Let’s take back Halloween — again.
It was already done once — that is, a pagan celebration known as Samhain merged with the eve of All Saints’ Day in the Middle Ages. (“Saints” as in those who are “hallowed,” “een” as in “evening” before.)
There were prayers and fasting, on October 31.
It was Pope Gregory III, among others, who made the move, relocating those days we honor saints (November 1) and pray for the deceased (the following day) to juxtapose them with what was a spooky harvest-time event, during which folks in former Druidic territories (chiefly in Ireland) blackened their faces from the ashes of ritual fires, guised themselves as departed souls, and went door to door demanding help in bringing back — if only for an evening — the dead.
No question, holy or unholy, it is a “liminal” time of the year when the veil seems especially “thin.”
So it was that candles were lit, soon in turnips and pumpkins fashioned as lanterns (though others say the jack-o-lantern represented will-o-the-wisps or originated with a fellow named Stingy Jack who, after bargaining with Satan, was forced to carry a lit turnip to light his ways on the darkened byways of the world).
It’s a muddled history — to say the least.
Mark Donnelly, a professor of medieval archaeology, and historian Daniel Diehl, with regard to the evil spirits, on Halloween, writes that “barns and homes were blessed to protect people and livestock from the effect of witches, who were believed to accompany the malignant spirits as they traveled the earth.” In the 19th century, in some rural parts of England, notes Wikipedia, “families gathered on hills on the night of All Hallows’ Eve. One held a bunch of burning straw on a pitchfork while the rest knelt around him in a circle, praying for the souls of relatives and friends until the flames went out.”
In the pagan version of Halloween — which in recent years has returned with a vengeance — celebrants often practiced occult rituals of fortunetelling through apple-bobbing, nut-roasting, “scrying” (staring at mirrors to evoke spirits), pouring hot lead into water, and other practices.
In our time the “guises” are more often than not grotesque costumes that represent the dark side of the spiritual world, with kids sometimes dressed as the devil himself.
This is very unwise. When we have heavenly images — paintings, icons, statues, medals — they evoke Grace; draw down the blessings of Heaven. The same is true when there is an image representing evil: darkness can rise from the netherworld.
When — during those medieval times, and for centuries after — Halloween was Christianized, Polish Catholics roamed the forests praying for the deceased while in Spain bells tolled on that eve to call the faithful to similar prayers.
And so let the bells toll again.
Let us march forth in prayer — not unsightliness.
And if a candle is to be lit, let it be a blessed vigil one.
[Let us pray:
Kyrie eleison. God, our Lord, King of ages, All-powerful and Almighty, You Who made everything and Who transforms everything simply by Your will. You Who in Babylon changed into dew the flames of the “seven-times hotter” furnace and protected and saved the three holy children. You are the doctor and the physician of our souls. You are the salvation of those who turn to You. We beseech You to make powerless, banish, and drive out every diabolic power, presence and machination; every evil influence, malefice, or evil eye and all evil actions aimed against your servant. . . Where there is envy and malice, give us an abundance of goodness, endurance, victory, and charity. O Lord, You who love man, we beg You to reach out Your powerful hands and Your most high and mighty arms and come to our aid. Help us, who are made in Your image, send the angel of peace over us, to protect us body and soul. May he keep at bay and vanquish every evil power, every poison or malice invoked against us by corrupt and envious people. Then, under the protection of Your authority may we sing, in gratitude, “The Lord is my salvation; whom should I fear?” I will not fear evil because You are with me, my God, my strength, my powerful Lord, Lord of peace, Father of all ages. Yes, Lord our God, be merciful to us, Your image, and save your servant . . . from every threat or harm from the evil one, and protect him by raising him above all evil. We ask you this through the intercession of our Most Blessed, Glorious Lady, Mary ever Virgin, Mother of God, of the most splendid archangels and all yours saints. Amen.”
Soul of Christ, sanctify me; Body of Christ, save me; Blood of Christ, inebriate me; Water from the side of Christ, wash me; Passion of Christ, strengthen me;
O good Jesus, hear me; within Your wounds, hide me; let me never be separated from You; from the evil one, protect me; at the hour of my death, call me; and bid me come to You; that with Your saints, I may praise You forever and ever. Amen.
PRAYER AGAINST EVERY EVIL
Spirit of our God, Father, Son , and Holy Spirit, Most Holy Trinity, Immaculate Virgin Mary, angels, archangels, and saints of Heaven, descend upon me. Please purify me, Lord, mold me, fill me with Yourself, use me. Banish all the forces of evil from me, destroy them, vanquish them, so that I can be healthy and do good deeds. Banish from me all spells, witchcraft, black magic, malefice, ties, maledictions, and the evil eye; diabolic infestations, oppressions, possessions; all that is evil and sinful, jealousy, perfidy, envy; physical, psychological, moral, spiritual, diabolical ailments. Burn all these evils in hell, that they may never again touch me or any other creature in the entire world. I command and bid all the powers who molest me — by the power of God all powerful, in the name of Jesus Christ our Savior, through the intercession of the Immaculate Virgin Mary — to leave me forever, and to be consigned into the everlasting hell, where they will be bound by Saint Michael the archangel, Saint Gabriel, Saint Raphael, our guardian angels, and where they will be crushed under the heel of the Immaculate Virgin Mary.”