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Linking christianity with its pagan roots

Updated on June 18, 2013
Paganism and Christianity
Paganism and Christianity

Pagan Roots and the Demonization of Halloween

Christianity's Pagan Roots and the Demonization of Halloween

I’ve often wondered why so many theists (Christians especially) equate Halloween with the devil, evil or something negative. The only thing I can come up with that could possibly be taken into consideration is the fact that Halloween used to be a purely pagan holiday, but that rationality doesn’t really make sense when you consider that ALL Christian holidays from Easter to Christmas to Halloween and more all had pagan roots. When Christianity came to power, one of their methods of gaining new converts (and making their zombie/lich religion more tenable to the pagan converts) was to convert pre-existing holidays into Christian holy days with a new name and a new meaning behind their celebration. Halloween doesn’t seem to have any distinction from the other holidays that were railroaded by the spread of the Christian faith. Its roots were innocuous and pleasant – not a day to be feared, avoided or looked down upon.

The Origin of Christmas: The fact of the matter is that for almost 300 years, early Christian believers did not celebrate a day to mark Jesus’ supposed birth. The church leaders did not want the emerging Christian faith to be equated with its more common pagan neighbors and believed that a celebration of the birth of the savior would be mistaken for another pagan holy day. As more and more Romans started to convert, they also continued to celebrate a holiday known as Saturnalia. This holiday, ironically, dated back to hundreds of years before Christ, and celebrated the birth of the “unconquerable sun”. Christmas was originally declared by Pope Julius I and Jesus’ birthdate was set as December 25 – the exact same day as the culmination of the Saturnalia celebration – and the Christian holiday of Christmas was born. This acquiescence by the Pope was an acknowledgement of a pre-existing holiday, and it was hoped that enfolding the tradition into the Christian cannon would win more converts since pagan Rome would not have to give up a pre-existing celebration in order to adopt the new faith.

Rome’s celebration of Saturnalia is not the only pagan celebration that revolves around the end weeks of December. Celts, Norsemen and Babylonian traditions all include a winter celebration by various names – and all share similar traits and celebrations. Overall, Christmas, Saturnalia, Yule and Zagmak all revolved around the sun – in celebration of its return from the shortest day of the year (December 21, winter solstice) culminating in longer periods of sunlight and the eventual end of winter.

Lent and Easter: Lent is a Catholic celebration that occurs in the forty days prior to Easter when Christ’s death and resurrection are remembered and celebrated. Lent was not established until 519 AD as a means of regaining control of a population that had stopped rigorously adhering to the tenants of the church. Catholics are not the only faith to observe rigorous periods of fasting that culminate in a celebration of life. Egyptians and many cultures in South America also fasted for 40 days – ironically similarly to honor and worship the sun. Pagan cultures were not exempt from the observation of fasting. They also fasted around the Easter period in order to focus on the worship of Tammuz. It was overall believed to be a period highly related to spring and the renewal of the land after a period of “fast” in the winter months. Christian tradition dictates that Jesus suffered and died on the cross and was later resurrected – or reborn – in order to give his followers new life.

The very name Easter is a direct derivative of the pagan goddess of spring – Estre. Estre was worshiped on another equinox which marked the first recognized day of spring. It was a celebration of life and a remembrance of death which was plainly marked in the world – winter was a period of death and desolation and spring (which marked rebirth, planting and growing) always followed.

Un-Spooking Halloween: Samhain was a celtic celebration that not only honored the memory of people who had passed away, but also celebrated the life and vitality of those who remained behind. Celts celebrated holidays surrounding each of equinox or solstice and believed that the New Year began on November 1. Samhain marked the end of the previous year – or the death of the year – and marked the beginning of the winter period which was a period of limited growth when the earth was asleep and cold. Samhain was, by far, the Celt’s biggest holiday and can be equated to New Year ’s Eve in the current tradition. Since it was the end-point of the year, it was believed that the veil between this world and the otherworld was thinner due to the fact that the souls of those that had died in the past were now traveling to the otherworld. The Celts celebrated this transition in a way that not only honored the departed souls and help them in any way possible for the journey ahead – but also to kept them at bay and avoid them returning. Due to this, sacrifices were made and bonfires were lit – and the Celts dressed up in an effort to confuse any ghosts or spirits that were lost along the way and keep them from harming the people still living.

