween, gods (actually demons) are worshipped with human sacrifice. Presumably, this refers to the belief that Satanists, Wiccans, other Neopagans etc. ritually sacrifice humans. This is simple religious hatred and misinformation intended to whip up bigotry against minority religions.