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Halloween, Witches, Demons, and the Occult

September 22, 2011 by  
Filed under Dan Burke, Spiritual Warfare

by Kathryn Marcellino, OCDS

With Halloween right around the corner, we might ask ourselves if demons and evil spirits are real? The Church gives us an authoritative answer in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CC 414) which says, “Satan or the devil and the other demons are fallen angels who have freely refused to serve God and his plan. Their choice against God is definitive. They try to associate man in their revolt against God.”

If you ever wondered if demons are just an old-fashioned notion that intelligent modern people don't believe in nowadays, or just a literary convention, you might be interested in reading a couple of somewhat hair-raising books called Interview With an Exorcist: An Insider's Look at the Devil, Demonic Possession, and the Path to Deliverance by Fr. José Antonio Fortea and also An Exorcist Tells His Story by Fr. Gabriele Amorth. These books are very revealing live encounters with demons today by credible sources (i.e. priests who are exorcists) and give a lot of information on how to protect ourselves from evil spirits and what demons can and cannot do.

Since we are in spiritual warfare while here on earth, it makes sense to know more about our spiritual enemies so that we can be better prepared to battle them (without really focusing on them, or being obsessed, or overly-frightened of them or blaming everything on evil spirits.)

For example, did you know that angels and demons cannot read our thoughts unless we direct our attention to them with the idea of communicating with them? Did you know that there are people who are possessed today and what it takes to gain deliverance from evil spirits, curses, etc.? Did you know that there are other forms of demonic oppression besides just possession?

Some dangerous things to avoid include spells, charms, curses, witchcraft, ouija boards, seances and anything having to do with the occult. These kinds of things, some of them innocently done at children's parties, are not only strictly forbidden by the Catholic faith, but dangerous, in that they open us up to evil spirits, which are real and not just imaginary. Please don't ever let your children/teens attend parties (especially popular at slumber parties) where there are seances and ouija boards and/or playing with spells and witchcraft. Ask beforehand what will be done at before allowing your children to attend parties. Witchcraft and spells are becoming more popular due to books and movies and somehow we need protect our children from these dangers of without getting them fascinated with them or making them seem interesting to them.

More from the Catechism of the Catholic Church on “Divination and Magic”

2115: God can reveal the future to his prophets or to other saints. Still, a sound Christian attitude consists in putting oneself confidently into the hands of Providence for whatever concerns the future, and giving up all unhealthy curiosity about it. Improvidence, however, can constitute a lack of responsibility.

2116: All forms of divination are to be rejected: recourse to Satan or demons, conjuring up the dead or other practices falsely supposed to “unveil” the future. Consulting horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, interpretation of omens and lots, the phenomena of clairvoyance, and recourse to mediums all conceal a desire for power over time, history, and, in the last analysis, other human beings, as well as a wish to conciliate hidden powers. They contradict the honor, respect, and loving fear that we owe to God alone.

2117: All practices of magic or sorcery, by which one attempts to tame occult powers, so as to place them at one's service and have a supernatural power over others – even if this were for the sake of restoring their health – are gravely contrary to the virtue of religion. These practices are even more to be condemned when accompanied by the intention of harming someone, or when they have recourse to the intervention of demons. Wearing charms is also reprehensible. Spiritism often implies divination or magical practices; the Church for her part warns the faithful against it. Recourse to so-called traditional cures does not justify either the invocation of evil powers or the exploitation of another's credulity.”

What is the attraction?

Why do people get attracted to using witchcraft and/or the occult practices? The answer is usually that they are seeking some sort of power, control, or some kind of hidden knowledge of the other world or the future… in other words to have some of the power that generally belongs to God. This is a temptation. The serpent in the Garden of Eden tempted Eve and said, “…you will be like gods…” (Genesis 3:5); however, when doing what the devil said she didn't become like God, but rather lost all God's blessings. Reality is that we are creatures and whereas God did give us some power, it is limited and we are dependent on God for all we are and have.

Good angels also truly exist like our guardian angels. St. Michael, the Archangel, and the other good angels battle with Satan and the evil spirits. The name “Michael” means “who is like God” (implying that no one is like God in contrary to Satan's temptation.) Our guardian angel helps protect us from spiritual and natural dangers.

If you are interested in scary movies and ghosts and goblins and want the real story about demons etc. you might be interested to read first hand accounts and conclusions by the two Catholic priests-exorcists mentioned earlier, as sometimes the truth is even stranger and more scary than fiction.

However if we keep ourselves in God's grace we really have nothing to fear as the devil cannot coerce us to sin. God does limit the power the devil has over us, and we are not allowed to be tempted more than God gives us the grace to resist. The devil can only do what God allows or we allow him to do. Let's refuse to cooperate voluntarily with the devil and refuse to open ourselves up to evil spirits by occult practices. There really is a hell and evil spirits, and we don't want to spend eternity there, so let's not have anything to do with the occult while here on earth.

