Dressing in costume for Halloween has both ancient and modern roots. The Druids believed Samhain (Halloween) was a time when the spirits (friendly or unfriendly) could easily pass through to the earthly world and vice versa. To celebrate, they built huge sacred bonfires, dressed in animal heads and skins and sought methods of divination to predict the long cold winter ahead.
Fearful of encountering mischievous spirits after dark, people wore masks so the ghost would mistake them for fellow spirits. Bowls of food would be placed outside their homes to feed the wandering spirits and prevent their entering.
In Medieval times, we find various costumed adults and teenagers parading and merrymaking at such times as May Day, Halloween and Yule. Depending on the season, different themes were used but the costumed participants went from house to house demanding beer and food in exchange for their performance. Sounds a bit like “caroling” in costume, if you ask me.
The word Halloween, also known as All Souls Day came from the Roman Catholic Church and celebrated the remembrance of the Saints and those departed. Children began the custom of souling or dressing in rags and going door to door in search for soul cakes in return for prayers for the deceased. Guising consisted of masquerading with scooped-out turnip lanterns and going door to door in hope of cakes, fruit and money.
These are but a few of the practices in which one can find elements in Halloween today. Adults and teenagers dress in costumes and party, while children go door to door in exchange for sweets. All the above involved some form of dressing in costume but what impact if any does this have on kids today? We have to go all the way back to the Celtic and Druid priest to find any “spiritual” element in these practices so the likely question would be: how do you begin your Halloween celebration? Are you lighting your fireplace, dressing in costume and using methods of divination and communicating with the dead or simply letting your kids dress up and go trick or treating? Most kids have one thing on their minds while trick or treating…. candy! And most adults are thinking about “safety” making sure to have well-lit trick or treaters.
If we really get down to it, most holidays that we celebrate can all be tied to pagan origins. The Christmas tree was originally a fertility symbol, as was and is, Easter eggs. More importantly, where is your heart and mind when participating in any holiday? Is your focus on goddess worship and communicating with the dead? Certainly not… and if you’re not giving homage to anything ungodly why would you be condemned? Scripture tells us that it was acceptable for Christians to eat meat in the market without questioning their conscience even though it may have been sacrificed to idols (1 Cor. 10: 23-33) I honestly believe we are closer to incorporating pagan beliefs in our lives when watching the Olympic ceremonies (See my Olympic Cauldron blog) because every Olympian event to this day begins at the ancient temple of the goddess in a ritual that lights the flame carried to officially start the games. Ironically, many Christians sit glued to their television watching the opening and closing ceremonies in awe, decorated with pagan symbolism.
So what does the mom at Wal-Mart do when her daughter insists on being the pretty witch? If it’s any consolation, I can tell you that the pretty black satin and lace dresses at times will be worn in public as casual dress by witches, but true ritual garb would consist of custom robes or being sky clad (naked). Samhain costumes most likely are hand sewn although some busy pagans may revert to store-bought attire. Pointed hats are also not something worn by witches except perhaps for fun. Having these resources in your hand, you can now make a conscience decision on how to respond to that little witch costume request. It may be time to do a little research on your own into women of the Bible and create an appealing alternative costume. For the little girl who likes satin and lace… you could probably purchase or create an elaborate angel costume to fulfill her desire and ease your mind. Regardless how you choose to handle Halloween... pray and be clothed in the light of Jesus to shine in the darkness and that the lost will see His light through you.
© S. A. Tower