• Is Halloween Pagan? (2/2)

    From Steve Hayes@21:1/5 to All on Mon Oct 18 06:55:11 2021
    [continued from previous message]

    the phenomenon of ignited marsh gas, thought to be apparitions, and in
    eastern England these will-o’-the-wisps were referred to as “Jack o’lanterns”. This has given us the Irish-by-way-of-the-United-States
    modern version their name, though now made out of pumpkins. Again, the
    origin of the practice is obscure and there is no way of knowing if it
    was a pre- or post-Christian tradition.

    Other traditional Halloween games and practices involved various forms
    of divination, to predict the future regarding death, marriage and
    children. Not surprisingly, Halloween games often involved apples
    (e.g. bobbing for apples) or nuts, given these were collected around
    this time of year. But the most common modern Halloween traditions are
    a few Irish and Scottish practices that were transplanted to the
    United States, and then really only became popularised after the
    Second World War. The influence of American popular culture and the
    commercial opportunities the modern American-style festival provides
    to manufacturers of confectionary, toys and costumes means that, these
    days, the commercialised version of the holiday is now almost

    So, is it “Pagan”?

    The short answer is “no”. Contrary to Seth Andrews’ claims about “the Catholic Church” stealing a pagan festival “involving the druid
    priests and the people dressing up in masks and tricks and treats”,
    the date and most of the traditions are firmly Christian in origin.
    The November 1 date that is the centre of “Allhallowmas” was not
    derived from any “Celtic” original and the original Irish date for an
    All Saints feast moved from April 20 to November 1 due to the
    influence of Continental and English liturgical practice. That this
    meant the new All Saints Day fell on the “quarter day” of Samhain was
    pure coincidence. Contrary to repeated insistence in popular sources,
    scholars can find no clear indication of any ritual or religious
    practices on Samhain, and certainly none that can be traced to later
    Halloween traditions. Masks, costumes, trick or treating, Halloween
    games etc. all either have known traditional Christian origins or
    simply cannot be linked to anything definitely pre-Christian. Possibly
    the main thing that does connect Halloween to earlier beliefs about
    Samhain is the idea that it is a numinous time of year when this world
    and the otherworld become closer and, thus, it is a time to be wary of malevolent entities. But how much of that idea comes from
    pre-Christian beliefs and how much of it is a result of a Christian
    feast focused on the afterlife and the dead is, again, impossible to
    tell. It is most likely some combination of the two.

    What is very clear is that anti-theistic activists like Seth Andrews
    simply do not care about the details, let alone the truth behind the
    popular claims about Halloween being “pagan” in origin and simply “stolen” by Christianity. Despite exhorting others to “question everything” and check their facts, supposed rationalists like Andrews
    do not bother to practice what they preach if an idea fits neatly
    enough with their strong confirmation biases. And that is genuinely
    scary. Happy Halloween.


    Steve Hayes from Tshwane, South Africa
    Web: http://www.khanya.org.za/stevesig.htm
    Blog: http://khanya.wordpress.com
    E-mail - see web page, or parse: shayes at dunelm full stop org full stop uk

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