Feast of Yom Teruah or Trumpets The Pagan Roots of Halloween

The Biblical Prophets Struggle with the Roots of our American Holiday


The priests of the Celtic religion (who were also civil authorities) were called Druids, which means, “knowing the oak tree.” They maintained the popular pagan belief that the soul was immortal and at the time of death had the ability to pass from a dead body into another living body. Julius Caesar wrote extensively of Celtic human sacrifices and the philosopher Poseidonius reported that the Druids would place victims in hollowed-out oak trees to be sacrificed to their god “Bel.” In this way they eliminated the deathly ill and social undesirables. The Jack-o-Lantern is a symbolic representation of those images of hollowed-out oak trees burning with people inside. The Roman emperors Tiberius and Claudius forbade such human sacrifices (Ancient European Religions, vol.18, p.895).

What has been said so far here is relatively well-known, but the ancient roots of this pagan festival surprisingly go back even farther in time to the land of the Bible. The prophets of early Israel struggled with their people’s acceptance of the pagan rites of the Canaanites, close relatives of the Phoenicians who dwelt on the Mediterranean coast. These pagan peoples worshipped Baal (or Bel), and their evil religion included such practices as the fiery sacrifice of infants and children. An alarming number of the Israelite priests and people had adopted some or all of the Canaanite practices.

Even more unfortunate, the false Canaanite religion was to spread far beyond Palestine. The Bible records that Phoenician and Israelite mariners in the time of Solomon together sailed the coasts of the Mediterranean in trading expeditions as far as Tarshish, or Spain. (I Ki.9:26-27; 10:22; Isa. 60:9) The Phoenician and Hebrew languages were virtually identical, and Israelite Kings David and Solomon had close economic ties with Phoenician Kings such as Hiram of Tyre. Carthage and Utica in North Africa, as well as Greece, Italy, and Crete were also regular ports of call for their sailing ships. Historians record that these sea voyages regularly extended even to the British Isles for products such as silver, iron, tin and lead.*

With mercantile contact came cultural influence and settlements, and historians have written that the early Britons and their Druidic priesthood worshipped “Bel,” the Phoenician Baal, and practiced Canaanite rites including sacrificing human victims in fire to the pagan god. This Bel-fire rite in early Celtic Britain, known as Beltaine (or Baal-tinnes), is evidence that the pagan roots of Celtic rituals go back farther in time to the wicked Canaanite religion that was denounced so vociferously by the prophets of Israel.

The Prophet Elijah's challenge of the Hebrew priests of Baal is one of the most moving Biblical accounts. (I Ki. 18:18-40) At this early period the Bible indicates that a majority of Hebrew priests and people followed the rituals of Baal worship. Noted antiquarian Sir William Betham made an exhaustive study of the ancient Celtic peoples, and states in his book, “The Gael and Cimbri,” “Baal... has the precise meaning in Gaelic as in Phoenician — the lord of heaven.” (p. 226) Many customs hearken back to Palestine, as well; “even the cakes which the idolatrous Jews, in imitation of the Phoenicians, made in honour of the queen of heaven are still the most popular cake in Ireland under the old name of the barn-brack, or speckled cake.” (p. 236) Ancient customs and rituals are persistent among mankind, and therefore provide tangible evidence of a people’s origins, even where no written proof survives. Betham comments, “Thus we see at this day, fires lighted up in Ireland, on the eve of the summer solstice and the equinoxes, to the Phoenician god, Baal, and even called Baal’s fire, baaltinnes, though the object of veneration be forgotten...” (p. 222-223) Betham relates, “On an altar-stone, dug up near Kirby Thore, in Westmorland, England, is this inscription:”


The text translates as follows: “To the god Baal, the friend of man, Iolus made his free vow.”

