Demons and Halloween: An Interview

Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a female slave who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. She followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.” She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so annoyed that he turned around and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” At that moment the spirit left her.

Acts 16:16-18

Halloween, or All-Hallows-Eve, is upon us. Kids are excited to dress up in costumes and get obscene amounts of candy. Inevitably, this time of year, people in the church begin to discuss whether Christians should participate in a holiday that seems to celebrate witchcraft, darkness, satan and masked murderers. Some of these Halloween traditions seem to stem from the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain which was later supplanted by a church celebration on the eve of All Saints Day.

As a pastor and a parent, I usually advise parents that they need to make their own choices for their families. Yet, those choices should be informed and based in truth (not exaggerated fears or naive ignorance). What follows is a conversation between a Christian who has questions about all of this and their pastor. We’ll name the curious Christian “CC” and the pastor “P.”

CC: Why do some Christians get so uptight about Halloween?

P: I don’t know that I would call it “uptight” as much as I would call it “cautious.” There is some evidence that there used to be a pagan holiday where people dressed up in costumes to avoid getting harassed by the spirits of dead people. The belief was that the spirits of the dead would wander the earth for a year and that on their final day (the last day of the harvest season, just before the first day of the winter season, a.k.a. October 31st) they would haunt people in order to get revenge. The solution was to dress up in costumes to either hide or scare off these ghosts.

Some historians believe the Catholic Church, in an attempt to Christianize this pagan holiday, absorbed some of these traditions and beliefs and placed the celebration on the day before All Saints Day (which is on November 1st). The evidence for all of this is a little murky. Not all historians agree with this theory of the origins of Halloween. But, some parents don’t like that it is possibly rooted in a pagan holiday.

Other parents don’t like the emphasis on death and witchcraft that you see around Halloween. It is true that Wiccan groups, the church of satan, covens of witches, and others who participate in the occult do have satanic rituals that are celebrated on or around Halloween. These rituals often include animal sacrifice and other unseemly practices.

All of this leads to a kind of hesitation about wanting kids to participate in that.

CC: But isn’t Halloween just about kids dressing up in costumes and getting candy? I mean, all that witchcraft and satan stuff isn’t real, right?

P: Well, there are sort of two Halloweens that happen simultaneously. Yes, much of it is just kids dressing in harmless costumes and getting candy. There is definitely a fun, family aspect to Halloween. However, there is also a dark side to this holiday. Witchcraft is real. Satan is real. Demons are real. I’ve personally cast demons out of people in the name of Jesus. These things are not mythological. They are very real, and we can’t be naive about their reality.

CC: So, you don’t let your kids celebrate Halloween?

P: My wife and I do let our kids get dressed up in costumes and go door to door to get candy. As a family, we have fun walking around the neighborhood together. However, we don’t let our kids dress up as serial killers or mass murderers. We also don’t let our kids dress up in costumes that are demonic or overly sexualized. Again, demons are real. I’ve interacted with them on more occasions than I can count. They are evil and want only to steal, kill and destroy people. It’s not something to take lightly. (In Christ, it’s also not something to fear. Jesus has given us His authority over them.)

My question to you is this: Would you let your child dress up as a Nazi for Halloween? If not, why not? Most parents would not let their kid dress up like a Nazi because it makes light of something that was horrific and evil. It’s not something to joke around about. Evil has victims. And making light of that evil doesn’t honor those victims. The same is true when we make light of things like the occult, the demonic, mass murder, etc. That level of darkness has real victims, and I have see it firsthand. It’s not mythological or hypothetical. It’s real.

CC: Whoa, that’s intense! How often do you run into demons in your ministry?

P: More often than most people want to hear about. I’ve created a prayer ministry at my church that we call an intensive prayer ministry. In 2 to 3 hour prayer sessions, we address people’s deep need for inner healing. On a regular basis during these prayer sessions, we run into demons who are either “attached to” or “entrenched in” a person. These demons create havoc in a person’s life. They make a normal level 2 temptation feel like a level 8 (where it feels impossible to overcome). They harass and torment a person’s mind, emotions, and body. They foster fear, terror, and anxiety. They promote addictions. They breed self-hatred, depression, and bitterness. They hate their host and are assigned to oppress and, eventually, destroy their lives.

When people finally get free, when these demons are cast out, they feel completely different. They experience a level of freedom and lightness they had only dreamed about. This freedom is made possible only by the death and resurrection of Jesus. Only by His power and His authority is this possible.

So, like I said, this isn’t something to take lightly. Caricature costumes of the demonic are only acceptable when you don’t think demons really exist. But they do.

CC: So with everything that you just said, I’m surprised that you let your kids do Halloween. Why are you okay with it?

