Monday, December 29, 2014

The Magi and Astrology

Since the Magi believed that there was a mystical influence of the stars upon earthlings, they would constantly study the heavens, seeking extraordinary signs which might herald the "Expected One", as it was prophesied by the soothsayer Balaam and the Prophet Daniel in the 70 Weeks Prophecy he made while in Babylon. As Blessed Theophylact, Patriarch of Bulgaria, aptly states: "Because the Magi were astrologists, the Lord brought them in an ordinary manner, as Peter, being a fisherman, came away from the multitude of the fish."1 The well known Dismissal hymn for Christmas also speaks of them, saying, "For they that worshipped the stars were instructed by a star to worship You, the Sun of righteousness, and to know You, the Dayspring on high."2

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Magi and Magicians

By His Eminence Metropolitan Hierotheos
of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

And again we are made worthy by God to be festive and celebrate the great Despotic Feast of Christmas, or the birth of Christ, which celebrates the Second Person of the Holy Trinity who assumed human nature, became the God-man and was born among men to free us from the dominion of sin, the devil and death.

We again see all of creation glorify the newborn Christ, as we chant triumphantly in the Kontakion of Saint Romanos the Melodist: "Angels with the Shepherds glorify Him, Magi with the Star journey to Him." The center of all creation is Christ, who is glorified by it, and He illuminates all and everything.

Among those who were made worthy to worship the newborn Christ and whom we remember every Christmas are the Magi of the east who saw the Star, understood that a great event took place, and they followed it to reach Bethlehem to place their gifts before Christ - gold, frankincense and myrrh. Indeed, the Fathers saw symbolism in these gifts, since gold is a royal color, frankincense signifies divinity, and myrrh signifies death, and so the Magi honor Christ as King, God and as One who suffers and rises.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Date of Christmas Does NOT Have Pagan Origins

The Star indicates the exact spot, according to tradition, where Christ was born in Bethlehem.
Did Christians "christianize" the pagan feast of Sol Invictus (Birth of the Unconquered Sun) and make it Christmas on December 25th?

The short answer is ABSOLUTELY NOT, and it is refreshing to see at least a few articles on the internet disproving this long held myth perpetuated by Atheists, Pagans and Protestants.

Below are a few of my favorite articles which undoubtedly demonstrate that the Christian celebration of Christmas on December 25 came before the pagan festival of Sol Invictus rather than the other way around:

Monday, December 22, 2014

Why is Saint Anastasia Known as the "Deliverer From Potions" (Pharmakolitria)?

By John Sanidopoulos

The Great Martyr Anastasia of Sirmium was martyred sometime between 290 and 304, but after her relics were transferred to Constantinople in the fifth century, during the reign of Emperor Leo I, and to Rome in the sixth century, her popularity quickly rose throughout the Christian world. In Constantinople, they were installed in the fourth century Anastasis Church in the Portico of Domninus, near Constantine's forum. In old Rome, they were installed in the fourth century titular basilica of Saint Anastasia, built perhaps by Constantine's sister, Anastasia, to honor either the Resurrection of Christ or the original Roman martyr of the same name. In 824 Theodore Krithinos, oikonomos of the Great Church, travelled to Rome on an embassy to the Pope, and while there discovered an anonymous long Passion narrative of St. Anastasia written in Latin. After translating it to Greek, he brought it to Constantinople, which helped spark a revival in devotion to the Saint. Because of these events, churches throughout the Roman Empire were dedicated to her, and in each were iconographic portrayals of her holding a medicine bottle. Why?

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

St. Dionysius the Areopagite on the Relationship Between Demons and Evil

By St. Dionysius the Areopagite

But, neither are the demons evil by nature; for, if they are evil by nature, neither are they from the Good, nor amongst things existing; nor, in fact, did they change from good, being by nature, and always, evil. Then, are they evil to themselves or to others? If to themselves, they also destroy themselves; but if to others, how destroying, or what destroying?----Essence, or power, or energy? If indeed Essence, in the first place, it is not contrary to nature; for they do not destroy things indestructible by nature, but things receptive of destruction. Then, neither is this an evil for every one, and in every case; but, not even any existing thing is destroyed, in so far as it is essence and nature, but by the defect of nature's order, the principle of harmony and proportion lacks the power to remain as it was. But the lack of strength is not complete, for the complete lack of power takes away even the disease and the subject; and such a disease will be even a destruction of itself; so that, such a thing is not an evil, but a defective good, for that which has no part of the Good will not be amongst things which exist. And with regard to the destruction of power and energy the principle is the same. 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

St. Daniel the Stylite and the Demon Haunted Church

St. Daniel the Stylite (Feast Day - December 11) 
Once he [Daniel] heard some men conversing in the Syrian dialect and saying that there was a church in that place inhabited by demons who often sank ships and had injured, and still were injuring, many of the passers-by, and that it was impossible for anyone to walk along that road in the evening or even at noonday.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Demonology of St. John of the Ladder (6 of 6) - Positive View of Demons

...continued from part five.

6. Positive View of Demons

Without temptation the monk could never reach perfection, and so he should thank the Lord for the trials he undergoes.93 Abba Anthony said, "Whoever has not experienced temptation cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven;" and even stronger: "Without temptations no one can be saved."94 The temptations thereby acquire a eucharistic quality, that is to say, they are an occasion for thanksgiving. Origen already stated: "Let us give thanks for the goods revealed to us through temptations."95 And, much later, Symeon the New Theologian wrote: "Learn to love temptations as if they are to be the cause of all good for you."96 The demons have no power by themselves; they do what they do because God allows them to do it. In this sense,97 they are to be seen as instruments used by God for man's salvation. Ultimately, they are a cause of our crowns, and the more there are of them, the more abundant are the crowns.98 Without sorrow, there can be no salvation. Thus the monks in the Prison, in mood of well-nigh self-torture, even pray for temptations and affliction: "And some prayed to become possessed by devils; others begged the Lord that they might fall into epilepsy; some wished to lose their eyes and present a pitiful spectacle; other, to become paralyzed."99 Everything, to the most cruel snare of the devil, transforms into a part of God's design: "Wonderful sight - a demon curing a demon. But perhaps this the work not of demons but of divine providence."100