Numerous other stone altars to Phoenician gods, which have been discovered in Britain, Ireland, and Gaul, are discussed and translated in Betham’s work. Some of the principal finds include altar-stones found in Northumbria and other parts of Britain. He states that these ancient monuments to “Baal, by the ancient British... are unanswerable evidences of the identity of the people of the two islands {i.e., Britain and Ireland] and Gaul, which the most unwilling and incredulous caviler at etymologies, can scarcely refuse to receive as conclusive. It proves more, for it shows an identity of the deities of the Celtae and the Phoenicians...” (p. 228-229)

Numerous other parallels exist between Celtic and Canaanite worship, including mystic well-worship, worship of sacred stones, and the veneration of the autumnal equinoxes. In fact, both the Canaanites and Celts practiced autumnal sacrifices to Baal, which the Celts called, “Baal-tinnes,” as previously mentioned.



Aven was another of the deities of the Phoenician Canaanites, and temples to this god were called, 'Beth-Aven," or 'house of Aven.' The idolatrous Israelites also had adopted worship of this false god, as we see in Hoseh 4:15-17: "…come not ye unto Gilgal, neither go ye up to Bethaven [i.e. “The House of Aven”], nor swear, Yahuah liveth. For Israel slideth back as a backsliding heifer…Ephraim is joined to idols…" Israelite worship of this god was so pervasive, that the prophet Isaiah used the word, "Aven," to signify an idol in general: "…he that burneth incense, as if he blessed an idol [Hebrew, "Aven"]." All idols are vanity, and Aven itself came to have a secondary meaning of vanity. Since this so-called god was no god at all, the idolaters were literally worshipping nothing! The Apostle Paul picks up on this theme in First Corinthians 4:8, "We know that an idol is nothing in the world, an:d that there is no other Elohim but One."

There are five rivers Avon in Britain, of which three pass through Gloustershire, where Celtic worship of this god was centered. In the same English district is an old town named Avening. The 'ing' suffix means the place of, so Avening is the place of Aven. Historian Samuel Lysons, in "Our British Ancestors" says, "The worship at Beth-Aven, in Canaan, and that of Avening in Gloucestershire, and that of Aven, Heliopolis, or Baal bec, were all identical. The stone altars, the high place, the calves' bones discovered there, mark the similarity." (p.123)


Still another Canaanite god and goddess, Moloch and Chiun, are mentioned in connection with Israel's worship by the prophet Amos (5:25), "But ye have borne the tabernacle of your Moloch and Chiun your images, the star of your god, which ye made to yourselves. Therefore will I cause you to go into captivity…"

At Windmill Hill, near Avebury, Wiltshire, England, there are evidences of Druidical worship, but no windmill. 'Win' is the Celtic word for 'eye,' and 'Win-Melk' is the 'eye of Moloch.' Dr. Maurice, in "Indian Antiquities," says, "the Druids worshipped the sun under the title of Moloch, so we are certain that worship was derived to them from their Eastern ancestors." The British towns Melch-bourne in Bedfordshire, and Melc-combe in Dorset, both retain evidence of the worship of Moloch in early times.

Similarly, the goddess Chiun was worshipped by the idolatrous Canaanites and the Israelites who followed their custom. Chiun was the moon goddess, and was considered so important that she was called the queen of heaven. In fact, it is from this word, Chiun, that we derive our English word, queen. The Prophet Jeremiah mentions worship of this goddess several times. He laments Israel's worship of her, saying, "The children gather wood, and the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead their dough, to make cakes to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto other gods, that they may provoke me to anger." (Jer. 7:18; compare 44:17-25) The goddess Chiun had her adherents in Britain also, as seen in the name of the famous king, Cuno-bel-inus, whose name combines the worship of both Chiun and Bel. Similarly, Chiun is seen in the early British names Cunedag, Cingetorix, Conan, and Maglo-cunus.


                The Hebrew word, Al, signifies the sun, and is equivalent to the Phoenician Hal, Greek Halios, Babylonian Il, and Celto-British Heaul. Mallet's "Northern Antiquities," (vol.2, p.68) states, "All Celtic nations have been accustomed to the worship of the sun…It was a custom that everywhere prevailed in ancient times to celebrate a feast at the winter solstice, by which men testified their joy at seeing this great luminary return again to this part of the heavens. This was the greatest solemnity of the year. They called it, in many places, Yole or Yuul, from the word Hiaul, which even at this day signifies the sun in the languages of the Bas-Bretagne and Cornwall." Christmas is still called Yule. A Christmas holiday beer, Ale, may be from the same root. Holly and Holy come from the word, heaul, meaning 'to hallow, to deem sacred,' with roots to the Hebrew, 'El,' God. The German words, 'heilig' and 'ale' mean 'to swear, to call on the name of Elohim.' The words 'all,' ''whole,' and 'heal,' may be related to this.

