Book: Occult Holidays or God’s Holy Days—Which?

Every year hundreds of millions of people throughout the world celebrate Halloween. During this celebration, children put on costumes or disguise themselves, walk through neighborhoods, knock on doors, and speak the words “trick or treat,” expecting to receive candy or money. Many churches are involved, sponsoring Halloween parties for children, complete with costumes, games and apple-bobbing contests. Adults attend glitzy Halloween costume parties, dances and balls, most of them oblivious to the fact that this night celebrates Wicca’s most important “high Sabbat” in devotion to pagan gods and goddesses.

Centuries after the apostles’ deaths, Orthodox Christendom appropriated Halloween as one of its official holidays, and Halloween’s observance has been accepted as “Christian” ever since. However, it is anything but Christian! In fact, the custom originated in the ancient pagan world and was celebrated centuries before the New Testament Church was founded. In tracing the roots of this pagan holiday, it is necessary to go back to an early period in mankind’s history, to the time just after sin entered the world through disobedience to God and His laws and commandments.

Pre-Christian History

After Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden for their sins, their descendants continued to live in disobedience and wickedness. There were only a few who loved and obeyed God. After fifteen hundred years, all mankind had given themselves over to evil and wickedness, causing the Lord God to execute His judgment against them and destroy that world with a universal flood. “And the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD repented that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. And the LORD said, ‘I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, and the crawling thing, and the fowl of the air; for I repent that I have made them.’… Now the earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. And God looked upon the earth, and behold, it was corrupt—for all flesh had corrupted its way upon the earth. And God said to Noah, ‘The end of all flesh has come before Me, for the earth is filled with violence through them. And, behold, I will destroy them with the earth’ ” (Gen. 6:5-7, 11-13). (See Appendix C, Halloween and the Flood of Noah—Is There a Link? p. 291.) Because Noah was a just man and walked with God, he found “grace in the eyes of the LORD.” In His mercy God rescued Noah, his wife, his three sons and their wives. In addition, God selected certain animals, birds, insects, crawling creatures, and together they were all saved in the ark from the destruction of that world by the universal flood (Gen. 6:8-8:22).

After the flood, however, mankind soon returned to their wicked ways in rebellion against God and began following Nimrod. “And Cush begat Nimrod. He began to be a mighty one in the earth. He was a mighty hunter against [in place of] the LORD. Therefore it is said, ‘Like Nimrod— the mighty hunter against [in place of] the LORD.’ And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel and Erech and Accad and Calneh, in the land of Shinar” (Gen. 10:8-10).

At Babel, Nimrod and his wife, Semiramis, established a religious system in rebellion against God—wherein they and their followers also established a dictatorial government epitomized by building a tower to “reach unto heaven.” They believed Satan’s lie that if they worshiped him they would become gods in the flesh. (See The Two Babylons by Alexander Hislop for a complete and detailed historical documentation; available at

The book of Genesis contains this account: “And the whole earth was of one language and one speech. And it came to pass, as they traveled from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar. And they settled there. And they said to one another, ‘Come, let us make bricks and burn them thoroughly.’ And they had brick for stone, and they had asphalt for mortar. And they said, ‘Come, let us build us a city and a tower, with its top reaching into the heavens. And let us establish a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered upon the face of the whole earth.’ And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower which the children of men had built. And the LORD said, ‘Behold, the people are one and they all have one language. And this is only the beginning of what they will do—now nothing which they have imagined to do will be restrained from them. Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, so that they cannot understand one another’s speech.’ So the LORD scattered them abroad from that place upon the face of all the earth. And they quit building the city. Therefore the name of it is called Babel, because the LORD confused the language of all the earth there. And from there the LORD scattered them abroad upon the face of all the earth” (Gen. 11:1-9).

Wherever the people were scattered, they took their false religion with them. Since their one language was changed into many languages, we find in antiquity various names for the same false gods and goddesses (or demons).

In his epistle to the Romans, the apostle Paul wrote that because men did not want to retain the knowledge of God, He abandoned them to their own depraved imaginations: “And in exact proportion as they did not consent to have God in their knowledge, God abandoned them to a reprobate mind…” (Rom. 1:28-32).

The worship of the sun (symbolized by the sacred serpent), along with nature worship, has its roots in this rejection of God and His Word. In rebellion, mankind watched the changing of the seasons and observed the life and death of crops, perceiving such natural processes as mystic. They developed fertility cults with gods and goddesses who died and were reborn. Thus the worship of the earth’s “spirit” as a mother and the incarnation of the earth’s fertility forces within dying gods and goddesses developed into one of the most widespread forms of pagan religion recorded in antiquity.

Whether it was Inanna of the Sumerians, Ishtar of the Babylonians, or Fortuna of the Romans, every civilization had a sect of religion based on the embodiment of the earth’s spirit as a caring mother-goddess. The Egyptians worshipped Hathor in this manner, as did the Chinese with Shingmoo. The Germans worshipped Hertha as the great Mother Earth, and the apostate Jews idolized “the queen of heaven.” In Greece, Gaia is Mother Earth, the creator of all things. Beneath her were many other earth goddesses including Demeter, Artemis (Diana), Aphrodite, and Hecate. Hecate, the Titan earth mother of wizards and witches, was considered to be the underworld sorceress of all that is demonic.