Monday, December 8, 2014

The Demonology of St. John of the Ladder (5 of 6) - Indirect Warfare

5. Indirect Warfare

Speaking of man's struggle against the demons, Barsanuphios says: "Do not argue with them, for this is what they want and they will never stop."83 John's advice is likewise to fight the demons indirectly, disregarding them and doing the exact opposite of what they intimate.84 This is achieved by feeding one's mind with good thoughts each time the demons sow their evil ones.85 This does not contrast with Evagrius' exhortation "to stand there firmly" and not "to flee and to shun such conflicts."86 John refers to the manner of outflanking the demons while actually facing the battle: it could be suicidal to attempt to fight them directly,87 or even to attempt "to overthrow them with retaliations and pleadings."88 The attitude towards them should be one of "mindfulness of evil": "Having remembrance of wrongs and spitefulness against the demons."89 One must lead one's energy elsewhere, in the direction of doing good, but at the same time being firmly conscious of the facing enemy. All these propositions: that one should not be involved with the demons but rather mind one's own business,90 that one should fight them positively yet indirectly,91 and that one should not underestimate the demons,92 are emphasized in the Sayings of the Desert Fathers.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

The Demonology of St. John of the Ladder (4 of 6) - The Struggle Against Demons

4. The Struggle Against Demons

No sin is attributed to the mere fact of being attacked by the demons and indeed we are called "blessed" if we endure their attacks. What is wrong is to give cause to them for tempting us, either though "carelessness" or pride.59 Just as there are many ways in which the demons wage war against man, so there are many ways of defending oneself and fighting them, using at times their own tactics: "By divine inspiration he contrived to conquer the guile of the spirits by a pious ruse."60 The aim is not merely to wrestle with them, not merely to engage in combat, but to take the initiative in driving them away, to open fire and declare war on them.61 The Shepherd of Hermas makes this clear: "The devil is able to wrestle with us but not to overcome us in the wrestle."62 Symeon the New Theologian's explanation is particularly pointed:

It is one thing to resist and fight one's enemies and another thing to completely defeat and subdue them, putting them to death; for the first belongs to athletes and those brave in asceticism but the second belongs rather to the dispassionate and perfect.63

Friday, November 21, 2014

The Reality of Demons in the Life of Elder Iakovos Tsalikes

Fr. Iakovos Tsalikes was born in Livisi, Asia Minor on November 5, 1920. He was one of nine children that his mother Theodora gave birth to. His father Stavros was taken captive by the Turks in the catastrophe of Asia Minor when the Greeks lost the war. The father was later released and joined his family in Greece. Because of the difficult times in which the Elder’s family lived only three of the nine children lived beyond infancy. Young Iakovos lived through the upheaval of the Orthodox Christian population of Asia Minor in 1922. Initially the family settled in the village of Saint George in Amfissa where the living conditions were appalling. In fact the conditions there were close to starvation. In 1925 the family moved to Farakla in Northern Evia, Greece. The Elder Iakovos was educated in the village Church School of Saint Paraskevi. Young Iakovos expressed from a young age an inclination for monastic life. He was known as the monk in the village because of his monastic practices of fasting and prayer. While still a young boy he had a visitation from Saint Paraskevi who revealed to him in detail the religious life that he would follow in his life. His fervor for the Church from a young boy was so profound that he learned by heart the whole text of the Divine Liturgy at age seven. He became seriously ill at the age of fifteen but survived. The Second World War broke out five years later. His health was impaired again during the war and he lost his mother in 1942. During the German occupation of Greece he and many of his fellow villagers were taken prisoner by the Germans. They were taken to the village Strofilia. He and his fellow Greeks suffered terribly during the German occupation of Greece and later with the civil war that broke out with the communists. He was drafted into the Greek army in 1947 and was discharged in 1949. In 1949 his father passed on to eternal life.

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Demonology of St. John of the Ladder (3 of 6) - The Snares of the Demons

3. The Snares of the Demons

The guiles which are used by the demons to tempts man are innumerable22 and the assaults come from all sides in a most harrowing fashion.23 Chrysostom says the demons "sweat" and "take pains" to tempt us;24 Abba Isaiah and Barsanuphios agree that they never rest from assaulting us.25 John in similar terms refers to the devil as having "ten thousand heads" (μυριοκέφαλος)26 and exclaims: "'I was amazed at the diversity of evil,'27 and 'My hair and my flesh quivered,' said Eliphaz (Job 4:15), when describing the malice of the demon."28

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Demonology of St. John of the Ladder (2 of 6) - The Demonology of the Ascetic Fathers

...continued from part one.

1. The Demonology of the Ascetic Fathers

Whatever the predominance of demons in John, other ascetic sources, for instance the Life of Saint Anthony, reflect an even greater preoccupation with them. John approaches Evagrios who regards "demon" (δαίμων) and "thought" (λογισμός) as almost interchangeable, where however the former overrides the latter. Klimakos tends to follow the Palestinian tradition: like Barsanuphios, he is concerned not with apparitions but with the inward ascetic struggle. The demons are present, but they do not stand out. His attention is drawn to the almost frightening inner scale and power of demonic activity and its vertiginous possibilities. He elaborates an intricate and subtle strategy to defend and immunize the attacked human person. The demons are not mere fragments enlisted to act as scapegoats, to impersonate warring elements with a psyche divided against itself. Nor are they, as some would have us believe,19 purely psychological, that is, mere subjective states in a phantasmagorian tale. They are represented as real forces, but functionally rather than in terms of some monsters in classical or popular mythology. Western mystical thought, for example the medieval association of demons with the seven deadly sins, and even more modern psychology - the super-ego, ego and id spring to mind - tend to incorporate and, in a sense, de-mythologize demons into parts of the structure of the human person. The demons, if any, are understood to be unregulated drives of man that force him to act according to his deep-seated desires or, theologically speaking, as part of a state of guilt, inherited by man from Adam.