The Hebrew name for the sun appears in many places in Britain with names beginning with 'Al,' 'Ail,' 'Ayl,' 'Hal,' 'Hayl,' and the like. There are many examples, including Albury, Albourne, Alcester, Alby, Althorp, Alton, Allington, Allerton, Alford, Allenby, Alsop, and dozens more.


British antiquarian, Aylett Sammes, writing in 1676, noted that “the customs, religion, idols, offices, and dignities of the ancient Britons are all clearly Phoenician.” John Pinkarton, in his “Enquiry Into The History Of Scotland” (1789), also stated that Druidism was directly descended from the Phoenicians, while British antiquarian William Stukely, in the book, “Stonehenge,” believed that it had the marks of Israelite worship and culture.

Stukely pointed out Old Testament references to oaks, which gave these trees symbolic or mystical attributes. Abraham’s altar of sacrifice was prepared by the oak of Moreh. ”And Abram passed through the land unto the place of Sichem, unto the plain (lit: “oak) of Moreh. And the Canaanite was then in the land. And Yahuah appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land: and there builded he an altar unto Yahuah, who appeared unto him.” (Gen. 12:6-7) We are further told in Hoseh 4:13, “They sacrifice upon the tops of the mountains, and burn incense upon the hills, under oaks...” The importance of worship under oaks in Druidism is well known.


In early alphabets, letters represented ideas. In Hebrew, aleph, the first letter, stood for an ox; bet symbolized a house, gimel was a camel, dalet a door, and so on. Similarly, in Celtic the letter "I" stood for 'the future.' "A" represented 'the present', and "O" stood for 'the past'. Thus, the Druidic name for Elohim, "IAO," literally meant "the Everliving," a being in existence past, present, and future. This is the exact definition given by scholars for the name of the Hebrew Divinity. In fact, the Ferrar Fenton Bible consistently translates the name of Elohim as "the Everliving." Celtic scholar, John Daniel, in his book, "The Druidic Idea of God," says "there can hardly be a question that the three letters were originally no other name than IAO, the Latinized form… of the Hebrew [Yao]; and that such was the rendering of that name, we have the authority of several ancient writers. Diodorus Siculus says it was related amongst the Jews, that Moses attributed the framing of the laws to the God called IAO; and Theodoret states that God was by the Jews called IAO." (p.12)

Hebrew language scholars inform us that the Sacred Name was “Yahuah” or "Yahu" in Judah and "Yao" in the Northern Hebrew of Ephraim.** Celtic scholar John Daniels states, "So to the Druids there was a secret name for the Deity, which was unutterable ("Aflafar") to all but the most privileged of their order, and was symbolized by the three Bardic characters representing the vowels IAO." (ibid., p. 11)

The Druidic priests, like the Levitical priests of the Bible, were exempt from military service. The Druidic and Levitical priests were both divided into three classes. Even the Druidic ceremonial robes remind one of the Mosaic priests, with their breastplates of gold and jewels. The Druidic rituals, like the Old Testament Levitical, included the sacrifice of sheep, oxen, and goats, but no idol worship.

Perhaps we can do no better in summing up our study than to quote the venerable Sir William Betham: “The connection of this [Hebrew-Phoenician] worship with the historical traditions of the Pagan Irish is so evident, and so extensive, that it …strongly illustrates the [Biblical] account of the progress of population from the plains of Sennaar [i.e., in the Middle-East] to the western extremities...” (p. 242)

* Mining in Britain was extensive in ancient times, as verified in the writings of Julius Caesar (Betham, ibid. p.40)

** Further information on the Divine Sacred Name: www.sacred-name.info