Goddess Hecate: As the dark goddess of witchcraft, Hecate was worshiped with mystical rites and magical incantations. Her name was most likely derived from the ancient Egyptian word Heka (“sorcery” or “magical”), which may explain her association with the Egyptian frog goddess of the same name. This may also explain the affiliation of frogs with witchcraft.

Hecate’s followers sincerely believed in and feared her magic and presence, and magical ritual was used to appease her. This appeasement of the dark goddess was primarily due to her role as the sorceress of the afterlife, but pagans also thought she had the ability to afflict the mind with madness.

Physical locations that had a history of violence were believed to be magnets for malevolent spirits, a concept similar to that of “haunted houses.” If one wanted to get along with the local resident ghosts, he needed to sacrifice to the ruler of the darkness, Hecate. A night owl was thought to announce the acceptance of these sacrifices, and those who gathered on the eve of the full moon perceived its hoot as a good omen. Hecate’s devotees left food offerings for the goddess (“Hecate’s Supper”) and sometimes sacrificed puppies and female black lambs.

Deformed and vicious owl-like affiliates of Hecate called “strigae” were thought to fly through the night feeding on the bodies of unattended babies. During the day the strigae appeared as simple old women, and such folklore may account for the myths of flying witches. The same strigae hid amidst the leaves of trees during the annual festival of Hecate, held on August 13, when Hecate’s followers offered up the highest praise to the goddess, communed with the tree spirits (earth spirits, including Hecate, were thought to inhabit trees—the basis for the modern radical ecology movement) and summoned the souls of the dead from the mouths of nearby caves. It was here that Hecate was known as Hecate-Chthonia (“Hecate of the earth”), a depiction in which she most clearly embodied the popular earth-mother-spirit—or Mother Nature.

Hecate was known by other names throughout the pagan world. Some people regarded her as Hecate-Propylaia, “the one before the gate,” a role in which she guarded the entrances of homes and temples from nefarious outside evils. Others knew her as Hecate-Propolos, “the one who leads” as an underworld guide. Finally, she was known as Hecate-Phosphoros, “the light bearer,” her most sacred title and one that recalls another powerful underworld spirit, Satan, who appears as a messenger of light. However, it was her role as the feminist earth-goddess-spirit Hecate-Chthonia that popularized her divinity (Anderson, D., Happy Halloween? 2004).

Modern pagans perceive the earth similarly, often referring to the earth as Gaia—a living, caring entity. They believe that people are one of Mother Earth’s species rather than her dominators. She provides the living biosphere—the regions on, above, and below her surface, where created things, both physical and spiritual, live (Anderson, D., What Witches Do After Halloween, 2004).

Wiccans (modern pagans) and witches acknowledge all of the so-called deities (demons) that ancient peoples worshipped. However, the primary deities are “the Goddess and the God,” the Great (Earth) Mother and her horned consort, the “Horned God,” the ancient god of fertility.

Horned God: The Horned God is actually a modern term invented in the 20th century to link together numerous male nature gods out of such widely dispersed and historically unconnected mythologies as the Celtic Cernunnos, the Welsh Caerwiden, the English Herne the Hunter, the Hindu Pashupati, the Greek Pan and various satyrs—and even a Paleolithic cave painting known as “the Sorcerer” in the Cave of the Three Brothers in France.

The Greek god Pan is perhaps the most familiar form of the Horned God/Wild Man archetype. The ancient scholars of Alexandria believed that Pan personified the Natural Cosmos, and the word Pantheism is derived from this idea in which all Nature is God and God is All Nature. Arcadian Greece first recorded Pan’s worship.

The Horned One, or Cernunnos, is a Celtic god of fertility, life, animals, wealth, and the underworld. His worship spread throughout Gaul and into Britain as well. Paleolithic cave paintings found in France that depict a stag standing upright or a man dressed in stag costume seem to indicate that Cernunnos’ origins date to those times. Known to the Druids as Hu Gadarn, he was the god of the underworld and astral planes and the consort of the great goddess.

The Horned God has cloven hoofs or the hindquarters of a goat with a human torso and a human but goat-horned head. The god’s horns are seen as phallic symbols, representing male potency, strength and protection. As a symbol of sexuality, the Horned God is complementary to female fertility deities known collectively as the Great Mother. In this context, he is sometimes referred to as the Great God or the Great Father. He impregnates the goddess and dies during the autumn and winter months and is reborn gloriously in the spring, while the goddess always lives on as Mother Earth, giving life to the Horned God as he moves through the eternal cycle of life, death and rebirth. He alternates with the goddess of the moon in ruling over life and death, continuing the cycle of death, rebirth and reincarnation (Wikipedia, Horned God, 2005; Smith, Dr. A., Cernunnos, 1997, 1999).

This pagan belief in a cycle of life, death and rebirth as portrayed by the seasons of the year can be found in every ancient culture.

