Sunday 1 November 2009

Terror, Fear and Death

The Catholic Church has come out against Halloween, warning parents not to allow their children to dress up, dismissing the festival as a celebration of ‘terror, fear and death.’ So, they are a bit worried then! This new moral panic comes in the latest issue of L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican’s official newspaper, in a piece headed “Halloween’s Dangerous Message.”

So, what, one asks, is this ‘dangerous message’? Is Halloween not just about having fun and maintaining traditions, ancient traditions? No, it’s not; it’s riddled with a dark current of occultism and is “absolutely anti-Christian.” Aldo Bonaiuto of the Church’s anti-occult and sect unit said that the event could spurn Satanic sects without scruples. “Halloween”, he continued “pushes new generations towards a mentality of esoteric magic and attacks sacred and spiritual values through a devious initiation to the art and images of the occult. At best it gives a helping hand to consumerism and materialism.” Let me get this right: Halloween intiates people into the occult and encourages materialism. So it seems to cover all angles!

No, I don’t take this silliness seriously from an organisation that not so long ago condemned the Harry Potter books and then in its fallibly infallible way changed its mind. As I described in a recent blog (Happy Halloween!) this is an ancient Celtic festival marking the passage of the seasons, one celebrated in Christian and pre-Christian times. It has nothing to do with ‘trick or treat’ or Satanic cults and everything to do with casting light on a dark season.

But the desperation of the Church is understandable because it is largely, it has to be said, of its own devising. It’s part of an ancient investment, it might be said, now bearing unexpected dividends. For, you see, I cannot think of a single Christian festival, major or minor, that was not based on the Church’s early usurpation of an older pagan holiday, from Ostara to Yule/Saturnalia. Even St Valentine’s Day was created around the festival of Lupercalia. Christmas Day itself is no more than the old Roman festival of Sol Invictus, the Sun God, whose birthday was celebrated on 25 December. The simple truth is that as Christian faith falls away these old holidays re-emerge, have been re-emerging for years, partially in their original form, material and celebratory rather than spiritual and introspective.

I have no idea how Catholics will receive this latest piece of nonsense, but I rather suspect most will simply ignore it. People will continue to enjoy themselves, to have fun on Samhain or Saturnalia, without fear of the Pope…or of Satan. :-))

1 comment:

  1. I don't know how independant the L’Osservatore Romano is from the Vatican itself, I am guessing not very much but just consider this and therein lies the rub

    Cybele's temple in Rome, where there rites were performed, was on the site of St Peter's Basilica on Vatican Hill.

    (Ted Hughes. Shakespeare & the Goddess of Complete Being. Faber & Faber, 1992, Revised 1993. 9).