P: Well, I’m not okay with certain costumes, and I’m not okay with the darker side of Halloween. But I am okay with my kids dressing up as movie characters or cartoon characters and getting candy. I compare it to how Paul addressed food sacrificed to idols. Think about it. There were bulls and goats literally sacrificed in pagan rituals to pagan demonic gods. Then Christians in the first century had to decide if they were okay eating that meat. Paul’s conclusion was that he was fine eating the meat because of his freedom in Christ. His main concern was not causing others to stumble who were less mature in their faith. If Paul was okay eating meat that was literally sacrificed to a pagan god, I think I’m okay with my kids dressing up and getting candy.

Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience, for, ‘The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it‘”(1 Corinthians 10:25-26). He went on to say, “If I take part in the meal with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of something I thank God for?“(1 Corinthians 10:30). His main point is that Christ has given us a freedom that allows us to enjoy certain things, even things that have been co-opted by satan and pagan worship. In other words, satan doesn’t get to steal things that are God’s in the first place. For me this includes costumes, candy, and the family fun of Halloween.

CC: What do you say to parents who don’t let their kids do Halloween?

P: I totally understand that decision and respect it, especially based on everything I’ve already said about demonization and the occult. I think those of us who are Christian parents who do allow our kids to dress up and go trick-or-treating have to be careful not to fall into a kind of blind, naive, indifference or ignorance to the real evil that exists in the spirit realm. And we need to know that the day of (and the days around) Halloween are days of intensified spiritual warfare due to the increase in satanic rituals.

And I think those of us who are Christian parents who do not allow our kids to dress up and go trick-or-treating have to be careful not to fall into a kind of legalistic, religious fear that gives satan too much credit. Some things, even things rooted in paganism, can be redeemed and enjoyed by God’s people.

Back in Paul’s day, in the early church, there were some who were fine eating meat sacrificed to idols and some who were not. Both existed in the church together.

CC: Any final advice to parents about Halloween?

P: Yes. In a word, “Taxes.” That’s what I say really loudly just as I reach into my kids’ Halloween candy and steal some. I reach into their Halloween bags and yell, “TAXES!” I then take and eat some of their best candy. And then I remind them about how if the government can take 30% of our income, then surely parents get to take 30% of their kids’ candy. I tell them I’m just trying to prepare them for the real world. So, parents, don’t forget to collect “taxes” from your kids this year!

Polygamy

They forsook all the commands of the Lord their God… They bowed down to all the starry hosts, and they worshiped Baal. They sacrificed their sons and daughters in the fire. They practiced divination and sought omens and sold themselves to do evil in the eyes of the Lord, arousing his anger.

So the Lord was very angry with Israel and removed them from his presence…

They worshiped the Lord, but they also appointed all sorts of their own people to officiate for them as priests in the shrines at the high places. They worshiped the Lord, but they also served their own gods in accordance with the customs of the nations from which they had been brought.

2 Kings 17:16-18, 32-33

Right after Israel gets removed from the Promised Land and sent off to a foreign land, the writer of 2 Kings explains why. The main issue with Israel wasn’t that they didn’t worship the Lord. It was that they worshiped the Lord along with worshiping other gods. They did all the practices of the nations around them. Their chief sin was their universalism, their religious inclusion. What offended the Lord so much was that they allowed their religious pluralism to become polytheism.

They bowed down to the starry hosts (read “practiced astrology and believed horoscopes“). They worshiped Baal (read “worshiped money and provision“), and sacrificed their sons and daughters in the fire (read “celebrated abortion“). They practiced divination and sought omens (read “went to psychics, palm readers, tarot card readers, and sought spirit guides, mediums, energy healers, Reiki healers and crystals“). This sounds a lot like America right now.

You see, it’s not enough to say we believe in God. It’s not enough to say we are a Christian. What matters is if we have given ourself to Christ alone. Have we mixed our worship of the Lord with the worship of the gods of our culture? Throughout the scriptures God calls His relationship to His people a marriage. Likewise, this mixture of worship–this polytheism born of pluralism–is regarded as polygamy. It is cheating on the Lord. It’s infidelity.

Unhindered, sold-out devotion to the Lord is what we are invited into when we are invited into Christ. Jesus alone is worthy of our worship. It wasn’t atheism that caused Israel’s downfall. It was syncretism, the amalgamation of the worship of the Lord with the worship of other things in their life. Israel’s story is a gigantic warning to us about pure devotion. God is not interested in a polygamous marriage to His Bride, the Church.

Psychics, Mediums & Spiritists

Now Samuel was dead, and all Israel had mourned for him and buried him in his own town of Ramah. Saul had expelled the mediums and spiritists from the land.

