Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The Story of Jack O'Lantern

When the term jack-o'-lantern first appeared in print in 1750, it referred to a night watchman or a man carrying a lantern.It was after this story that beliefs changed, people began to believed that spirits and ghosts left the grave on Halloween and would seek out warmth in their previous homes.

A stingy drunkard of an Irish blacksmith named Jack had the misfortune to run into the Devil in a pub, some say on Halloween night. Jack had too much to drink and was about to fall into the Devil's hands, but managed to trick the Devil by offering his soul in exchange for one last drink. The Devil turned himself into a sixpence to pay the bartender, but Jack quickly pocketed him in his purse. Because Jack had a silver cross in his purse, the Devil could not change himself back. Jack would not let the Devil go until he promised not to claim his soul for ten years.

The Devil agreed and ten years later Jack came across the Devil while walking on a country road. The Devil wanted to collect, but Jack, thinking quickly, said "I'll go, but before I go, will you get me an apple from that tree?" The Devil, thinking he had nothing to lose, jumped on Jack's shoulders to obtain the apple. Jack pulled out his knife and carved a cross in the trunk of the tree. This left the Devil in the air, unable to obtain Jack or his soul. Jack made him promise to never again ask for his soul. Seeing no way out, the Devil agreed. No one knows how the Devil ever managed to get back down!

When Jack finally died years later, he was not admitted to Heaven, because of his life of drinking and being tightfisted and deceitful. When he went to apply for entrance to Hell, the Devil had to turn him away because he agreed never to take Jack's soul. "But where can I go?", asked Jack. "Back where you came from!", replied the Devil. The way back was windy and dark. Jack pleaded with the Devil to at least provide him a light to find his way. The Devil, as a final gesture, threw a live coal at Jack straight from the fire of Hell. To light his way and to keep it from blowing out in the wind, Jack put it in a turnip he was eating.

Ever since, Jack has been doomed to wander in darkness with his lantern until "Judgment Day."

Jack of the lantern (Jack O' Lantern) became known as the symbol of a damned soul.

It was after this story that beliefs changed, people began to believed that spirits and ghosts left the grave on Halloween and would seek out warmth in their previous homes.

Villagers, fearful of the possibility of being visited by the ghosts of past occupants, would dress up in costumes to scare the spirits on their way. They would also leave food and other treats at their door to appease the spirits, so they would not destroy their homes or crops, but instead move on down the road. They also began to hollow out turnips with a face either painted or carved into it, and place lighted candles inside; hoping the image of a dammed soul would scare the spirits away.

Since I am part English and part Irish, I choose to believe the Celts and place Jack o’ Lanterns on my porch to welcome my deceased family and friends, hoping they will always find comfort, love and happiness within my home.

Additional information:

References to pumpkins date back many centuries. The name pumpkin originated from the Greek word for "large melon" which is "pepon." "Pepon" was nasalized by the French into "pompon." The English changed "pompon" to "Pumpion." Shakespeare referred to the "pumpion" in his Merry Wives of Windsor. American colonists changed "pumpion" into "pumpkin." The "pumpkin" is referred to in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Peter, Peter, Pumpkin Eater and Cinderella.

Native Americans dried strips of pumpkin and wove them into mats. They also roasted long strips of pumpkin on the open fire and ate them. The origin of pumpkin pie occurred when the colonists sliced off the pumpkin top, removed the seeds, and filled the insides with milk, spices and honey. The pumpkin was then baked in hot ashes.

Special thanks to LadyofAvalonLand for this post.


Blogger Lostcheerio said...

Great post -- I never knew all that. What an interesting story. I guess the devil is kinda gullible. Just get me an apple! Real quick! Oh, okay, sure! :D

2:36 PM CDT  
Blogger Heather Harper said...

Great post, Betty. And nice pics too. Thanks for sharing. :)

5:17 PM CDT  
Blogger X. Dell said...

All quite interesting. May I post a link to this article on the 23rd-Mandalation website?

12:12 AM CDT  
Blogger Betty S said...

Of course, Dell. Go ahead and link. That's fine with me.

7:26 AM CDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What Heather said :)

4:23 PM CDT  

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