Heathen cultures and religions in many parts of the world involve some form of worship directed toward dead heroes or ancestors.
Religious observances such as Hallowmas, which begins on the evening of October 31, or Halloween (All Hallows’ Eve), preserve to one extent or another, depending on the region, widespread ancient customs and superstitions directly associated with the worship of the dead. As does the “secular” observance of Halloween itself. The pagan sources of various customs and superstitions reflected in Halloween are commonly acknowledged. “Customs and superstitions gathered through the ages go into the celebration of Halloween, or All Hallows Eve, on October 31, the Christian festival of All Saints. It has its origins, however, in the autumn festivals of earlier times. The ancient Druids had a three-day celebration at the beginning of November. They believed that on the last night of October spirits of the dead roamed abroad, and they lighted bonfires to drive them away” (“Halloween,” Compton’s Interactive Encyclopedia, 1995, Compton’s NewMedia, Inc.). In recounting various ancient customs associated with Halloween, the same source goes on to remark, “Halloween celebrations today reflect many of these early customs.” Another source comments, “The pagan observances influenced the Christian festival of All Hallows’ Eve, celebrated on the same date” (Encyclopedia Britannica, “Halloween,” 1998 multi-media edition). Continue reading