"We are of God . . . [but] the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one." 1 John 5:19
While the evidence for supernatural evil multiplies all around us, more and more people deny it. They may believe in cosmic forces and bad vibes. But sin or Satan? These negatives don't fit the new paradigm. In October 1995, our local Los Altos school district held a large public meeting to discuss Halloween festivities. Most parents were angry at some proposed limitations on the traditional in-school celebration of a "harmless holiday." Why worry about the small minority who felt offended by its ancient link to a dead religion? Only a few minority voices were heard. A former Wiccan priest explained that the old Celtic witchcraft that gave birth to Halloween is anything but dead. Flourishing in today's pagan revival, it has become an official religion with tax-exempt status (1).
A few parents shared their concerns about programs that compelled children to celebrate occult themes. They knew well that pagan symbols and occult amusement were desensitising children to a fast-spreading subculture obsessed with death, spells and black magic -- not just at Halloween but all year long (2).
The majority booed, jeered, and refused to listen. "These are religious objections to secular events," declared the president of the board, Phil Faillaice. Everyone seemed to have forgotten that a different minority had, only nine months earlier, banned Christmas songs as offensive to their beliefs. But times have changed. By the end of the evening, the pro-Halloween group had won its case, and the media spread the "good" news from coast to coast. "We have the holiday back again," declared Bay Area witch, Zsuzsanna Budapest. "These pagan calendars are imprinted in our genes. They cannot be taken away." (3). "It's hard to give up a good party," added Daniel Melia, UC Berkeley professor of Celtic languages. "Satan is a Christian notion. This is a pre-Christian celebration."
He is wrong about Satan. The Old Testament mentions Satan fourteen times, and that doesn't include all his other names. From beginning to end, the Bible shows how Lucifer has always been stirring rebellion against God and hatred for His people. But then as now, the good news outshines the bad: the evil one could never cause more trouble than God would allow (4).
The clash between two cultures at Halloween is part of the war raging in the unseen, and the enemy's strategy hasn't changed since the Old Testament days when God warned, "Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness." (Isaiah 5:20) Year after year, Satan keeps on trying to trick us into believing the opposite.
As Bibles gather dust, his influence multiplies. Few understand his schemes better than Valerie Duffy, a former witch. "The feast of Samhain (sah-ween) is an unholy Sabbath observed by occultists world-wide," she explains. Freed from the demonic forces that once controlled her life, she now lives in an "upstate New York" community that often publicises Wiccan coven meetings and "full moon" celebrations. Each October, she fights -- and wins (5) â€” a spiritual battle against oppressive forces that intensify their attacks near the Wiccan holiday. Valerie knows all too well why Neopagans love Halloween. The old Celtic "Sabbat" is their main feast -- a window of time when the walls between the physical and spiritual worlds supposedly become thin enough to allow easy crossovers. This was the time to catch up with one's ancestors and other spirits from the underworld (6).
But don't think the Vigil of Samhain was just a fun holiday. The "Lord of the Dead", Samhain himself, is no deity to laugh at. Valerie explains why: On October 31, black-cloaked Druids bearing torches would go door to door to select humans for their New Year's sacrifice to the Lord of the Dead. In return for the child or infant, they would leave a hollowed turnip with candle light shining through the carved face -- a satanic counterfeit for the biblical Passover.
In the revelling that took place on that night to Samhain, the demons supposedly loosed for the night would pass over the homes "marked" by the carved lantern. Those families had provided the required gift or sacrifice. Other homes could be hit -- sometimes with sudden death. The children selected for sacrifice were tossed into a bonfire. The Druids called it a bone-fire since only the bones were left. From the agonising screams of the dying, the divining priests would foretell the future of the village (7).
Does the last statement sound familiar? Remember how the shaman or medicine man in Disney's Pocahontas read the future in the smoke from his ritual fire. When you look behind today's idealised images of the world's pagan religions, you find some awesome similarities. Small wonder since Satan, the mastermind behind the Druid rituals, tends to repeat the same tactics wherever he works. Walking into a large bookstore in mid-October I discovered a huge new display. Startled, I stared at an child-sized open casket filled with vampire books. The wooden casket was leaning against a large imitation stone altar. On it, stood an embellished cross with candles on each side. In the centre, displayed like a Bible, lay a large book. Horrified at the mockery of Christianity, I checked the cover and found Memnoch the Devil, the popular vampire book by Anne Rice. On the grey cathedral-like wall above the altar hung a cross. I hurried out of the store.
As in Old Testament days, Americans have forgotten "how to blush" (8) at what God calls evil. But those who love God His Word can resist the spreading darkness. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God. (2 Corinthians 10:4-5)
A Twist of Faith is available through Christian bookstores, order number 800-829-5646, or web site http://www.beritkjos.com
References and Footnotes
1. "Witches use taxes to gain public OK," The Journal (Providence, RI), August 14, 1989.
2. While the Bible warns against any contact with witchcraft, magic, spells, and spiritism (Deuteronomy 18:9-12), the obsession with occult books and games (Magic Gathering, Dungeons and Dragons, occult computer games) and youthful covens of witches practising black magic, is multiplying from coast to coast.
3. Annie Nakao, "Pagan Ways Live On," San Francisco Examiner, October 22, 1995.
4. Job 1 shows how Satan had to ask permission.... God reigns, and He always does what He pleases. Therefore some who don't understand His ways, blame Him for evil or call Him weak for not ending it. How can you eliminate evil without turning humans into puppets without any free will?
5. The spiritual battle is won through memorising, trusting, speaking and living God's Word. Valerie "puts on the full armour of God" (see Ephesians 6:10-18 and the chart at the end of chapter 2.
6. Margot Adler, Drawing Down the Moon (Boston: Beacon Press, 1979), 110.
7. Merle Severy, "The Celts," National Geographic (May 1977), pages 625-626, describes "the eve of Samhain... the start of the Celtic new year: "According to the Dinshenchas, a medieval collection of "the lore of prominent places," firstborn children were sacrificed before a great idol to ensure fertility of cattle and crops. Samhain eve was a night of dread and danger. At this juncture of the old year and the new, our world and the otherworld opened up to each other. The dead returned, ghosts and demons were abroad, and the future could be seen.. . . Behind such Halloween games as bobbing for apples lie Celtic divination arts to discern who would marry, thrive, or die in the coming year. Behind the masks and mischief, the jack-o-lanterns and food offerings, lurk the fear of malevolent spirits and the rites to propitiate them." Page 601 gives additional insight: "Tacitus tells us of the bloodstained Druid altars of Anglesey in Wales. Caesar describes mass human sacrifice in Gaul: 'Some of the tribes make colossal wickerwork figures, the limbs of which are filled with living men; these images are then set alight and the victims perish in a sea of flame.' " For more general information about Celtic religion and Samhain, see Encyclopaedia Britannica.
8. Jeremiah 6:15, 8:12.