It is once again that time of year that the late Ray Bradbury famously dubbed “the October Country.” The waning of the year brings to more temperate regions the closure of harvest, the falling leaves, and the preparation for the succession of holidays that close and open each year in every country. Just as regularly as the winter brings the annual Christmas vs. Holiday conflict, so does the Autumn give us the just as annual Halloween war.

On the one side of the latter struggle are ranged an unlikely coalition of combatants: Wiccans, occultists, Protestant fundamentalists, and Catholic would-be Traditionalists, who see in the mysterious revel that ends October a deeply anti-Christian celebration of all that is dark, pagan, or even Satanic. While their opinions of whether this is a good or bad thing differ wildly, their methodology does not. Opposed to them are those who see in the annual ritual of Jack O’Lanterns, costumes, trick-or-treating, apple bobbing and the rest innocent fun – the chance to combine the touch of the scary that most people enjoy with the chance to party and consume some sweets. This side see in their opponents a mere tribe of kill-joys out to ruin whatever fun (a continually diminishing commodity in to-day’s world) they can. While my sympathies lies in large part with this group, I must say that their view puts far too little into the observance, even as their antagonists put far too much.

Part of the problem is that the Halloween is pagan/evil crowd tend to put too much stock into the erroneous history peddled by Neo-Pagans. It is based upon the notion, first advanced by Margaret Murray in the 1920s (building on Fraser’s Golden Bough), that the witches of Medieval and early modern Europe were not in fact followers of Satan, as asserted by Christians, but practitioners of an age-old pre-Christian faith that was subsequently persecuted by the Church and driven underground. When, two decades later, attempts were made to recreate the rituals of this supposed religion, efforts were made to “re-paganise” Halloween and the other Christian festivals. Given that many of those involved were talented writers – and that the media and academia were growing slowly but increasingly anti-Christian – said efforts were injected into the popular consciousness.

Praise the Lord

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