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For many people Halloween is a harmless opportunity to dress up and have fun, but for some it has far more serious import.
Some fundamentalist Christian groups condemn the event, which takes place on Saturday, as "satanic" but Wiccans believe it is an important religious occasion to honour their god Samhain and their ancestors.
The event is growing in popularity in South Africa, bringing all sorts of business opportunities.
Although the holiday originated with Europe's Celtic pagans marking the end of summer, Hollywood has helped to make this uber-American holiday extremely popular.
Stores here now swell with Halloween stock and trick-or-treaters attempt to canvass streets for sweets.
Various clubs, pubs and restaurants have created themes for the evening and are throwing parties to draw clientele.
The ancient Celts believed that today, the boundaries between the physical world and the spirit world became blurred, allowing spirits freedom to roam the earth. They believed that the dead could visit them and wreak havoc. So to scare off the dead spirits jack o' lanterns are lit, bonfires made and scary costumes are worn.
But the Christian Action Network has slammed the celebration of Halloween, saying good Christians were unwittingly taking part in something that was "diabolical".
The Network's head, father of four Peter Hammond, of Pinelands in Cape Town, allegedly took his children on a paintball shooting spree on Halloween night four years ago, firing at trick-or-treaters. Dubbed "the Paintball Pastor" for his efforts, he said many people would unintentionally be celebrating Halloween without realising its "dark origins".
He said Halloween has strong roots in paganism and witchcraft. It began as the Druid festival of Samhain.
"On Halloween, for thousands of years, druid priests conducted diabolical worship ceremonies in which cats, horses, sheep, oxen and even human beings were rounded up, stuffed into Wicca cages and burned to death. These human and animal sacrifices were apparently required to appease Samhain and keep the spirits from harming them."
He said to obtain these sacrifices, druid priests would go from house to house. Those who gave were promised prosperity, and those who refused to give were threatened and cursed. This was the origin of "trick or treat".
He said the jack o' lantern had its origin in the candlelit pumpkin or skull, which served as a signal to mark those farms and homes that supported the druids' religion, and thus were seeking the "treat" when the terror of Halloween began.
"The World Book Encyclopaedia says the apparently harmless lit pumpkin face of the jack o' lantern is an ancient symbol of a damned soul," said Hammond.
Asked if there would be any paintball shenanigans tonight, he replied, "Goodness me, no! I'll be reading my Bible and praying for these lost souls."
However, Wiccan high priestess Raene Packery, who runs the Witch School of South Africa, said Halloween or the ritual of Samhain was celebrated today in the northern hemisphere but in South Africa in April and May.
"Our Sabbats are celebrated according to the seasons and cycles of nature, which means that they will be celebrated at different times and according to the appropriate season in each hemisphere," she said.
"Most people don't know this and do not understand the tradition, spiritual significance and symbolism behind our Sabbats - if they did, there would not be a Halloween craze and local shops wouldn't be making a fortune selling costumes and props this time of the year.
"When Samhain was celebrated a silent supper was held to honour the ancestors.
"Our ritual space is consecrated and usually decorated with Halloween images of skulls, skeletons, ghosts and spiders in accordance with the festival of spirits.
"We drape our altars in black cloth and adorn them with pumpkins, squash, fruit and nuts and other autumn crops. Mementos of loved ones who have passed into the spirit world are placed on the altar. Feasting, dressing up in costume and making merry is a big part of our after-ritual activities."
In response to Christian organisations saying that the celebration was "evil", Packery said there were no satanic links to Halloween or Wicca. She said critics were misinformed and they would continue to try to debunk these false accusations.
"They got the wrong end of the stick."