Some say there’s nothing to be scared of

Posted Oct. 31, 2008, at 7:47 p.m.

We all love to have the daylights scared out of us. Witness the meteoric sales of that sicko, Stephen King. You know you will sit there and watch “Nightmare on Elm Street” every time it is on, especially this week. My personal favorite is the shower scene from “Psycho,” but the staircase scene (with that freaky noise) is not far behind.

Why do you think Halloween was created and remains popular today? It’s not just the free Bolster Bars. We just love to have the Sugar Pops scared right out of us.

Now, legend has it that our friends the Celts, about 2,000 years ago, were convinced that Nov. 1 was actually the new year and also the time that the boundary between the living and dead became, let’s say, blurred.

Let’s face it: Back then, there was not an awful lot to do but sit around the campfire and scare the bejesus out of each other. They didn’t have Wall Street in those days.

On the night of Oct. 31, they celebrated Samhain, when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to Earth.

To commemorate the event, Druids built huge sacred bonfires, where the people gathered to burn crops and animals as sacrifices to the Celtic deities. The barking dog population was not a big problem back then.

During the celebration, the Celts wore costumes, typically consisting of animal heads and skins, and attempted to tell each other’s fortunes. I am guessing that some fermented liquid or another was involved.

We have been happily scaring each other on Halloween for a few thousand years. Now along comes the Rev. Dennis Rupert, pastor of New Life Community Church of Stafford, Va., to ruin everything. He has spent considerable time researching the origins of Halloween and is most anxious to debunk the traditional myths surrounding our candy-filled nightmare.

“At the Christian college I attended, I was taught that all truth was God’s truth and that we don’t need to fear truth — whether it comes from secular, pagan or Christian sources. Over a period of years I have been reading and talking with folklorists, historians, Christians, pagans and people from Scotland and Ireland. The origins of Halloween are NOT what most Christian literature teaches. Sorry, dressing up can’t be historically connected to the Celts. Sorry, trick-or-treat is not a Satanist plot to captivate our children,” he said on his Web site.

Hmph.

According to this Virginia killjoy, the Celts did not actually have demons and devils in their belief system. Some Christians describe Halloween as a festival in which the Celts sacrificed human beings to the devil or some evil demonic god of death. “This is not accurate. The Celts did believe in gods, giants, monsters, witches, spirits and elves, but these were not considered evil so much as dangerous,” the Rev. Rupert said on his Web site.

No human sacrifice? Is nothing sacred?

Some writings describe evil Druids going from castle door to castle door seeking virgin princesses to rape and sacrifice, leaving carved pumpkins illuminated by candles (“made from human fat!”) for those who cooperated, and arranging demonic assassinations for those who refused to give them what they wanted. This is supposed to be the “true” origin of trick-or-treating.

Candles from human fat? No way, says the Rev. Rupert.

“Contrary to Christian criticism from many sources, Halloween did not originate as a Satanic festival, but was religious in nature (of course, the religion I am referring to is the Celtic faith of the ancient Druids rather than Christianity). This is an important distinction, for Halloween’s association with Satanic worship is a modern phenomenon. The Celts didn’t worship the devil (or any god of death) on Halloween,” Rupert argues.

After considerable research, he argues that Celts were pagans, not Satanists. “But to my mind there is a major difference between pagans practicing a holiday containing fairies and elves and Satanists who sacrifice children to the devil. There is no original evidence to indicate that Samhain was any more Satanic than pagan harvest festivals of other religions, like the Romans or the Greeks. We have no evidence anywhere (from tradition, Celtic texts, or archaeology) that virgin princesses or anyone else were being offered to the lord of death on Halloween,” he said.

No virgins?

As my sainted mother always said “Ruin every Sunday, ruin every holiday.”

I choose to dismiss the right Rev. Rupert. He should be sentenced to reading the collected works of Mr. King. And I choose to continue to scare the hell out of myself, especially on Halloween.

Send complaints and compliments to Emmet Meara at emmetmeara@msn.com.

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