Occult Walking Practices and Rituals

One person's spiritual journey is another's occult walking practice. Some walking practices and rituals have been labeled as the occult, especially by those of different faiths and by science-based skeptics. Some believe that seemingly innocent walks or walking practices can draw people deeper into the occult, and paranormal beliefs. Are these all good fun or gateway drugs into the occult?

Fire Walking

Firewalking - Fire Walking
Firewalking - Fire Walking. Koichi Kamoshida / Getty Images

Firewalking -- walking across a bed of hot coals -- has become  popular with New Age self-help groups and motivational and team-building seminars. It is part of the tradition of many people, including Eastern Orthodox Christians, !Kung bushmen, Polynesians, Taoists and Buddhists. While many practitioners say it is a trance, saint or deity that protects the feet from burning, in fact, the physics of the coals is what is at work. What the fire walkers benefit from is controlling their fear of the situation. Those who think this is an occult practice worry that fire walkers are putting their faith in a deity or meditation practice and firewalking will draw them further into the occult.
Why Firewalking Doesn't Burn - Science or Spirituality

Labyrinth Walking

Outdoor Labyrinth - Pacific University
Outdoor Labyrinth - Pacific University, Oregon. Wendy Bumgardner ©

Labyrinths are built into many medieval Christian cathedrals and in modern day can be found in many Protestant and Catholic churches and church grounds. They have been used for prayer walking and meditation for centuries, originally in imitation of a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. But some conservative Christians do not trust the origins of the labyrinth, and they worry about any form of meditation. They think that spending quiet time slowly walking a labyrinth, even in prayer, is a kind of gateway drug into New Age and occult practices.
Walking the Labyrinth

Walking on Water

Sea of Galilee
Sea of Galilee. Wendy Bumgardner © 2010

The best-known figure to walk on water was Jesus in Matthew: 14. Simon Peter tried to join him but began to sink, and Jesus chided him that he could have done it if he wasn't such a doubter. Walking on water was considered to be one of the siddhis -- occult powers obtained by Hindu gurus and yogi through practice. The Buddha considered this to be a false path and severely criticized it. Other Hindu and Buddhist enlightened ones also thought it got in the way of true spiritual growth. While they believed that Jesus, Krishna and other sanyasi could walk on water due to their spiritual achievement, they didn't think it was something to pursue for its own sake.
Jesus Walks on Water

Ghost Walks

Ghost in Old House
Ghost in Old House. Ghislain & Marie David de Lossy/Cultura/Getty Images

Ghost walks and tours are very popular in historic areas and through cemeteries, as well as any place where an entrepreneur or true believer can direct paying tourists to a "haunted house." But evidence-based skeptics worry that this celebration of the spooky can reinforce belief in the paranormal.  It also may be counter to the picture of the afterlife held by any one faith. Will going on a ghost walk reinforce your beliefs in the occult? Is belief in ghosts at odds with the tenets of your faith? Is it all just spooky fun and the telling of "campfire tales," or another chip away at a reality-based worldview?
Ghost Walks and Tours

Trick or Treating

Halloween Pumpkins and Candy
Halloween Pumpkins and Candy. Catherine Delahaye/Digital Vision/Getty Images

In the good old days, children would dress in occult costumes and go door to door, ringing the doorbell and yelling "Trick or Treat!" They got scary amounts of candy. Then an urban legend spread -- razor blades in apples, drugged candy, and the risks of children visiting strangers' houses. Now it is rarer. But conservative Christians consider any celebration of Halloween to be a gateway drug into the occult. They prefer to host "Harvest Parties" and that any costumes are of positive role models. Trick or treat today, worship Satan tomorrow. Scarier: Halloween Treats Calorie Calculator
Should Catholics Celebrate Halloween?

Zombies - the Walking Dead

Zombie Won't Eat You
Zombie Won't Eat You. Wendy Bumgardner ©

The origins of the zombie myth come from voodoo practices in Haiti. A voodoo priest could supposedly reanimate a dead corpse to use as a zombie slave. In fact, he would drug a victim with a concoction that made him appear to be dead, and then later revive him with an antidote. However, the original potion would leave the victim addled and with memory loss, a zombie. Later, Hollywood turned this around into outbreaks of walking dead who shuffled, moaned and ate human flesh. Conservative Christians would object to zombie costumes as a possible gateway drug into voodoo and as part of general disapproval of any Halloween celebration. They probably also disapprove of enjoying a Zombie Walk.
What is Voodoo?
Zombie Walk Photos