"Merry Meet and Blessed Be!"

"Bide the Wiccan law ye must,
In perfect love and perfect trust..."

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Samhain Traditions Post #2: Jack-O-Lanterns

What says halloween more so that carved pumpkins grinning from front steps? Have you ever wondered why though? How many pumpkins have you carved in the name of Halloween over your lifetime? Did you know that when the idea first started it was turnips and apples that were carved?

Nobody knows exactly where the origin of jack-o-lanterns first started, but it is believed that it was first done in Ireland where they carved turnips for lanterns. Grotesque faces were carved into them to represent the ghosts and goblins that were very active on October 31 to November 1. During this time the veil between this world and the next is thinned and spirits are freed to walk the earth. Many of those spirits returned to finish business started but never finished. Just like when we are alive you have good people and bad people, you have the same in death. Some of those spirits only purpose is to create chaos with the living.

Christians even lay claim to the tradition, even though the concept of carved vegetables with lights dates back to before recorded Christian ideals, saying that the idea of carved gourds was done for November first, All Saints Day, to represent the lost souls in purgatory. Which ever religion lays claim to the tradition all have the same purpose, jack-o-lanterns are sat on windowsills or along fence lines and front steps to ward away the evil or mischievous spirits.

A common lore of surrounding them is Stingy Jack:

An old Irish folk tale from the mid-19th Century tells of Stingy Jack, a lazy yet shrewd blacksmith who uses a cross to trap Satan. One story says that Jack tricked Satan into climbing an apple tree, and once he was up there Jack quickly placed crosses around the trunk or carved a cross into the bark, so that Satan couldn't get down. Another tale says that Jack put a key in Satan's pocket while he was suspended upside-down.
In another version Jack was getting chased by some villagers from whom he had stolen, when he met Satan, who claimed it was time for him to die. However, the thief stalled his death by tempting Satan with a chance to bedevil the church-going villagers chasing him. Jack told Satan to turn into a coin with which he would pay for the stolen goods (Satan could take on any shape he wanted); later, when the coin (Satan) disappeared, the Christian villagers would fight over who had stolen it. The Devil agreed to this plan. He turned himself into a silver coin and jumped into Jack's wallet, only to find himself next to a cross Jack had also picked up in the village. Jack had closed the wallet tight, and the cross stripped the Devil of his powers; and so he was trapped.
In both folktales, Jack only lets Satan go when he agrees never to take his soul. After a while the thief died, as all living things do. Of course, his life had been too sinful for Jack to go to heaven; however, Satan had promised not to take his soul, and so he was barred from hell as well. Jack now had nowhere to go. He asked how he would see where to go, as he had no light, and Satan mockingly tossed him an ember from the flames of Hades, that would never burn out. Jack carved out one of his turnips (which were his favorite food), put the ember inside it, and began endlessly wandering the Earth for a resting place. He became known as "Jack of the Lantern", or Jack-o'-lantern.

During modern times the use of them is simply decorations of the home for the fall and specifically Halloween. Many aren't even carved with faces anymore. They are carved with family names and pictures of our favorite items and even cartoon and other pop culture media. There are contests to see who can do the best and a Food Network show centered around outrageously carved and sculpted pumpkin art. So when you carve your pumpkins this year carve one for the windowsill for the night to scare away the bad! 

Blessed be,
Lord Llucias