Astronomical Events and Halloween

Astronomical Events and Halloween

We previously discussed the religious history of Halloween, but it also has a connection to astronomical events. Halloween is a cross-quarter day halfway between the equinox and the solstice. The equinox is when day and night have equal lengths, and the winter solstice is the shortest day and the longest night. (Groundhog Day is also a cross-quarter day.)

Humans find all kinds of reasons to celebrate visible astronomical events. Some cultures have given each of the seasonal cycles some great religious significance. Neolithic builders erected Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England, over a period of 1500 years, perhaps to commemorate the summer and winter solstices. That structure shows a great understanding of the equinox and solstice, and it was, and still is, a place of worship.

Other cultures have used astronomical events to govern their religious beliefs. The pyramids of the Egyptians and the Aztecs are examples, and there are many others. Even the celebration of Christmas has astronomical connections to the winter solstice. Several cults have tried to attach great significance to astronomical events, almost always with disastrous results.

The Bible makes it clear that the followers of Jesus must not be swept up in the celebration of heavenly bodies. Acts 1:7 tells us, “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father has put in his own power.” The message of Christ is a spiritual one, not locked into watching what happens with the Sun and the Moon. Colossians 2:16 tells Christians, “Let no man, therefore, judge you in meat, or in drink or in respect of a holy day, or of the new moon, or the sabbath days.”

It isn’t that Christians aren’t interested in what happens in the design and function of the universe, but we are warned not to engage in idolatry. Worshipping and serving created things rather than the Creator is idolatry (Romans 1:25). God’s word is the guide we should follow.

— John N. Clayton © 2023

Reference: for 10/31/23.

End-of-Year Holidays

End-of-Year Holidays - Halloween

One interesting part of this ministry is the wide assortment of emails and postal letters we receive. We average about 1000 per week, which come from every corner of the globe and express every viewpoint you can imagine. So, for example, we get many letters complaining about the end-of-year holidays and the decadent origin of many of them.

Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s are the major end-of-year holidays, and someone will find things to dislike about their origins or practices. Halloween leads all the others with people citing complaints about everything from destructive spirits to human sacrifice. So, should we avoid trick or treat, carving faces on pumpkins, costumes, orange and black decorations, telling ghost stories, or games like Dungeons and Dragons?

The origin of Halloween goes back to ancient days in Ireland, Scotland, and Wales when the people celebrated the end of harvest. They had feasts, games, bobbing for apples, and thanking God for a successful harvest. The Roman Catholic Church added a time of remembering those who had died with special memorials for past family members. This was a positive thing that brought people together.

Years later, the Catholic Church tradition added the doctrine of purgatory. In many European countries, people held graveside services to atone for sins that family members committed before they died. This included leaving food, articles of clothing, or things that were special to the deceased by the graves. When some of these items disappeared, people assumed that somehow the dead had found a way to enjoy them. This led to fantastic stories about meeting these characters at night. Human imagination ran wild, and skeptics made fun of this practice and invented ways to profit from the stories created by people’s imaginations.

People today still invent wild stories, and the entertainment industry has taken advantage of that in films, plays, TV shows, and books. What began as a celebration of God’s blessings evolved into a memorial for those who had died and then became a tool for those who would exploit the uneducated for economic gain.

Taking advantage of people through trickery is nothing new. We read in the Bible about a man named Simon who used magic as a tool to exploit people ( Acts 8:9-11). In 1 Samuel 28:8–25, we find the story of Saul and the “Witch of Endor” seeking to bring up the spirit of Samuel. God commanded His people to avoid witchcraft of any kind. A miracle of God allows Samuel to actually show up, and the witch screams in terror, realizing that God has acted because she knows her scam is worthless. Bringing people back from the dead in today’s world is also a scam.

We have chosen just one of the end-of-year holidays as an example. Is carving a pumpkin or putting up Halloween decorations endorsing something evil? Of course not! Does evil exist? It absolutely does, but God is in control, and for Christians, evil cannot overtake us if we resist it. The Bible tells us to resist Satan, and he will flee from us (James 4:7). Halloween is a great time to learn and help dispel the claims of charlatans and con artists as they strive to fleece the ignorant and uneducated. So enjoy the end-of-year holidays and use them to teach others about what really matters in life–following the teachings of Christ as our guide to successful living.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Happy Cross-Quarter Day!