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Demonology of St. John of the Ladder (1 of 6) - The Evil Spirits

By John Chryssavgis

1. The Evil Spirits

The importance of the demonological theme in John's spirituality can be gauged from the account of his anthropology. At times, demons seem to dominate the stage, although he never succumbed to any obsession with demonology of the kind which characterized second and third century Gnosticism and which was responsible for the erection of a vast and complex system of demonic hierarchies. Still, John reflects an intense experience of demonic influence, which brings about splits and conflicts within man and impels him to struggle against its divisive claims. To split, to divert, to shift, to disrupt is its essential procedure; but the struggle is basically within man. Indeed, in the East it is accepted that demons approach us in the form corresponding to our own inward state. Satan says to Saint Anthony: "It is not I who trouble them [the monks], it is they who trouble themselves."1 Thus demonology does in some measure signify, though it is not reducible to, psychology. Nonetheless, John's demonological language is at times highly objectified, pointing, as will be seen, to real agents rather than imaginary shadows.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Nature and Origin of Evil According to the Eastern Christian Church

By Marina Luptakova
(Institute of Criminology and Social Prevention, Praha)

Sitting in a stuffy and filthy inn, Ivan Karamazov hurls into the face of his younger brother, the novice Alyosha – who according to Dostoevsky’s intentions (not fully accomplished, needful to say) should embody in himself Christian love and humility – utters words filled with ultimate pain and cruelness, which reject the world created by God:

“Yet would you believe it, in the final result I don’t accept this world of God’s, and, although I know it exists, I don’t accept it at all… I believe like a child that… in the world’s finale, at the moment of eternal harmony, something so precious will come to pass that it will suffice… for the atonement of all the crimes of humanity, of all the blood they’ve shed; that it will make it not only possible to forgive, but to justify all that has happened with men – yet though all that may come to pass, I don't accept it. I won't accept it.”

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Did St. Nikolai Velimirovich Write Against Halloween?

St. Nikolai Velimirovich

By John Sanidopoulos

In 2009 I wrote an introductory essay regarding my views on Halloween, titled "Orthodoxy and Halloween: Separating Fact from Fiction". Since then I have expanded on this article in many posts. This is a subject I first wrote about in the seventh grade when I was 12 years old for a class assignment, and ever since then I have collected and read everything I possibly can on the subject. When I wrote my article in 2009, by then I had researched everything I could possibly find on the subject written by Orthodox Christians. I even looked on Serbian, Russian, Greek, Bulgarian and Romanian websites. Despite all my research, I had never come across anything written by an Orthodox saint on the subject, let alone St. Nikolai Velimirovich. Yet somehow, suddenly, an essay allegedly by St. Nikolai has begun to circulate online that not only denounces Halloween and everything associated with it, but does so in a way many Orthodox websites and parishes do - by spreading false information and gross exaggerations based on very unreliable sources. As an admirer of St. Nikolai, I found this very peculiar.

The closest I ever came across Halloween being even mentioned is an often circulated story relating to St. John Maximovitch, but this story has NOTHING to do with Halloween, despite the author of the story trying to make it like it does. Rather, it is clearly a story of St. John's justified disappointment in the people of his church for not attending the vigil of the first feast of the glorification of St. John of Kronstadt (according to the Julian Calendar). Halloween is attached to this story only because the members of his church were attending a Halloween dance instead, even in the same church as where the vigil was taking place. People treat this story as if St. John would not have been disappointed if the members of his church skipped out on the vigil for any other reason. This is hardly a critique of Halloween, and until today I never even bothered wasting my time responding to this and treating it as anything to do with Halloween in particular. If St. John did have an opinion about Halloween, we do not know what it was, nor should it even matter. Halloween as it is celebrated today has its origins in America, not Russia or Shanghai or even Western Europe, and if you didn't grow up with it then it is as meaningless as any other national or cultural holiday around the world you aren't attached to. The same could be said if St. Nikolai wrote the essay on Halloween, as many allege. But did he?

As I said, while reading the supposed essay by St. Nikolai, I noticed something peculiar. It basically rehashed everything taught about the holiday by modern day pagans, fundamentalist Protestant literature, and Catholic and Orthodox conservatives and extremists, whether they are written out of ignorance or not. And most of this literature was written after St. Nikolai's time, let alone the fact that it bore a close resemblance to other Orthodox literature on the subject.

Anyone who follows my website Mystagogy ( knows that I love St. Nikolai and have posted many things by him. Being aware of the liberal movement in Serbia against St. Nikolai and his canonization, I even posted something in St. Nikolai's defense titled "Response To Slanders Against St. Nikolai Velimirovich and St. Justin Popovich". St. Nikolai is often accused of being well treated while at Dachau concentration camp, but in reality just to be in a concentration camp is hard enough. My grandfather was also a prisoner at Dachau concentration camp, but he had certain privileges, perhaps like St. Nikolai whom he may have known, because when he was taken by Germans in Greece, it was for the sake of being an experienced electrician that he was brought to Dachau, which was a rare find those days by the Nazi's among their prisoners. But this experience at the concentration camp scarred my grandfather for life and he would even steal from the kitchen to feed less privileged prisoners and also helped a few prisoners escape from Dachau. Yet I am also aware of the unfortunate fact that after St. Nikolai left Dachau, he became more conservative in his views on certain matters, some things for the better, some things not for the better. For example, concerning the latter, he was intrigued with the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Sometimes I joke and ask: "What do Adolf Hitler and St. Nikolai Velimirovich have in common? They both encouraged the reading of the Protocols." I know its a Debbie downer punchline, but the "joke" is meant to accentuate the fact how evil this text is, despite many sanctified Orthodox recommending it, yet they did so and continue to do so out of ignorance, which is why I don't believe it affects anyone's holiness, unless they are presented with the truth of its forgery and they continue to deny the truth about this text. Then it only reveals an adherence to an ideology foreign to Orthodoxy. I don't believe St. Nikolai was exposed to any literature proving the forgery of this text.

Having said this, I would not have been very surprised if I found St. Nikolai being negative towards Halloween, so I decided to look on Serbian websites to find out if this was a Serbian text I had never noticed before. Indeed, I found the text on many Serbian websites, but it was clear that they were translations of the English text I had, and none of them gave a source. Usually they were posted on sites negative towards the secularization and Americanization of Serbia, and Halloween is one of those holidays slowly becoming more popular there. I can understand when Orthodox are negative towards Halloween in other countries, because outside of the American context it hardly fits, and in reality all it becomes is an excuse to have a costume party at a local club or something along those lines, which is hardly what Halloween is about. Yet these Orthodox websites in Eastern Europe and Russia still use false propaganda to make their point, which is unfortunate and not the right way in approaching either Halloween or any other topic.