Druid Origins and Customs of Halloween

The origins of Halloween can specifically be traced to the ancient Celts (who lived in what is now known as Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Northern France) and their Druid priests. The end of October commemorated their festival of the waning year, when the sun began its downward course and the fields yielded ripened grain. “Samhain” or “Summer’s End,” as this feast to the dying sun was called, was celebrated with human sacrifice, divination or soothsaying and prayers. Druids believed that during this season spirits walked, and evil held power over the souls of men.

On October 31, their New Year’s Eve, great bonfires were kindled, which were thought to simulate the sun and to procure blessings for the entire succeeding year. The fires remained burning as a means to frighten away evil spirits. The Druids held these early Halloween celebrations in honor of Samhain, also known as Lord of the Dead, whose festival fell on November 1. These bonfires, or “bone fires,” were also used in animal and human sacrifice—thus the name. The tradition of lighting a bonfire has continued to modern times.

The Druids believed that people needed to be cleansed after they died. Samhain supposedly condemned the souls of the departed to inhabit the bodies of animals. Kurt Koch writes in Occult ABC, “During the night of October 31, the enchanted souls were freed by the Druid god, Samhain, and taken together into the Druid heaven. This festival was always accompanied by animal and sometimes human sacrifices and linked with all kinds of magic” (p. 87). The Druids held back no cruelty in attempting to please the Lord of the Dead!

During the festival of Samhain, people believed that there was a very thin veil between the living and the dead, and they feared that the dead would come back in search of bodies to possess. Fearing possession, people did many things to trick the spirits such as dressing up to look like them. Druid priests wore masks, so they would not be recognized and attacked by evil spirits. Others wore frightening costumes to scare the evil spirits away. Celts also hollowed out a turnip, on which they carved a grotesque face to fool demons. They carried lanterns to light their way in the dark and to ward off evil spirits (Pagan Traditions of the Holidays, pp. 79-80).

Druid Jack-O-Lantern and Trick-or-Treat: The Druids originated the practice of hollowing out turnips or potatoes (Jack-O-Lanterns) and filling them with human fat. Whenever a raiding party came to a home to demand of the husband that someone inside be surrendered as a human sacrifice, they would light a Jack-O-Lantern filled with human fat; if the husband relented and provided one of his loved ones as a sacrifice, the Druid party would leave the burning Jack-O-Lantern on the porch. This lantern would tell the other raiding parties and the demonic host that this home had surrendered a human for sacrifice and that the remaining people inside were to be left alone. This guarantee, that no one else in the house would be harmed, was the “treat.”

If the husband refused to surrender one of his loved ones, a “trick” would be placed upon the house. The members of the raiding party would draw a large hexagram using human blood on the front door. (They got the blood for the hexagram from a dead body which they dragged around with them.) The demonic host would be attracted to this hexagram and would invade the house, causing one or more of the inhabitants to either go insane or die from fright (America’s Occult Holidays, p. 20).

Various names for the Jack-O-Lantern through the years have included “Lantern Men,” “Hob-O-Langer,” “Will-O-The-Wisp,” “Fox Fairy,” etc. “Jack” is a nickname for “John,” which is a common slang word meaning, “man.” Thus, “Jack-O-Lantern” literally means, “man with a lantern.”

Many legends have grown up around the lore of the Jack-O-Lantern. According to some, Jack is a wandering soul trapped between heaven and hell. Another tale—about a drunk named Jack who made a deal with the devil—claims to be the true origin of the Jack-O-Lantern myth. In Halloween, Helen Borten writes:

An Irish legend tells how this [lantern] custom began. A man named Jack was kept out of Heaven because he was stingy. The gates of Hell were closed to him, too, because he had played jokes on the Devil. Poor Jack, carrying a lantern to light his way, was supposed to walk the earth forever.

Whatever the true roots of the Jack-O-Lantern, it has become a predominant symbol of Halloween.

Games to divine the future have always been popular Halloween rituals. “Bobbing for apples” was a game played during the ancient Roman Pomona’s festival (Pomona was the goddess of fruit), which occurred at about the same time after the autumn equinox. This game was later adopted by the Celts, who used it to divine the future. A young man who was able to secure an apple between his teeth was assured of his girl’s love for the coming year. The Snap Apple game was one in which each person, in his turn, would spring up in an attempt to bite an apple that was being twirled on the end of a stick. The first to succeed would be the first to marry.

Questions concerning marriage, luck, health, and the time of one’s death were popular subjects of divination. In Scotland, young people pulled shoots out of the ground to ascertain which of them would marry during the coming year and in what order the marriages should occur.

Owls, bats, cats and toads were an essential part of Halloween divination. Witches considered these creatures to be demon-possessed and controlled. Traditionally they were known as the “witch’s familiars.” A divining “familiar” was the species of animal whose shape Satan would assume in order to aid the witch in divining the future. A witch would closely watch the animal’s movements (whether slow or fast)—and she would note the direction in which the animal moved and the kinds of sounds it made in order to foretell length of life and/or impending illness (Pagan Traditions of Holidays, pp. 75-76).

Today in parts of Ireland, October 31 is still known as “Oidhch Shamhna,” or “Vigil of Saman.” In the next chapter, we will learn how Halloween became an official holiday of Orthodox Christendom.