If we have been involved in something occult-related, we should go to confession, and if necessary, learn more about how to be delivered from any lingering effects through prayers of deliverance. In the rare instance that possession is suspected, exorcism should only be attempted by someone who is authorized by the Church. (Regular people should not attempt something like this on their own.) Wearing blessed medals, scapulars, holy water, and other sacramentals are also helpful when used with faith in God and not as a superstition.

Halloween in our secular culture is associated with witches, ghosts, evil spirits, demons, etc. but is it really the feast of All Saints Day and this is where the name derives (i.e. All Hallows Eve). Whereas it is good to know the devil exists and evil spirits so we can stay away from them, for the most part we should really keep our focus mainly on God and good things like the Bible tells us to do.

Kathryn is a member of the Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites and runs a web site with a familiar name – Catholic Spiritual Direction

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About Dan Burke

Dan is the President of the Avila Foundation, the parent organization of, the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation, Divine Intimacy Radio and Divine Intimacy Radio - Resources Edition, Into the Deep Parish Programs, the Apostoli Viae (Apostles of the Way) Community, and the FireLight Student Leadership Formation Program, author of the award-winning book, Navigating the Interior Life - Spiritual Direction and the Journey to God, Finding God Through Meditation-St. Peter of Alcantara, 30 Days with Teresa of Avila, Into the Deep, Living the Mystery of Merciful Love: 30 Days with Thérèse of Lisieux, and his newest book The Contemplative Rosary with St. John Paul II and St. Teresa of Avila. Beyond his "contagious" love for Jesus and His Church, he is a grateful husband and father of four, the Executive Director of and writer for EWTN's National Catholic Register, a regular co-host on Register Radio, a writer and speaker who provides online spiritual formation and travels to share his conversion story and the great riches that the Church provides us through authentic Catholic spirituality. Dan has been featured on EWTN's Journey Home program and numerous radio programs.

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  • Eric Borgman

    Hello, I wanted to commend you on your clearly written article concerning these issues. I wish that a series of articles I’ve come across in the National Catholic Register covering similar topics recently was written as well and as clearly. I’m afraid Melinda Selmys’ writing style is totally incoherent and lacking the clarity and the authority of your piece. Thanks and God Bless.

  • Bob Crowley

    I was surprised to hear that angels and demons cannot read our thoughts. I’ve had the experience of an old pastor ask me “Who’s so and so?” When I then asked him why he’d asked, he replied, “There seemed to be a thought going through your head …” and then he stated word for word what I’d been thinking. I think in his case God was telling him what I’d been thinking, as I’ve had a couple of similar experiences myself. But it’s only on certain rare occasions.

    The reason I’m surprised that they apparently can’t read our thoughts is that spritiual beings must have some sort of communication channel themselves. Obviously it’s not vocal as we understand it, so there must be another way they communicate. I”d have thought our thoughts would have some crossing of the boundary between physical and spiritual.

    I mention this further because I had the experience of my father turning up in my room the night he died. He started with an apology, we argued and conversed and at the end he gave this terrifying scream and then disappeared.

    Yet to all intents and purposes we were “talking”. But his body, with all the associated organs required for speech – brain, larynx, tongue, lungs, facial muscles – was lying dead in his flat several kilometres away and was in fact not found for another four days.

    So how did we communicate? incidentally a Catholic psychiatrist I go to, and the same wise old pastor I’ve mentioned above both came to accept (reluctantly in the pastor’s case) that my father indeed did appear in my room that night.

    • Becky Ward

      Dan, please do not post this if you find anything even slightly contrary to the teachings of the Church.

      Dear Bob,

      I believe that you communicated spiritually………the spiritual realm is fascinating!! (At least for some of us) The whole idea of “Communion of Saints” and being part of “One Body” really come to life in the spiritual realm……………we are still connected to those who have died, (Much like computers are connected around the world!) but in our humanity and especially with so many people saying that this kind of thing is ‘nonsense’, it’s difficult to believe unless one had an experience like yours.

      Without knowing the specifics, like whether or not you saw your Dad with your eyes and heard him with your ears, and not internally, it’s hard to say what happened. However, there are some teachings that tell us that about apparitions and other phenomena like this. They are a reality!! Yet they can be terribly deceiving and easily misunderstood.

      This is why the Church, in her great wisdom is very cautious in dealing with private revelation.

      My two favorite authorities are St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross. St John talks abut visions and things like this in ‘Ascent of Mount Carmel’……….it might provide some insight.

      St. Teresa talks about having seen souls enter into their glory in heaven……and also of having been to hell.

      There are also several saints who could bi-locate…..Padre Pio was one of them………although I don’t know much about how that works. But it happens. God can do anything!!

      I believe I was visited by my Aunt the night she died several years ago. I thought it was a dream at the time……….I didn’t visually see her but just got a ‘sense’ that she was standing at the foot of the bed for a few seconds, and then she was gone. I love her dearly, she was my Godmother and I believe she was saying ‘farewell’.

