It's that time of year again, loved by children and dreaded by older people and pets - Halloween. A night when the next knock to the door will bring a fresh batch of pint-sized ghouls collecting ‘treats’ under the threat of a ‘trick’ if the goodies are not forthcoming. This might be considered the relatively harmless side to a festival that owes much of its modern aspect to the influence of our American cousins, the pumpkin, ‘trick or treat’ etc,.The origins however go all the way back to the Celts who celebrated Samhain when they believed that the line between this world and the world of the dead was at its finest, and spirits freely moved abroad revisiting their old homes and sometimes even communicating with the living. Halloween was essentially a festival of death which the Christian church tried to redeem by renaming it the feast of All Souls or All Hallows. There are many who think that this compromise with the Pagan worldview ultimately sapped the church of its spiritual distinctive and its power and authority. In the Old Testament God commanded His people to abstain from the pagan and occultic practises around them, “For example, never sacrifice your son or daughter as a burnt offering. And do not let your people practice fortune-telling or sorcery, or allow them to interpret omens, or engage in witchcraft, or cast spells, or function as mediums or psychics, or call forth the spirits of the dead. Anyone who does these things is an object of horror and disgust to the Lord.” (Deuteronomy 18:10-12)
So we are left with the current mishmash of Halloween ,ancient and modern, sinister and benign. For those of you who might think I’m making a mountain out of a mole hill in this regard, modern Pagans regard this time of year as their most sacred and special. The grotesque masks, the eerily lit pumpkins and the blood-curdling shrieks may all seem tame enough but there is an underbelly to Halloween that feeds into our fear of the unknown and our fascination with the ‘other-side’. The Bible warns us to Test everything. Hold on to the good” (1 Thes 5:21) Here in Limerick on Halloween a Psychic Fair is setting up shop in a local hotel offering free admission for children with lots of ‘fun and games’. And while the little ones are occupied, ma and pa can mingle with Ireland’s ‘top mediums, psychics and clairvoyants’ Amongst the services offered are tarot, angel and tea-leaf readings, aura photography and crystal therapy, all occult practises presented as innocently as if they were nothing more than an exotic foreign cuisine. The problem with the Psychic Fair menu is that there is no adequate ‘spirit’ ingredient list and each and every one of these ‘crafts’ should carry a spiritual health warning. For the curious and the adventurous take heed of this Scripture, “Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead, rebuke and expose them. It is shameful even to talk about the things that ungodly people do in secret." ( Eph 5:7-12) .
In fact Halloween itself is a bit of con job with the upfront burlesque of theatrics and cant veiling something altogether more ancient and sinister. The world of the occult is hidden for good reason, it is prohibited territory for man in his present fallen imperfect state. It may hold out the prospect of enlightenment or even revelation but in truth it is nothing more than a delusion that can lead the unsuspecting on a perilous journey that will surely end in spiritual ruin and destruction. The cult of death is already too present in our beleaguered country with deaths from suicide alone having risen by 40% for the first three months of this year. Jesus calls us to life and light , removing our fears with His perfect love, and offering us His peace to calm our inner turmoil..Whoever penned this old Scottish prayer got it just about right when he asked,
'From ghoulies and ghosties
And long-legged beasties
And things that go bump in the night,
Good Lord, deliver us! '