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The origins of Halloween intrigue me, not only because I was born on October 31, but also because in the Western world I live in it is so closely celebrated. As it is the case with many topics on this website, the main goal is to uncover aspects of the world which are not so usually …   Read More

The origins of Halloween intrigue me, not only because I was born on October 31, but also because in the Western world I live in it is so closely celebrated. As it is the case with many topics on this website, the main goal is to uncover aspects of the world which are not so usually discussed. On the surface Halloween is the time of the year youngsters look forward to to dress up and party and the kids to it is to dress up and to trick-or-treating. Halloween represents a major business opportunity for malls and the businesses therein. It is the time where the most candy is purchased, in the United States alone that number is 600 million pounds of candy per year. I wanted to write about the origins of Halloween for the longest time, because I think it will help us appreciate the holiday for more than a consumption day or a day of empty celebration. The immediate fact that I think it is worth establishing is that Halloween is in no way a holiday directly associated the Western culture, or associated with any mainstream religions, such as Christianity, Islam or Judaism. However, there are some relationships associated with the timing of the year. Everyone knows that Halloween is the time we see the most skulls, craved pumpkins, skeletons, zombies, ghosts, witches, monsters and the likes. The bible directly prohibits the veneration of such beings.

Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God. – 3 John 1:11

And since I have said, there is no direct association, the act of partaking in the celebration of Halloween is, in religious terms, a pagan ritual.

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The etymology of Halloween is a two part for Hallow: “to make holy or sacred, to sanctify or consecrate, to venerate,” and  Even: “equal in number, amount, or value.”

Unbeknownst to most, whenever you participate, as innocently as it may seem, you are actually engaging a long term tradition. Halloween or All Hallows’ Evening, directly reference to the evening before All Hallows’ Day or All Saints’ Day, Halloween is according to Wicca tradition, a spiritually celebration which begins in the hours of 6pm on October 31 and ends in November 1 at the same time. At which point, All Hallows Day really starts. In old Celtic traditions, the celebration of Halloween, or Samhain is the time in which fairies transcend our plane of existence, this is why in ancient traditions, the people would dress up to disguise themselves from fairies or spirits. As this time is such a sensitive time, or cross over of spiritual plane, the disguise is a protection from the potential exposure to bad spirits.

A Wiccan celebration of Samhain involves bond fires, chanting and collection of harvest.
A Wiccan celebration of Samhain involves bond fires, chanting and collection of harvest.

The Wicca, is one of the fastest growing religions in the West.

The American Religious Identification Survey gives Wicca an average annual growth of 143% for the period 1990 to 2001 (from 8,000 to 134,000 – U.S. data / similar for Canada & Australia).

For them Samhain as celebrated on October 31 is their biggest holidays. The Wiccans also see Halloween as the harvest’ end, which means at around this time all that needed to be picked up or slaughtered needs to take place, so that winter can begin with their months of frozen crops. A Wiccan would further set up an altar, place candles, some of the harvest and sign songs. In the Christian tradition, Halloween is part of Hallowtide or the trinity, which begins with All Hallows’ Eve, then proceeds to All Hallows’ Day and ends with All Souls’ Day. It does become fuzzy when we consider why a very pagan tradition had to be eventually adopted by the Catholic Church. It really stats to become more puzzling when you consider how All Saints’ Day is celebrated in Mexico on November 1.

Mictlantecuhtli, Aztec god of the dead, usually portrayed with a skull face.
Mictlantecuhtli, Aztec god of the dead, usually portrayed with a skull face.

Most people are familiar with Mexico’s “Dia de los Muertos,” which translates to Day of the Death, a celebration that is booming with symbolism of skulls and endemic art, which does have plenty of death of symbolism. Many scholars believed present day’s celebration directly relate to ancient celebrations dating back to the Aztecs and before that the Mayans. After all, it is clear, by looking at art that represents their mythology. In Mayan religion, they believe in Mayan death ghosts, or otherwise called the Gods of the underworld. It is no wonder that there is a ressurgance over this believe in the form of “Santa Muerte” or Holy Death, the veneration of death itself. One of the fastest religions in Mexico, the numbers are growing with millions of followers being added, many are converts from Catholism. Unfortunately, the religion or cult has been highly associated with drug cartels, with many drug traffickers adopting the symbolism of the skulls faces through tattoos.

Holy Death is considered a cult, but fast becoming a religion drawing millions in Mexico.
Holy Death is considered a cult, but fast becoming a religion drawing millions in Mexico.

If there is one thing that has become clear to me, after looking into the origins of Halloween is that pretty much in every corner of the world, knowingly or unknowingly, many cultures celebrate this day, there are many names for it as there are names for death itself. However, it should be noted that as were the ancient Celts, or the Mayans, cultures which did not have any known contact and which proceeded biblical accounts, Halloween has had its mark, as it is perhaps one of the only left traditions inherited by generations through centuries.   Sources used: http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/380790/Mictlantecuhtli http://www.democraticunderground.com/1017104556 http://www.news.com.au/world/the-battle-for-a-nations-soul-how-the-cult-of-santa-muerte-has-infested-mexicos-drug-cartels-with-gruesome-consequences/story-fndir2ev-1226867231755 http://www.openbible.info/topics/celebrating_halloween

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