The Philistines assembled and came and set up camp at Shunem, while Saul gathered all Israel and set up camp at Gilboa. When Saul saw the Philistine army, he was afraid; terror filled his heart. He inquired of the Lord, but the Lord did not answer him by dreams or Urim or prophets. Saul then said to his attendants, “Find me a woman who is a medium, so I may go and inquire of her.”

1 Samuel 27:3-4

King Saul had been living in rebellion from the Lord for some time. He had been chasing David all over his kingdom trying to put him to death. Then the Philistines amassed their army against Israel and Saul was terrified. We often make really bad decisions when those decisions are rooted in fear.

Saul thought he could use the Lord like a slot machine or a Magic 8 ball. He inquired of the Lord as to what to do. Saul wanted to hear from the Lord on his terms. He hadn’t been interested in hearing the truth from the Lord in years, but he wants God to suddenly start speaking to him again now that he’s in a crisis. How many of us do this same thing?

God refuses to be a puppet for King Saul. God is quiet. The normal ways of hearing from the Lord go silent. Saul doesn’t get a word from a prophet. “Urim” was a reference to one way that the priests inquired of the Lord. And Saul doesn’t get a personal dream from the Lord. These were the standard ways that the Lord would speak to His people–through prophet, priest and king.

In desperation Saul does the unthinkable. Years ago, in obedience to the Law of God, Saul had expelled mediums and spiritists from Israel. Yet, because of his fear and because of his life of rebellion, Saul now seeks out a medium–someone who would consult the dead for him.

God was very clear about his prohibitions on mediums, spiritists, fortune-tellers, and other forms of occult practices.

“Do not practice divination or seek omens.”
“Do not turn to mediums or seek out spiritists, for you will be defiled by them. I am the Lord your God.”

Leviticus 19:26, 31

When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not learn to imitate the detestable ways of the nations there. Let no one be found among you who sacrifices their son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord; because of these same detestable practices the Lord your God will drive out those nations before you. You must be blameless before the Lord your God.

The nations you will dispossess listen to those who practice sorcery or divination. But as for you, the Lord your God has not permitted you to do so. The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him. For this is what you asked of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said, “Let us not hear the voice of the Lord our God nor see this great fire anymore, or we will die.”

Deuteronomy 18:9-16

The Lord was clear. What God really wanted to do was to speak to each member of Israel directly. But they were terrified by His Presence, so as a people they asked NOT to hear the voice of the Lord. Still wanting to speak to His people, God honored their request and spoke to them instead through a prophet. But they were absolutely forbidden to engage in the occult practices of the surrounding nations. If they did, they would “be defiled by them.”

This prohibition still stands for us in the new covenant.

God is able to speak to each individual personally through the Holy Spirit–something God always wanted with His people. He also still speaks through people gifted with prophetic gifts. Likewise, God continues to reject all forms of the occult and witchcraft. Divination, sorcery, mediums, spiritists, witchcraft, fortune-tellers, psychics and the like are all avenues to the demonic. Any visit to these practitioners or any experimentation with ouija boards, tarot cards, crystals and the like is an invitation for demons to set up camp in your life. I’ve seen this firsthand.

That Sunday the Presence of the Lord was strong in our worship service. When I concluded my sermon by praying over the congregation, a girl in the room started to shake. The shaking continued through the final worship song, and she knew she needed to get some help. This girl knew something was happening that was beyond her control. She approached me and one of my prayer team members for prayer.

We escorted her back to the prayer room and began to pray. She admitted that she thought she knew the problem. She confessed to dabbling in a certain kind of tarot card reading. She would get fearful about the future and wanted to know how things were going to turn out (sounds a lot like Saul). The more she engaged in these cards, the more something was taking over control of her body. She confessed that she would also engage in automatic writing. This is when she would hold a pen in her hand and invite spirits to take control of her hand and write a message to her. What started by her invitation soon became an oppression she couldn’t resist.

After she shared these things, I knew she had engaged in divination and was likely heavily demonized. As we prayed against a spirit of divination, she violently convulsed, dry-heaving and coughing until this spirit left. When it left she knew. She felt the peace of the Lord come over her. In subsequent weeks, we would pray for this girl multiple times casting multiple demons out of her. Engagement with the occult is a fast-track to demonic oppression.

Some people visit psychics, palm readers, mediums, spiritists, and tarot card readers just for fun. They think it’s a game, like something you’d find at the county fair. Others are afraid of the future and believe this is the best way to alleviate their fears. Some play with crystals, tarot cards, and ouija boards at home thinking these things are harmless. That couldn’t be further from the truth. These practices are all manifestations of witchcraft. They are all forms of the kingdom of darkness trying to imitate the Kingdom of God. They are all demonic avenues into the spirit realm trying to imitate the real thing, which is prophecy and prophetic gifting (1 Corinthians 12:10; 14:1-4).