After coming up with no source to the article in either Serbian or English, I decided to find every website in English that posted this essay. There were only a few, but in my search I discovered something interesting which is what I initially found peculiar. A Serbian Orthodox Church in Hermitage, Pennsylvania decided to post not only this essay allegedly written by St. Nikolai, but also an old essay on Halloween by Archpriest Victor Potapov from the Russian Orthodox Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist in Washington D.C. When I wrote my original article in 2009 on Halloween, one of the main articles I was responding to was this article, and I even quote it in my article. And this is why St. Nikolai's alleged essay sounded so familiar. If you compare the two articles, they are almost verbatim identical. The main difference is that St. Nikolai's is written specifically for a Serbian American audience, while Fr. Victor's essay is written primarily for a Russian American audience. It became pretty clear at this point what happened: someone reworked the essay by Fr. Victor and Serbianized it, and they made it a forged document of St. Nikolai Velimirovich.

To prove my theory, I decided to email Fr. Victor last night about this confusion. Here is what I wrote:

Greetings Father Victor:

Yesterday I was sent an article supposedly written by St. Nikolai Velimirovich on the topic of Halloween. However, in researching its origins, I could not find a source, but I did notice that your article on Halloween is practically verbatim from the same article, yet you make no reference to St Nikolai. Personally I find it odd that you would not back up your article with the authority of a Saint, which makes me wonder as to its authenticity. So I was wondering if you could help clarify for me the following:

1. Did you borrow from St. Nikolai?

2. Did someone summarize and Serbanize your article and make it as if St Nikolai wrote it?

3. If St Nikolai did write it, do you know the source of origin?

Here is the link to St Nikolai's article:

Thank you very much for your help,

John Sanidopoulos

Early this morning Fr. Victor kindly and promptly responded to my email, saying:

Dear John,

This was written by me over twenty years ago. Mystifies me how the great saint got involved. Not even sure he wrote on Halloween. Doesn't fit his style. This particular article has also been attributed to Archbishop Kirill of San Francisco.

These things happen. I worked at the Voice of America for many years doing religious broadcasting and often carried Archbishop John Shakhovskoy's wonderful little talk on the importance of doing little good works (don't remember verbatim the title). After a while I noticed that the exact same piece in Russia was attributed to the elder John Krestiankin. Go figure how that happened.

So I leave you with that.

A blessed St. John of Kronstadt day to you.

In XC,

Fr. Victor

Need I say more on this subject. The document allegedly written by St. Nikolai Velimirovich on the topic of Halloween is a forgery.

But how did this forgery begin. Was there ill intention, or was there confusion? In my research last night I think I discovered the answer. Towards the bottom of this link from the website of the St. Luke's Serbian Orthodox Mission in Toronto, Canada there is an article titled "HALLOWEEN". You will see that though the article is not given an author, on the page with the list of articles it appears that St. Nikolai of Zhicha could be its author if you don't look carefully at the structure of the page. This is where I believe the confusion originated.

If you see this article circulating anywhere that is falsely attributed to St. Nikolai Velimirovich, please inform whoever is distributing it about this confusion, and feel free to send them a copy of this article. And remember, when you share any text, make sure its author is in fact who it is attributed to.

For more information: Halloween Resource Page

Friday, October 31, 2014

Halloween Safety Tips and Crime Myths

J.D. Valesco
October 28, 2012

Halloween is a time for fear and fright, but some common worries about the ghastly holiday may be overblown, experts say.

There are legitimate safety issues to consider on the holiday - pedestrian-vehicle accidents, fire hazards, dogs who get into chocolate.

But many of the scariest Halloween horror stories - poisoned candy, satanic sacrifices of pets, and rampant criminal activity - have little basis in reality.

The Monsters Among Us

October 30, 2012

With Halloween approaching, people turn their attention to the spooky and the scary, reveling in stories and images of ghosts, ghouls and witches for the holiday. However, while some monstrous characters only come out to play in October; others enjoy attention year round.

For example, in recent years, vampire media has gained popularity, from Stephanie Meyer's "Twilight" series of books and films to HBO's "True Blood," which finished its fifth season this summer. Zombies have recently seen a resurgence in popularity as well, evidenced by new takes on the genre, such as Zach Synder's 2004 remake of "Dawn of the Dead," Danny Boyle's "28 Days Later" and Edgar Wright's "Shaun of the Dead." Zombies have even shambled onto the television screen with AMC's "The Walking Dead."

Hollywood is quick to cash in on what's popular, but why do themes gain popularity in the first place? Does the prevalence of a certain monster reflect what's going on in our society today?

Jesus Likes Halloween a Little Bit, Doesn't He?

Jeff Kinley
October 17, 2011
The Huffington Post

Every year Christians face a cultural dilemma, beautifully articulated by a 5-year-old boy's announcement to his parents upon returning home from school one day.

"Mom and Dad, Jesus hates Halloween!" Then, pausing, he mumbled, "But He likes it a little bit, doesn't He?"

And therein lies the conundrum of the Christ follower -- what to do with Halloween. Traditionally, Christians and anything related to the horror genre have not mixed well. Like oil and vinegar. Church and State. Alcohol and tattoos.

Some Christians even go so far as to claim Halloween is, in reality "Devil's Birthday." Really? Never mind the Bible doesn't say that. Note to self: File under "Christian Superstitions."

What that little boy was really trying to communicate was, "Mom and Dad, can I dress up like a pirate and get some candy this Friday night?"

But the dilemma remains concerning this perennial predicament. What are Christians supposed to do with the hoopla and festivities surrounding this evil holiday? Are we to ignore it? Pretend it doesn't exist? Lob "Gospel Grenades" of condemnation at those who celebrate it? Hand out religious pamphlets instead of candy to trick or treaters? Or offer an alternative, like a Harvest Festival, Fall Carnival or even "Reformation Day Celebration"?

Unfortunately, many people's only exposure to Christianity is when the "religious right" is condemning or complaining about something -- culturally or politically. However, that's changing in a lot of communities. Christians are waking up and engaging culture instead of merely vilifying it. The apostle Paul was a master at observing culture and redeeming it for God's purposes -- using customs, practices -- even idols and quotes from secular poets to illustrate biblical truth. While in Athens, he used a pagan Greek word for 'God' (theos) to build a verbal bridge communicating who the true God (Jehovah) was (Acts 17:23).

