Published 9:55 pm Wednesday, October 30, 2019
By Myrtle Virginia Thompson
Life in our pop culture communities today can find us following the crowd. I will disappoint my little friends when my porch light is not on for Halloween. I do not celebrate this highly popular evening.
I don’t think I am stingy. I pass out treats in the nursing homes to people in wheelchairs who can’t get out. They like bananas, tangerines, some pastries and candies, including suckers. If I have any leftovers when I get home, I offer them to the children playing around my yard. Most of us have played “dress up” as children, and who wouldn’t like to collect free candy? Adults indulge and enjoy a Halloween party.
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But I see something sinister in this celebration. My better sense tells me our children and maybe adults might someday need help to rid themselves of undefined fears. Right now much about death is on display — reproductions of evil, though fake, exceptionally fearful, evil looking creations. Our minds are like deep wells, fed from beneath the surface. What we see, hear and think is stored and can be dredged up to haunt us.
Why should I speak out when others are enjoying the fun? I remember John Donne’s famous piece “For Whom the Bell Tolls.” Two lines have been debated since the 1600s when this immortal poem was published. “No man is an island” reminds us we are a community. Oprah referred to us as a “village,” suggesting the need to watch for problems or danger. Donne’s other famous line is “Ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.” That is the sound I have been hearing and so I write.
Not all children are fearful. Some can be exposed and not be afraid. I was one of those. For others, young and older minds have fears they can’t get rid of. These evil representations, caricatures about death, skeletons, witches, ghosts, snakes and wild-eyed creatures are displayed in the stores and on TV screens. Even the usually creative cooking show has a contest to see who can make the most gory “blood and guts” creations, admittedly to frighten, even though we know they are not real. We can eat the creations rather than having them eat us.
How did all this originate? Solomon said there is nothing new under the sun. Evil has been with us from the beginning of time. It is not a joke. Every age, every religion reminds people of evil. Fear has been used as a way to control. Since it has been made acceptable in our culture, I read some accounts.
Much of ancient history is hidden in mystery, but the Druids believed Saman, a pagan lord of the dead, called forth all the evil spirits to come out at this festival time. The Celts celebrated Samhain at the end of harvest. They believed the dead arose from their graves and visited their earthly homes. Fairies cast spells, ghosts and witches, bonfires with people jumping into them, a wild frenzy of actions, all part of the revelry. It was a propitious time for telling the future. Some people dressed in costume, possibly animal skins, to disguise the ghosts they feared were present. Around 700-800 AD, Rome incorporated Oct. 31 as a night to pray for saints and martyrs before Hallowmas, All Saints’ Day, Nov. 1.
Only the Bible has the true record about the occult, evil and idolatry. For Christians, the Scriptures have already charted the response course with many references and at least one story about King Saul’s encounter when he visited a fortune-teller, the Witch of Endor, who it seems was herself frightened when she tried to call up Samuel (1 Samuel 18). Jesus recognized evil spirits and cast them out. Paul had a lot to say about how we should not participate in any evil ways (Ephesians 4:17-18). God has given us the freedom to choose our response. I choose not to celebrate.
Myrtle V. Thompson, 91, is a retired missionary, educator, Bible teacher and writer. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.