By Lee Williams, Communication Activist
It’s no secret that adults love Halloween just as much as kids do. Some may rationalize that costume parties, carving pumpkins, and an excuse to drink copious amounts of alcohol is the perfect way to celebrate fall. But before you party and puke yourself silly in your Incredible Hulk costume, or take the walk of shame back home in your Miley Cyrus VMA outfit, complete with foam finger, did you know that your Halloween successes, celebrations, and regrets were, in a way, a link to pagan devil worship?
Let me back up a bit. This Halloween, college campuses and the typical young adult Halloween party is sure to be overflowing with sexually fueled costumes. The most popular costumes for females are extremes of seduction, usually ultra dominant or submissive in nature, such as sexy cops, nurses, dominatrix maids, or sexy fairy tale characters, while men opt for overly masculine costumes or muscle-bound superheroes. The obvious commonality is sexuality, as further elaborated on in Time Magazine’s article on Halloween spending. According to the National Retail Federation’s annual Halloween survey, 18 to 24 year-olds are expected to spend $1.22 billion on costumes this year, outspending children’s costumes by approximately 20 million, and many of which are sexual in theme. As they say, sex sells.
The intent of this article is not to demonize Halloween party goers, but to give the entire perspective on the activities and beliefs of the “holiday”. Human beings are very primal in nature and they tend to repeat history, whether they realize it or not.
Artistic depiction of a bonfire feast during the Celtic festival of “Samhain”.
The origins of Halloween are a blend of religious and ancient, pagan customs and beliefs. Halloween, in ancient times known as the Celtic festival of “Samhain” meant “summer’s end” and was a time of year when spirits and fairies were believed to be heavily active in the living world. In other regions of Europe, it became known as “All Hallows Eve” and was the day before “All Saint’s Day” in which Celtic inspired Christians would pray for the souls who had not reached heaven. Over time, Halloween emerged as the contradictory love child of these two festival days, sort of a hybrid black sheep among the other holidays. During these times, the souls of the dead were said to wander among the people and to revisit their homes. According to folk customs, many of the spirits were malevolent and sometimes violently desiring to remain in the human world, or to lustfully interact with humans while they still had the chance.
That’s right, Casper was a hit-it-and-quit-it kind of guy.
Seeking protection, the pagans would dress in costumes in order to scare OR ATTRACT the spirits, sometimes even using carved jack-o-lanterns, eaten corn on the cob hulls, or scary decorations in order to protect their homes. Bonfires were even used for divination, AKA seeing the future, and scaring witches, and then they all would sing and dance in the warmth of hell-fire, good alcohol, and spiritual ambiguity with whatever ghoul they’d wake up next to the following morning.
This puts an entirely new spin on the sexy and risqué costuming that so many pursue during Halloween. Trick or treat?
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- Rogers, Nicholas (2002). “Samhain and the Celtic Origins of Halloween”. Halloween: From Pagan Ritual to Party Night, pp. 11–21. New York: Oxford Univ. Press. ISBN 0-19-516896-8.
- Anglo-Saxon Spirituality: Selected Writings (Robert Boenig), Paulist Press, page 7
- Santino, Jack. The Hallowed Eve: Dimensions of Culture in a Calendar Festival of Northern Ireland. University Press of Kentucky, p.95
- A Pocket Guide To Superstitions Of The British Isles (Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd; Reprint edition: 4 November 2004) ISBN 0-14-051549-6