In reality, a lot of church members are huge fans of the horror genre in books and movies, and untold numbers wait with baited breath to catch the highly anticipated second season of AMC's The Walking Dead (or TiVo-ing it to watch after Sunday night Church).

Enter a new book: "The Christian Zombie Killers Handbook: Slaying the Living Dead Within." Officially releasing this week worldwide, the title is sure to arouse curiosity, combining two seemingly contradictory terms. I wrote this book, in part because I've always been a fan of the horror genre. But anther dilemma: how to reconcile that to my faith without compromising or stretching the truth?

As it turns out, that part was easy as zombies are a powerful metaphor paralleling a core theological truth. George Romero, legendary director and godfather of zombie films, has said, "I've always liked the monster within idea. I like the zombies being us."

Bingo, George. And that's precisely why zombies are so disturbing. We see a mirror of humanity when looking into their dark sockets. They're messy, smelly and they want to consume our flesh and brains. They don't go away just because you wish it so. They don't even stop chasing you when you shoot them, unless of course you shoot them in the head. They're just pure evil and you never know when they're going to lumber up behind you and bite a bloody hunk of meat out of your trapezoid muscle.

But back to the idea of "stinky Christians." The bite of this zombie metaphor cuts even deeper now. There's a spiritual parallel in their insatiable craving for self-satisfaction. The Bible describes this as the "old man" or "old self" (Rom 6:6), also commonly referred to as the "sin nature." It's the part of us that resists God and runs from Him. It even hates Him. It's the immaterial, mystical part of our soul that wants our own way over God's way. And though as Christians this evil entity has no legal authority over us anymore (Rom 6:6-11), we still feel it creeping up on us. Like, every day.

This creates tension. And confusion. And frustration. But Christianity typically avoids messiness. We don't like friction in our faith. We prefer order and predictability. Smooth sailing is our journey of choice. But God likes to throw a wrench in the gears every now and then, to challenge us. To get us to think. To engage. And to find new ways to live out faith our in the marketplace. In doing this, we Christians discover we aren't really any "better" than anyone else. This zombie inside us smells as putrid as any portrayed by Hollywood. And though we have accepted Christ's atoning sacrifice on our behalf (Col 1:13-14), we still struggle with many of the same temptations and sins as the rest of humanity (Rom 7:15-25). We become acutely aware of an inner beast that constantly moans and gnaws at our spirit.

"The Christian Zombie Killers Handbook" offers escape, survival and a win over the zombie inside. This book shows you how to slay the living dead within. With its unique blend of fiction, graphic novel inspired illustrations, and spiritual guidance, it delivers a fresh, relevant look at the doctrines of sin, grace, salvation and the inner conflict we all face.

In the end, this annual Fall dilemma is much deeper than culture, Halloween, TV shows and trick or treating. The real issue is "What do I do with this rotting corpse?"

For more information: Halloween Resource Page

Tricks in the Treats: The Myth of Poisoned Halloween Candy

Eryn Brown
October 29, 2011
Los Angeles Times

Every year, parents and police departments worry about tricks in their kids' Halloween treats: razor blades in apples, poison in candy bars.

But incidents of candy poisoning are very, very rare -- if they exist at all.

The Truth About Halloween

Despite my articles over the past few years clarifying the true origins of Halloween and a proper Orthodox attitude towards it today, many Orthodox Christian clergy and faithful still embrace and promote a false version promoted by fundamentalists of recent times to senselessly scare people away from ANY participation in the holiday. The only thing we should fear in this instance, however, is falsehood and bearing false witness when presented with the truth. Below is a balanced version concerning the truth about Halloween.

By Catherine Beyer

What is Halloween?

Halloween is a secular holiday combining vestiges of traditional harvest festival celebrations with customs more specific to the occasion such as costume wearing, trick-or-treating, pranksterism, and decorations based on imagery of death and the supernatural. The observance takes place on October 31.

Though it was regarded up until the last few decades of the 20th century as primarily a children's holiday, in more recent years common Halloween activities such as mask wearing, costume parties, themed decorations, and even trick-or-treating have grown quite popular with adults as well, making Halloween an all-ages celebration.

What does the name 'Halloween' mean?

The name Halloween (originally spelled Hallowe'en) is a contraction of All Hallows Even, meaning the day before All Hallows Day (better known as All Saints Day), a Catholic holiday commemorating Christian saints and martyrs observed since the early Middle Ages on November 1.

How and when did Halloween originate?

The best available evidence indicates that Halloween originated in the early Middle Ages as a Catholic vigil observed on the eve of All Saints Day, November 1.

It has become commonplace to trace its roots even further back in time to a pagan festival of ancient Ireland known as Samhain (pronounced sow'-en or sow'-een), about which little is actually known. The prehistoric observance marked the end of summer and the onset of winter, and is said to have been celebrated with feasting, bonfires, sacrificial offerings, and paying homage to the dead.

Despite some thematic similarities, there's scant evidence of any real continuity of tradition linking the Medieval observance of Halloween to Samhain, however. Some modern historians, notably Ronald Hutton (The Stations of the Sun: A History of the Ritual Year in Britain, 1996) and Steve Roud (The English Year, 2008, and A Dictionary of English Folklore, 2005), flatly reject the commonly held notion that November 1 was designated All Saints Day by the Church to "Christianize" the pagan festival. Citing a lack of historical evidence, Steve Roud dismisses the Samhain theory of origin altogether.

"Certainly the festival of Samhain, meaning Summer's End, was by far the most important of the four quarter days in the medieval Irish calendar, and there was a sense that this was the time of year when the physical and supernatural worlds were closest and magical things could happen," Roud notes, "but however strong the evidence in Ireland, in Wales it was May 1 and New Year which took precedence, in Scotland there is hardly any mention of it until much later, and in Anglo-Saxon England even less."