If you are a follower of Jesus, you have the Holy Spirit and the Holy Scriptures. So even if you don’t have prophetic gifts or know anyone who does, you have the ability to hear from the Lord. Maybe no one taught you how to listen and hear from the Lord, but that doesn’t mean He isn’t speaking. He wants to speak to you personally, through His word and through prayer. Engaging in the occult in order to hear from God or hear about your future is like going to a drug dealer in the city to learn about the side effects of prescription drugs. You’ll end up damaged and demonized by the process. Go to the Holy Scriptures (2 Timothy 3:15-17) and the Spirit of Truth (John 16:13) if you need to hear from God. He wants to speak to you.

If you have engaged in these occult practices and now want no part of them, here is a prayer you can pray:

In the name of Jesus, I renounce any involvement in (name the occult or the cultic practice).
I renounce (list the practices you participated in). 

I ask you God to forgive me for my ignorance. I didn’t know how dangerous these things were. Forgive me for trusting in these things rather than in You alone. Forgive me for what amounts to worshipping false gods. I declare that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but through Him. Jesus is Lord of all, I will worship God and Him alone. 

I sever all contact I’ve ever had with the occult or with all false religion, and I commit myself to get rid of all objects associated with the occult or false religion. Now I cancel every assignment of darkness and remove every right of the demonic to afflict me because of my sin and my involvement in those occult practices. I break the power of their words over me. I break the victim spirit off of me. I rebuke the fear I have lived under. I cancel my bond to fear. I reject and renounce any unholy prediction made about my life or the life of my loved ones. 

In the name of Jesus, I break every curse against me that came from my involvement in these occult practices. In the name of Jesus, I break every curse against my loved ones that came from my involvement in these occult practices. I take every word captive that has been spoken over me, my loved ones, and that I spoke over myself. I break the power of those curses from hell. I cancel every assignment of darkness and I cast them to the ground. I call blessing to fall on me in their place. I take back every curse I have spoken against another. I cast those words down to the ground. I return a blessing on those with whom I have cursed. Jesus took my cursing so I can live in blessing. 

In the name of Jesus, I command any demonic spirit that has tried to access my life through the occult to leave me right now. In the name of Jesus, I command any demonic spirit that has tried to torment the life of my loved ones through these occult practices to stop right now. In the name of Jesus, I command any afflicting spirit to get out of my body and cause no more damage. In the name of Jesus, I command any tormenting spirit to get out of my mind, my will and my emotions. You are trespassing on the Temple of the Holy Spirit and I command you to leave now in Jesus’s name!

Masquerading

One of the jobs of a pastor is to protect the church from false teaching. This was a primary concern for the apostle Paul and his churches. It was relational for Paul. He saw false teaching as a kind of marital infidelity between the church and Christ.

He writes to the Corinthians, “I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him. But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:2-3).

One of the most dangerous things filtering into the church today is the false belief that dabbling in astrology, mediums, psychics, reiki healing, spells, seances, horoscopes and other forms of eastern mysticism and occult practices are harmless fun. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

A woman in my church, after years of dabbling in tarot cards and automatic writing, found herself demonized. She needed multiple demons cast out of her because of her participation in these occult practices.

Another friend of mine used to watch Long Island Medium on the TLC channel. I believe people are so interested in this stuff because western skepticism has told us there is no spirit realm, yet a part of us still believes there is more out there than what empiricism tells us.

Unfortunately, much of the church has sided with western skepticism rather than adopting a biblical worldview that acknowledges the reality of a spirit realm that contains both light and dark, angels and demons. A large segment of the church doesn’t warn against these occult practices because they see them as “fake” rather than what they are, which is a direct line to “the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12).

So when my friend would watch this medium on TV revealing things about people she couldn’t possibly know, and it seemed like the person was encouraged, then it had to be a good thing. Right? If good things are coming from it, isn’t it a good thing?

Paul responded to something similar by reminding the Corinthians, “Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness” (2 Corinthians 11:14-15). He warned them not to accept things that come from a “different spirit from the one you received” (2 Corinthians 11:4).

Was this medium hearing from the spirit realm? Yep. But she’s not hearing from the Holy Spirit. She’s hearing from deceptive and cunning demonic spirits. And the same demonic spirits that speak to her about other people also torment her life.

New Age and occult practices are darkness masquerading as light. They invite us to put our trust in something other that God and His word. They are a form of marital infidelity between the church and Christ. They end up being a gateway for the demonic to access and torment the life of those who participate in them.