Conflict & Justice

Halloween in Afghanistan

To most troops deployed in Afghanistan at the moment, Halloween is yet another holiday they’re missing with their families.

But to the followers of Pagan and Wiccan religions, it is a day when the layers between the spiritual world and earthly world are thin. That makes it a good day for remembering the dead and taking stock of one’s life.

Nine or so followers of various Pagan and Wiccan religions put together a “Samhein” ritual this evening on Forward Operating Base Wilson in Zhari province.

There were no elaborate costumes for this Halloween ceremony. Eight of the participants were U.S. military, and wore uniforms. The high priestess was a U.S. Department of Defense contractor — she wore hiking boots, brown slacks and a shirt.

There was an altar, candles, incense and one not very sharp knife involved. Many of the supplies came from the base’s chapel. One of the main organizers of the event was a chaplain’s assistant.

Chaplains in the Army aren’t necessarily Christian — there are chaplains who are Jewish, Buddhist and other religions. In the U.S. Military, a chaplain is more a job title for “religious guy” than it is a definition of a Christian spiritual leader.

The same goes for the chapel — it’s merely a building for religious services to be conducted — of any type.

It’s where the Pagans have their weekly “Paganism 101” class for curious troops interested in the faith.