Happy Cross-Quarter Day!

Today is a cross-quarter day, meaning that the Sun is halfway between an equinox and a solstice. The word “equinox” is a combination of “equal” and “nox” (which means night), and it occurs when the Sun is directly overhead at the equator. The solstice is when the Sun reaches its greatest distance from the equator at approximately 23.5 degrees. Then it is directly overhead at the Tropic of Cancer in the north or the Tropic of Capricorn in the south. Today, the Sun is at its halfway point between the equator and the Tropic of Capricorn.

For the Northern Hemisphere, the autumn cross-quarter day falls near Halloween. In the spring, it is near “Groundhog Day.” For those of us interested in astronomy and Earth’s climate and weather, that gives Halloween and Groundhog Day a significance different from what most people consider.

For us, a cross-quarter day is another reminder that our planet is extraordinary. The reason for equinoxes and solstices is Earth’s 23.5-degree tilt. That tilt is also vital to our survival. The Sun doesn’t overheat any section of the planet because Earth’s tilt changes the latitude where the Sun is overhead. It also avoids over-cooling as the Sun returns soon enough to avoid the extreme cold temperatures we observe on other celestial objects. This design also generates weather systems, the movement of ocean currents, winds to distribute plant seeds, and many other factors needed for life.

Indeed “the heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. Day after day they pour forth speech. Night after night they display knowledge” (Psalms 19:1-2). Happy cross-quarter day!

— John N. Clayton © 2021


Halloween in History

Halloween in History

Have you ever taken the time to check out the history of Halloween? Halloween is not a satanic holiday, and witches or warlords did not invent it. The actual origins began in the Catholic Church in Ireland and Scotland, and it also has Celtic roots.

The original name was “All Hallows Day.” In Ireland and Scotland, it celebrated the end of harvest and the beginning of winter. The Celtics commemorated the holiday with a feast and with games based on food. In A.D. 606, Pope Boniface made it a celebration of the martyrs, and later, Pope Gregory IV initiated praying for the dead.

Over time, the Catholic Church brought “All Hallows Day” into their doctrine so that in 1200, churches rang bells to get people out of purgatory. In various western countries, people celebrated Halloween in unusual ways. In France. People prayed and left dishes of milk by graves. In Italy, people left a whole meal for the “spirits” of relatives. In Spain, people left pastries for dead relatives. None of these practices are biblical, nor are they connected to any satanic belief system.

By the end of the 19th century, people in Scotland and northern England began “guising” by wearing masks and disguises. For many, this involved wearing a costume to make fun of Satan. In 1911 this caught on in America, and by 1915, there was a combining of “guising” and providing pastries. By 1950, this had evolved into the familiar house-to-house trick-or-treat routine. For 90% of us, trick-or-treating was a fun time, and my children made it part of our family time. For my mentally challenged son, this was one of his favorite times because no one knew of his limitations, and he got the same treats as everyone else.

Satan has used Halloween as a time to bring bad things to people. A teacher friend had a very fair blond-haired daughter that Satanists tried to kidnap, allegedly for human sacrifice. We began to see stories of people putting anything from LSD to razor blades in the treats they gave to kids. The evil in the world has made Halloween suspect for many people.

Sorcery and witchcraft are as old as civilizations.
In Exodus 7, we see that Egypt had sorcerers and magicians, and Exodus 22:18 mentions witchcraft. Deuteronomy 18:10-12 describes horrible things that were happening in the countries which ancient Israel invaded. In Acts 8:9-10, Simon used sorcery to gain political power.

Christianity opposes evil and the power of Satan. We see that in 1 John 3:8, Colossians 2:15, and James 4:7. The Bible tells us that Satan cannot remove our freedom of choice. Hollywood and Disney World have given us ghost images that may terrify some, but death is a one-way street. No one comes back as a ghost, and we have nothing to fear on Halloween except what evil humans might do to us. However, that danger is always with us 24/7/365 – not just on Halloween.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Reference: The History of the Christian Church by Philip Schaff.