Earliest Halloween customs

The earliest documented customs attributable to Halloween proper grew out of the tandem observances of All Saints Day (November 1), a day of prayer for saints and martyrs of the Church, and All Souls Day (November 2), a day of prayer for the souls of all the dead. Among the practices associated with Halloween during the Medieval period were the lighting of bonfires, evidently to symbolize the plight of souls lost in purgatory, and souling, which consisted of going door-to-door offering prayers for the dead in exchange for "soul cakes" and other treats. Mumming (or "guising"), a custom originally associated with Christmas consisting of parading in costume, chanting rhymes, and play-acting, was a somewhat later addition to Halloween.

Again, however, despite the obvious similarities between old and new, it's an overstatement to say these Medieval customs "survived" to the present day, or even that they "evolved" into modern Halloween practices such as trick-or-treating. There's no direct historical evidence of such a continuity. By the time Irish immigrants brought the holiday to North America in the mid-1800s, mumming and souling were all but forgotten in their home country, where the known Halloween customs of the time consisted of praying, communal feasting, and playing divination games such as bobbing for apples.

The secular, commercialized holiday we know today would be barely recognizable to Halloween celebrants of even just a century ago.

Is Halloween Christian, Pagan, or Secular?

The most straightforward answer is "secular." People who celebrate this day in a religious context generally do not call it Halloween, and the common practices associated with Halloween such as costuming and giving of treats are secular celebrations.

Christian Origins – All Hallows Eve and All Saints Day

However, Halloween evolved out of a Catholic holiday called All Hallows Eve, which occurs the day before All Saints Day, a general celebration of the saints on November 1.

In turn, All Saints Day originally was celebrated on May 13, and in the Orthodox Church is continues to be celebrated in late spring on the first Sunday after Pentecost, which in turn is seven weeks after Easter. Pope Gregory III is commonly credited with moving it in the 9th century to November 1, although the reasons for the move are debatable.

Ancient Celtic Origins - Samhain

It is often argued, most commonly by neo-pagans and Christians who are against Halloween celebrations, that All Saints Day was moved to November 1 to co-opt a Celtic Irish celebration called Samhain.

Did the Catholic Church Co-opt Samhain?

There is no direct evidence to say they did. Gregory's reasons for moving it from May 13 to November 1 remain mysterious. A twelfth century writer suggested it was because Rome could support larger numbers of pilgrims in November than in May.

There are similarities. Samhain appears to have connection with the dead and may have involved communication with, placating of, or honoring of those who had died. All Saints is a celebration of dead saints, whom Catholics communicate with through prayer and offerings in the hopes of the saints acting as intermediaries between humanity and God.

However, Ireland is a long way from Rome, and Ireland was Christian by the time of Gregory. So the logic of changing a feast day throughout Europe to co-opt a holiday originally celebrated in a small portion of it has some substantial weaknesses.

What is Samhain and How Does it Relate to Halloween?

Historically, Samhain was an Irish Celtic harvest festival that marked the beginning of the winter season. It is not likely to have been held on a specific calendar day, but rather whenever the harvest was finished for the year.

Connections between Samhain and Halloween

There are a variety of Halloween traditions often credited to Samhain, such as costume wearing and the creation of hallowed out vegetables (predecessors to the jack-o-lantern). Readers are cautioned to be very wary of such claims. The Irish were non-literate before the coming of the Romans and even then left us no documents about their society. Most of what we know of them therefore comes from outside sources, often people who had never actually met the Irish or, more often, were writing hundreds of years after their pagan society had vanished.

In addition, the common claim is that ancient Celtic practices became folklore practices in the Christian period which is how they were transformed into modern Halloween celebrations. Again, the evidence is often sketchy, with most of it dating on a couple centuries back. Many of these claims of Halloween celebrations being ancient are therefore conjecture at best.

Samhain in Mythology

From the mythological stories (again, written many centuries after Christianization), Samhain appears to be a time of transitions when chaos reigns. The are references to the closeness of the Otherworld to the world of the living during this time, and it is commonly associated with divinations and remembrances of the dead. The mythology rarely if ever touches upon specific rituals performed by common people.

Modern Samhain Celebrations

Today, a variety of neo-pagans celebrate Samhain. Many celebrate it the night of October 31, but some calculate the date via other methods such as astrologically or even by when local harvests are completed. Some even refer to the holiday as "Halloween" rather than as "Samhain," which merely further confuses the issue.

Modern celebrations manifest in a wide variety of ways. First, they may reflect mythology and beliefs specific to the celebrating neo-pagans. Wiccans and Druids, who belong to two separate neo-pagan religions, might hold significantly different celebrations, for example. Second, they frequently reference Northern European folklore or Celtic practices as they understand them to have been (which may or may not align with what was actually historically).

Modern Samhain celebrations are certainly not part of an unbroken pagan tradition. In fact, they post-date the secular emergence of Halloween.

Is Halloween Satanic?

Only in certain circumstances, and not historically.

Halloween is most directly related to the Catholic holiday of All Hallows Eve, although it has picked up a variety of practices and beliefs most likely borrowed from folklore. Even the origins of those practices are often questionable, with evidence dating back only a couple hundred years and older records being suspiciously mum about what might have been taking place around the end of October.

None of these things have anything to do with Satanism. In fact, if Halloween folk practices had anything to do with spirits, it would have been primarily to keep them away, not attract them. That would be the opposite of common perceptions of "Satanism."

Satanic Adoption

When Anton LaVey formed the Church of Satan in the mid-20th century, he stipulated three holidays for his version of Satanism, the first organized religion to ever label itself Satanic. The first and most important was the Satanist's own birthday. The other two are Walpurgisnacht (April 30) and Halloween (October 31). Both dates were often considered "witch holidays" in popular culture and thus linked with Satanism. LaVey adopted Halloween less because of any inherent Satanic meaning in the date and more as a joke on those who had superstitiously feared it.


So, yes, Satanists do celebrate Halloween as one of their holidays. However, this is a recent adoption. Halloween was being celebrated long before Satanists had anything to do with it. Therefore, historically Halloween is not Satanic, and today it only makes sense to call it a Satanic holiday when referencing its celebration by actual Satanists.

