The nights are growing dark and cold. There are evil spirits in the air, everywhere! Quick! Let's sacrifice little Jimmy, kill him and roast him to appease these evil spirits! The more grisly the killing, the more the spirits will be pleased.
Welcome to the world of Steve Russo, my friends. Without citing a single source, his book (pictured above) gives the following description of pre-Christian Samhain rites:
"As the power of the sun waned with the onset of winter, people were afraid that life itself, and not just the year, was coming to an end. They imagined that the night was haunted by ghosts and witches, and more particularly by the spirits of the dead who were revisiting their earthly homes. With the supernatural rampant, the night was full of danger and omens. Concerned for their survival, people employed every possible means to fortify the flames of the dying sun and to chase away, or at least pacify, the evil spirits. For this purpose they lit bonfires and sometimes offered gruesome sacrifices."
Well, how the Hell do I know it wasn't that way?
Okay, well, em. Doesn't take a rocket scientist, does it?
Any "holy day" that features gruesome sacrifices and dread of evil would surely be wiped from the face of the calendar the minute some benign missionary wandered onto the scene and said, "Jesus will love you better if you don't sacrifice the virgin."
Even Steve Russo has to begrudgingly admit that early Christian missionaries co-opted Halloween. The Christian religion would never have taken hold in the British Isles if its first converts had said, "Oh, by the way ... That harvest-home festival you have every year? You know, the one at which you welcome your departed granny and give her some food and build her a fire? That's got to go. Jesus didn't do that."
I don't know. I wasn't there. (Neither was Steve Russo.) But I think that Halloween has always been a time of the thinning of the Veil, a time in which to commune with Spirit. The difference is in the absolutes. It makes sense to welcome departed Granny with open arms while doing some charm work against the criminal who killed your dog ... whose spirit is also roaming the night. Basically, Chapter 1 of Halloween: What's a Christian To Do? falls into that favorite dogmatic rut; namely, optimizing the negative while ignoring the positive.
The above comic, saying this ironically, of course, is a Chick tract that brings visuals to the worldview of Halloween as a savage enterprise steeped in blood and gore. Only trouble is, when you don't half do your homework, you get a half-score, which is an F.
Good and evil exist side-by-side at Samhain, just as they do any other time of the year. Balance is the key. My non-educated guess is that Samhain was a very important day and evening of Thanksgiving, with fires and feasts meant to be shared with the Ancestors.
And whether or not it was that way in pre-Christian Celtic countries, that's the way it is now for modern Pagans. Do not paint this with the brush of demons, Steve Russo. This is the hour when we assess what we've reaped and share it with our friends and our Ancestors.
Oh, and don't you love Chick tracts? Pumpkins are a New World plant. They did not exist in Celtic countries prior to the voyages of Columbus et. al. It's a minor quibble, but if you can't get the small stuff right, why should we trust you with the big ideas?
Let's keep the Hallowed in Halloween, my friends. Can I get an Awen?