Origin of Halloween

Origin of Halloween

As our society rejects God and the Bible, people grab onto substitutes for the Christian faith. Sometimes those substitutes can be dangerous and certainly foolish. We see an increase in this activity around Halloween. Decorating with jack-o-lanterns and putting on costumes, and even trick or treating can be fun as long as it doesn’t move into witchcraft or a destructive game. However, it is important that we know something about the origin of Halloween and instruct our children about what is real and what is fantasy.

The origin of Halloween and most of its customs can be traced to an ancient pagan Celtic festival called Samhain, Gaelic for “summer’s end.” When the Roman Empire took over Celtic land, they added their traditions to Samhain and the day became known as “All Hallows Day.” Later the Catholic Church designated November 1 as All Saints Day in honor of Catholic saints. People costumed as angels and saints and paraded through the villages. Since November 1 was once called All Hallows Day, October 31 became known as All Hallows Eve, which was shortened to “Halloween”.

In the Middle Ages, women who practiced divination were called witches from the Anglo-Saxon word wicce or wise one. Superstitious people believed that these women flew out of their chimneys on broomsticks and terrorized people with magical deeds. Jack-o-lanterns and costumes were the rage during Samhain, all designed to scare off evil spirits.

Even bobbing for apples had a religious connection. Around November 1, the Roman celebrated a festival for Pomona, the goddess of fruit and orchards. The Romans believed that the first person to catch a bobbing apple with their teeth would be the first to marry in the new year. People believed that the shape of the peel thrown on the ground would be the first initial of the peeler’s true love.

You may think all of this is ancient, silly nonsense, but people believed it. In today’s world, people grab at almost anything looking for something better than what they have in this life. Jesus said, “I have come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). Life is serious, and Christ has given us the key to having an abundant life. Superstition and tradition may make grandiose promises, but the teachings of Christ work.

You can have fun with the fall tradition and use the origin of Halloween as a teaching opportunity.
Above all, follow Christ for the best in this life and the life to come.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Data from The Old Farmer’s Almanac. Fall and Winter 2020, pages 14-15.

Ghosts Are Not Real

Ghosts Are Not Real

As we approach Halloween in America, some people ask, “Are ghosts real?” No, ghosts are not real, and there are natural explanations for the stories about ghosts.

The fall 2020 issue of Popular Science (pages 78-87) carried an article by Jake Bittle titled, “Why Do We See Ghosts?” The article explains some famous encounters with Ghosts throughout history starting in 1500 B.C. and including the Amityville haunting in the 1970s. Bittle points out that some people WANT to believe in ghosts and will interpret anything they don’t understand as the action of a ghost.

Those of us who have spent many nights sleeping on the ground have had the experience of hearing sounds in the dark that we cannot identify. When I was in the army, I spent much of my sleep time awake wondering whether the sound I heard came from a human or a natural object or animal–or my imagination. In ancient times, it could be essential to identify a sound you didn’t recognize so that you could avoid being eaten.

Several years ago, I attended a meeting of paranormal experts on the Queen Mary, a ship that some say is haunted. Our guide repeatedly saw ghosts and tried to convince us that they were real. In every case, there were natural explanations for what our guide saw or heard. Nobody in our group saw anything that could be called a ghost.

As technology has advanced, there have been many new ways to produce effects that people could interpret as ghosts. There also have been studies relating ghost sightings to drug use or mental illness. I have friends who had all kinds of ghost experiences when they were using LSD. In those cases, ghosts are not real, even though they seem real.

There is no biblical support for ghosts. Saul’s experience with the witch of Endor was a miraculous act of God that terrorized the witch ( See 1 Samuel 28:5-19). When people reject God, as Saul did, they are desperate to find spiritual guidance of some kind, and they often seek help from ghosts

There is no support for the existence of ghosts or their interaction with humans. In Mark 6:49, when Jesus came walking on the water, the disciples “SUPPOSED it had been a spirit,” but that is the only reference to ghosts in the New Testament.

God has promised us that we “will not be tempted above that which you are able to bear” (1 Corinthians 10:13). The Bible tells us that we can find truth in God’s word and by looking at the world God has made (Romans 1:19– 20). We need to avoid wild stories and things like Ouija boards when making life decisions because they are products of human fantasy. Ghosts are not real.

— John N. Clayton © 2020