The church had many decrees against the traditional practices of its heathen brethren. Converts were expected to observe the celebrations of the church and remove themselves from their previous pagan practices. This all changed when Pope Gregory I ascended to the papacy. In 601 AD he issued a previously unprecedented edict that encouraged priests who were ministering to pagan people to take their traditions and use them for the benefit of the church – instead of trying to wipe them out of memory. They also demonized the traditional leaders of the Celtic people – the Druids – and equated them with demonic forces and linked them irrevocably to the devil and his dark minions. The Feast of All Saints was declared on November 1, and the preceding day formerly known as Samhain became All-Hallows-Eve. Instead of honoring the dead and considering them sacred and revered, they were feared and painted as evil - and Halloween gained its unfair equivocation with darkness, death and the devil.

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    • aguasilver profile image

      John Harper 4 years ago from Malaga, Spain

      Good article, I gave up Churchianity a long while ago, but retain a personal relationship with God, thorough Christ, it's hard to ignore what most of those in Churchianity profess, but it's possible.

      Deepak Chopra has a good take on 'the anointed One' on his book Jesus.... we are all seeking to become anointed, Jesus (or whatever one wishes to call Him) defeated the enemy, therefore we have no need, or ability, to surpass what He achieved, but we can continue what He professed to us.

      I look forward to your further works.

      John

    • wilderness profile image

      Dan Harmon 4 years ago from Boise, Idaho

      But...but...the Christian historian Sextus Africanus calculated Christ's death as Easter. Knowing that all the great prophets died on the anniversary of either their conception or their birth, he decided that Easter was the date of Christ's conception. Nine months later and Presto! we have Christmas. Convenient, huh?

      An interesting aside on Halloween as well. Perhaps the greatest evil on Halloween are the witches and their evil cats. A purely Christian invention and Halloween addition as no Pagan would declare any animal to be evil; they worshiped animals as part of nature. So the Christian church declared cats as evil and virtually wiped them out in Europe. Cats which ate rats. Rats that carried fleas, fleas that carried the Black Death.

      It is quite likely that the Christian superstition and fear of cats played a large part of the Black Death decimating Europe. The sheer power of religious superstition is almost unbelievable.

    • JMcFarland profile image
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      Julie McFarland 4 years ago from The US of A, but I'm Open to Suggestions

      Wilderness:

      for some reason, animal abuse disturbs me more than human abuse does, and I distinctly remember throwing up upon seeing depictions of black cats being drowned or burned at the stake with their human "witch" counterparts. As the proud slave of a black cat myself (she just lets me THINK that I own her, but all cat owners know this is not the case at all) I can't imagine anyone wanting to hurt her. She is the sweetest, most kind, loving animal that I've ever known - but we still keep her inside (especially on Halloween) because kids around here still like to torture black cats on Halloween especially. It's a shame.

      I've made the connection between the demonization of cats and the overwhelming growth of the plague in Europe. It's a fascinating distinction.

    • profile image

      MysticMoonlight 3 years ago

      I'm always dumbfounded that (most) Christians have completely forgotten where they came from, and instead of paying respect to that which came before them, they discard it completely, take it over, and rename it for beneficial reasons. It's a shame. I find it fascinating to learn about the Pagan roots of all Christian traditions and holidays and believe that that very history should be respected and honored, not completely wiped out. Sorry to ramble, really enjoyed this Hub and your insights.

    • JMcFarland profile image
      Author

      Julie McFarland 3 years ago from The US of A, but I'm Open to Suggestions

      Thanks for your comment, Mystic. I found it fascinating, myself - and think that Christianity's tendency to repackage and resell something that existed for hundreds of years before it, without giving any credit where credit was due.

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