Sources and Further Reading

• Adams, W. H. Davenport. Curiosities of Superstition and Sketches of Some Unrevealed Religions. London: J. Masters & Co., 1882.
• Aveni, Anthony. The Book of the Year: A Brief History of Our Seasonal Holidays. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.
• Hutton, Ronald. The Stations of the Sun: A History of the Ritual Year in Britain. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.
• Opie, Iona and Tatem, Moira. A Dictionary of Superstitions. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990.
• Rogers, Nicholas. Halloween: From Pagan Ritual to Party Night. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.
• Roud, Steve. The English Year. London: Penguin Books, 2008.
• Roud, Steve and Simpson, Jacqueline. A Dictionary of English Folklore. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.
• Santino, Jack. "Halloween: The Fantasy and Folklore of All Hallows." The American Folklore Center, Library of Congress, September 1982.
• Santino, Jack (Ed.). Halloween and Other Festivals of Death and Life. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1994.
• Skal, David J. Death Makes a Holiday: A Cultural History of Halloween. New York: Bloomsbury, 2002.
• Wolfson, Jill. "Halloween Handwringing.", 29 Oct. 1999.


For more information: Halloween Resource Page

Who’s Afraid of Halloween?

By Fr. Mark Sietsema*

I have a confession to make. And it’s a bad one ….

When I was a kid … I used to get dressed up for Halloween! And it was not always something innocent either, like an astronaut or a cowboy. Once I was even a ghost! Worse yet, I would go door-to-door with my brothers and say “Trick or treat!” Idolatrous! Occultic! Satanic! Over time, of course this demon-glorifying activity caught up with me. Look at me now. I dress in black almost every day …

The Halloween Debate In Russia

Maria Kuchma
October 31, 2011
RIA Novosti

As Western youths flock to Halloween parties dressed as ghosts, zombies and witches, opinion polls show most Russians will ignore the event, with only a few people planning to celebrate a holiday many Russian officials and religious authorities claim is “Satanic."

Sixty-seven percent of Russians said they had no plans to mark one of the world's oldest – and most commercialized – holidays, according to a poll conducted by Russia’s Levada Center in late October.

Popular Christian Myths About Halloween

In the nineteenth century, cultural anthropologist Sir James Frazer studied the practices of the Northern Celtic people on Hallowmas (a term that has come to describe the three day period of October 31st or Halloween, November 1st or All Saints’ Day, and November 2nd or All Souls’ Day). He asserted that the traditions of Hallowmas were rooted in Samhain, and he claimed that the ancient pagan festival had been a day to honor the dead. Many cultural anthropologists after Frazer have repeated and exaggerated this claim ever since, and Protestant Fundamentalists have gone to extreme lengths based on these false studies and myths to distort and demonize Halloween.

How Christians Made Halloween A Satanic Holiday

By John Sanidopoulos

When it comes to religion, Halloween was always viewed as a Christian holy day. Beginning with the 1930's through till the 1950's, Halloween was regarded on a secular level as primarily an innocent children's holiday, and there was never a reason to think otherwise. Halloween festivities were mostly limited to school and family activities, and trick-or-treating became a nationwide custom to bring neighborhoods together after they were devastated with childish pranks during the time of the financial collapse of the 1930's. Even horror movies during this time were primarily moralistic gothic tales where good and evil were clearly delineated.

Ten Things I Won't Do On Halloween

By John Sanidopoulos

Last year (2009) I wrote a controversial piece about Halloween titled "Orthodoxy and Halloween: Separating Fact From Fiction". I want to make it clear that I am not out to defend Halloween or promote its celebration by Christians, though I do find it important to separate fact from the numerous fictions regarding this holiday promoted by Christians, and leave each individual to observe the day as their conscience and taste determines. Personally I see no contradiction between Halloween and Christianity and it is perfectly coherent in my heart the way I celebrate it. The fictional fundamentalist folklore and mythology surrounding Halloween is in my opinion the darkest aspect of the holiday, and it is the truth that I seek to bring to light lest Christianity be undermined, as it so often irresponsibly is in society. However, I also understand it is not within everyone's taste to celebrate Halloween, so mutual respect plays a large role in how I present the topic to Christians.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

The True Origins of the Jack O' Lantern

First of all, there is absolutely no evidence behind the alleged pagan use of the Jack O' Lantern, where it is said in modern fundamentalist folklore that they were invented to ward-off evil spirits. In fact, the carved lanterns had practical military use in Ireland and Britain simply as carved lanterns. And stories of Stingy Jack are a later invention.

The Christian, Not Pagan, Origins of Halloween

The following excerpt is from the book The Stations of the Sun by Ronald Hutton (Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1996). This is to supplement my post titled "Orthodoxy and Halloween: Separating Fact From Fiction". Hutton is a British historian, and his book is a very well-researched study of seasonal festivals in Britain. Some of his observations may be of interest to those who become anxious over Halloween — either pagans who think Christians “stole” it, or Christians who think it must be “demonic”.

Orthodoxy and Halloween: Separating Fact From Fiction

When I wrote this article in 2009 pretty much every Orthodox website was spreading false information and gross fabrications about Halloween based on highly unreliable sources, but after this introductory article was published in Mystagogy (, things slowly began to change, though not entirely, which is why this information should still be shared. And more information is available from my Halloween Resource Page.

Orthodoxy and Halloween: 
Separating Fact From Fiction

By John Sanidopoulos

Below are some quotes from various Orthodox Christian websites concerning the "satanic panic" over Halloween, though they all pretty much say the same thing and offer the same distorted information:

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Book Review: "The Undead and Theology"

The Undead and Theology (Pickwick Publications) is now available for purchase in digital form for Kindle, MAC and PC through, and in print edition. This is a unique volume that explores various facets of how monsters can provide for theological reflection. It makes the perfect Halloween pumpkin stuffer this holiday season for those interested in monster studies and other disciplines including theology, religious studies, motion pictures, television, literature, graphic novels and comics.

Below is a description of the book:

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Zombies and God

5 Religious Questions That Zombie Stories Ask Us

Stant Litore
October 25, 2012

"And he asked me, Son of man, can these bones live?" -- Ezekiel

Since releasing the first novels in "The Zombie Bible," I've heard from a lot of readers asking me what zombies have to do with the Bible -- or what the Bible has to do with zombies. The answer is a lot, and I'm not just talking about the Bible's numerous references to either the risen dead or the restless dead.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Lycanthropy (Werewolves) in Byzantine Times

What I find interesting about the contents of the article below was the advanced methods of psychiatry in Late Roman (Byzantine) times which treated symptoms of lycanthropy as a mental disorder, while in the West centuries later, following the Fall of Constantinople in the fifteenth century, it was often seen as a symptom of demonic possession.