      The devil cannot read our thoughts or plant ‘original’ thoughts or ideas into our mind. That said, he is extremely clever (He was after all the ‘Angel of Light’), and he is UNTIRING in his patience and efforts to lead us astray.

      The devil watches us our whole lives……….he knows our weaknesses, our greatest temptations, how we act when we are sad or discouraged, and he will stop at nothing to prevent our being saved.

      HOWEVER – The devil cannot do ANYTHING without God’s allowing it. He can’t even think without God saying “Okay.”………he IS a created being. So while we need to be educated about what he can and cannot do, there is no need to have great fear or dread of the evil one………..especially if we keep our eyes on Christ.

      If you’re concerned about your Dad I would simply urge you to pray for him. God sees the future, and he knows the prayers we will offer after loved ones have died….and he can, in His Mercy apply the merits and grace of those prayers (Not yet said) to our loved ones at the moment of death so that the soul has the grace to say “Yes” to Jesus at the right moment.

      I’ll be praying for both of you. God Bless!

  • Glcohee

    Thank you for the link to Kathryn’s site. What a haven it is indeed.

  • Guest

    I, too, am surprised to hear that Satan and demons cannot access our thoughts. This is because recently, I asked my Spiritual Director why once in a while a thought floats into my mind to remind me on an old sin I committed, oh about 30-40 years ago. And as I grapple with it, I persistently hear this thought striving to convince me I have never confessed this particularly sin ever and, therefore, all these years, I have been receiving the Holy Communion unworthy. At this point I become so disturbed, anxious and thoroughly unnerved. But my Spiritual Director, emphatically told me that such doubts are planted in our minds by the Evil One to throw us into despair with the aim of discouraging us from perservering and continuing with in our religious practices and prayers and, if possible, to begin to avoid the Sacraments altogether because that it what Satan hates most. He advised me that I must reject such accusatory thoughts outright, refuse to worry or allow myself to be overly anxious and mention that particular sin during the next Confession. He also advised me that if a remembrance of an old sin did not elicit anxiety or worry, it was the Holy Spirit who was prompting me because God wishes me to grow in my Spirituality and to draw closer to Him by increasing the level of the Sanctifying Grace in my soul.

    I would very much appreciate a comment from Fr. John or Dan on this advice.

    • Angels (according to what I understood Fr. Fortea saying in his book “An Interview with an Exorcist”) cannot read our thoughts unless we direct them to them, however that doesn’t mean they can’t and don’t suggest thoughts to us as they do tempt us and make evil suggestions to us.

  • Dymphna

    As someone who practiced witchcraft for 13 years and divination for over 15 years, as well as other occult practices,
    As someone who is just coming back to Jesus Christ now,

    I will say that this article is 100% correct, and I fear for anyone who still practices any of this. You don’t just practice these things once and have all of the evil become apparent to you. The fun parts of doing this are so much fun that you will keep doing it, even when you’re depressed, even when you want to kill yourself, even when you have addictions, even when you’ve lost your job, even when the entire world is falling apart around you. It’s a trap. I did do it for power at some point, but I did it because I thought I could come closer to God. I wound up a polytheist Pagan instead, where I felt powerful in some ways but I did not have God’s grace. If you feel disconnected to God, please read the Bible or try another Catholic church. Don’t give up on God because he’s there for you.
    I am absolved and it feels great.

    • Becky Ward

      Thanks be to God!

    • LizEst


  • May I ask… What about premonitionary dreams? Ever since childhood, I occasionally have dreams of events that happen months or years later. But after dreaming them something in them always prevents me from believing them. Until they actually happen then I realize that I dreamt them. Often enough they have significant moments in my life. I do nothing to induce them. They just happen. They are not dangerous are they?

  • I used to do a lot of divination, direct and indirect, before I became a Christian. Sometimes my “guides” would answer my mental questions in ways that made it seem they didn’t really know what I “said.” Other times they did seem to know just what I “said.” I’m confused now about when they could hear me and when they couldn’t, and whether they can ever hear my thoughts now that I’m out, if in a dream or a weak moment I forget not to address myself to them — can you explain more fully?

    • Becky Ward

      Serena, until the author can get back to you, this is what I have been taught about our thoughts and how the devil knows what we are thinking.
      He watches us for our whole life. He knows how we behave when we are happy, afraid, sad, lonely, tired, etc… and is a master of supplying the right thought to distract or derail us in making spiritual progress.
      While he cannot read our thoughts……God does allow him to suggest or whisper thoughts to us.
      When we have left certain bad habits and/or sins behind, the devil will remind us of them…or he may bring back a memory of a behavior that was pleasant, leading us to think it is our own thought.
      Trust in God’s mercy and love, and know that He will not allow the evil one to have more ability to distract or tempt us than is good for our soul.
      I do not believe you have any reason to fear about what happens when you are dreaming etc., if you have left these practices behind. Unless you intentionally invoke an evil spirit with the intent to communicate with them I do not think they can harm you…….other than as stated above….throwing out specifically targeted thoughts and ideas to distract you.

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