"Lycanthropy in Byzantine Times (AD 330—1453)", 
History of Psychiatry, Vol. 20, No. 4, 468-479 (2009).

By E. Poulakou-Rebelakou, C. Tsiamis, G. Panteleakos, D. Ploumpidis 
(all from the University of Athens)


In this paper, the original Greek language texts of the Byzantine medical literature about lycanthropy are reviewed. The transformation of a human being into a wolf and the adoption of animal-like behavior, which were already known from mythology and had been presented in the scientific works of ancient Greek and Roman physicians, were examined by six Byzantine physicians and explained as a type of melancholic depression or mania. In spite of the influence of Byzantine medicine, its rationality in the interpretation of lycanthropy was forgotten in medieval and Renaissance times when it was replaced by explanations based on demonic possession and witchcraft. More recently psychiatry has treated the phenomenon as a subject of medical inquiry and has again explained the condition in terms of a mental disorder.

St. Gregory of Nyssa on the Apparitions of Spirits of the Dead, or Ghosts

In his treatise On the Soul and the Resurrection, St. Gregory of Nyssa is said to have been taught by his sister St. Macrina regarding eschatological topics as she lay on her death-bed following the repose of their brother, St. Basil the Great. Commenting on the details of the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, St. Macrina makes the following observation:

Friday, October 24, 2014

St. John Chrysostom on Ghosts and Wandering Spirits

"It came to pass," it is said, "that Lazarus died; and he was carried up by angels" (Luke 17:22). Here, before I proceed, I desire to remove a wrong impression from your minds. For it is a fact that many of the less instructed think that the souls of those who die a violent death become wandering spirits (or demons*).

Thursday, October 23, 2014

St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite on Vampirism

Canon 66 of St. Basil the Great

A grave-robber shall remain excluded from Communion for ten years.

Footnote to this Canon by St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite

It is fitting that we add in the present footnote how great condemnation those priests or laymen deserve who open graves in order to find, as they say, the Vrykolakas*, as they call them, and put them to death.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Halloween: An Orthodox Christian Perspective

By John Sanidopoulos

One of America's most beloved and fastest growing holidays is Halloween, and it is also the most demonized. Many of all ages, both young and old, celebrate it with innocence and a smile, yet some also condemn it with fury as an evil and violent day. The majority see Halloween as a fun children's holiday on which they dress up in costumes and go door to door to get candy, while others view it as a remnant of paganism and a subtle celebration of satanism. Amid this confusion and dichotomy, I will attempt to set the record straight in a short yet concise manner based on the most up-to-date studies, and examine whether or not the Church is called to demonize or sanctify Halloween based on the truth.

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Haunted Cell Of A Heretic

By St. John Moschos

Abba John the Cilician told us that while he was staying at the ninth mile-post from Alexandria, an Egyptian monk visited them. He said:

"A brother from foreign parts came to the Lavra of the Cells and wanted to stay there. He prostrated himself before the priest and requested that he might stay the night in the cell of Evagrius*. The priest told him that he could not stay there.

The brother said: 'If I may not stay there, I will go away.'

Saint Gerasimos of Kefallonia and the Demon Possessed

St. Gerasimos of Kefallonia (Feast Day - August 16 and October 20)

By John Sanidopoulos

St. Gerasimos the New Ascetic of Kefallonia (+1579) is known as a renowned healer of the demon possessed. The demon possessed and the mentally ill flock to his holy shrine which contains his incorrupt relics on a daily basis to receive healing. He became a grace-filled exorcist because of his great discipline in fasting and prayer.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

On the Stench of Demons and Sin

By St. Nikolai Velimirovich

Among other mysterious perceptions from the world of spirits, the saints also had perceptions of sweet fragrances from good spirits and foul stenches from impure spirits.

During every appearance of luminous, pure spirits, a life-giving and sweet fragrance wafted about; and during every appearance of dark and impure spirits, a suffocating, unbearable stench filled the air.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Monastics Even Pray For Demons!

By Elder Paisios the Athonite

Monks do not only pray for the living and the dead but even for the most miserable creatures, the demons, who, unfortunately, even though thousands of years have passed, have become worse and have progressed in their evilness.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Fear of the Devil in the 1980's and Today

 By John Sanidopoulos

Anyone watching TV in the mid-late 1980's remembers the Satanic Panic commercialized by the media. Unable to understand the changing trends in culture that began in the 1960's, blame went to the devil and his "followers". Maybe it was the end of the Cold War and Reagan-era conservatism or maybe it was Heavy Metal music and Horror movies, but back then you could hardly go a day without seeing some overly sensationalized tabloid headline that spoke about shocking satanic rituals, or childhood sexual abuse tied to devil worship. Reports of the latter would later prove to be false, since no evidence was ever found and the only cases reported were the result of so-called repressed memories recovered through hypnosis. Personally, I think all this only made some people more fascinated with "the dark side" and sinister conspiracies, even those who opposed them, and to speak against the devil in society was a way to show this fascination. It also gave society a scapegoat to place blame on when easy answers couldn't be found elsewhere.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Origins of Idolatry (Agapius the Syrian)

By Agapius the Syrian

It is written that when the languages of the tribes of the children of Shem, Ham and Japheth, son of Noah, were divided in all the climates on the surface of the earth; when they had occupied their areas and when each language, each people and tribe had moved away into an unspecified region of a climate of the earth, as we described, the people began to make war on each other, one against another.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

"The Raven": Demon of Despair (On Poe and Death)

By Presbytera Juliana Cownie

Soon after the death of a loved one come many visitors to the bereaved. Some arrive early, bearing gifts of food and speaking words of consolation and comfort. Others appear late in the day, unable to say anything, but still comforting in their very presence. But when the comforters have gone away and we sit through the lonely watches of the night, pondering our loss, the last visitor arrives. He comes invited, though not to bring consolation; his words are empty of that. No, his purpose is to smother any desire we may still have for life, to snuff out the smallest spark of hope that may yet gleam within our soul. He is the black-winged demon of despair, sent to bring us swiftly to the realm of everlasting pain and to bring the pain of Hell to us while we yet live.