Where did Jack O' Lanterns get started?
The long held tradition of carving Jack-O-Lanterns from pumpkin shells, originated from the Irish Folktale about an ole Irishman. Nicknamed 'Stingy Jack', he was sentenced to walk for eternity with a lighted coal flame to light his way. For whatever reason, one night Jack invited the devil for a drink. Then he convinced the devil to transform into a gold coin, to pay for their drinks. Instead of paying for the drinks, he pocketed the devil, deciding to use his gold coin for later. Keeping the gold devil-coin alongside a small silver cross in his pocket, Stingy Jack prevented the devil from transforming back into himself.
Why the devil would even agree to have a drink with a lowly human to begin with? I think this tale reminds me of Baron Samedi, who loves to drink and cavort on a regular basis. Before I continue on about the devil and Jack in the Irish legend, allow me to give you some background on Baron, so you understand why he comes to my mind.
Although the crossroads Loa of Haitian lore (and a sexual Loa, at that!), he's pretty far in proximity to Ireland Folktales. Baron, fond of tobacco and holds a thick cigar in his bony fingers, wears a black top hat on his bare skull, plugs in his nose and wears his suit tails in either purple or black. He is the head of his Loa family and his wife's name is Maman Brigitte. He helps bring the dead to the Underworld. He normally prefers drinking dark Rum steeped with hot peppers, has a filthy wit, and likes to eat roasted peanuts and sweets. He enjoys black coffee before cataclysmic events, such as hurricanes, which are pretty normal in the Caribbean waters around Haiti. People in Texas claimed to have had Baron visit them in the weeks before Hurricane Katrina. They didn't know what he was there for, at first. He drank coffee and watched porn. As they all watched on the news as Katrina drowned New Orleans, Louisiana, he grew quiet and left. Texas was the first to take in survivors in the aftermath. Then, Hurricane Matthew hit Haiti in 2016. Baron Samedi was seen around the world on weather reports, and depicted a profile of his image, shaped like a smiling skull. Thousands of Haitian Voodoo believers visited cemeteries that held their dead, during the first two days of November, so they could pay respects to their ancestors, in a celebration known as 'Fete Gede'.
Perhaps the strong black drink is meant to perk him up from his usual candid debauchery. Baron is the one who digs graves and greets the soul after burial. Even though Baron Samedi is of death, ancestor worship, and magic, I can't imagine he would swill any drinks with anyone who doesn't give him proper ceremony. But, he is notorious for deals.
So, back to Jack in Ireland and his deal with the devil, who he has stuck as a gold coin, next to a silver cross in his pocket. As the tale goes, Jack worked out a deal with the devil that would free him. All he had to do was not collect Jack's soul when he died, and not bother him for a whole year. When the following year arrived, Jack once again tricked the devil. He talked him into climbing a fruit tree and then quickly carved a cross in the tree trunk to prevent the devil from climbing back down. He offered the devil a deal: Don't collect his soul when Jack died and don't bother him for ten years, then he'd let him down. The devil agreed, so Jack let him down.
When Jack died, God wouldn't let him into heaven. Still angry for being tricked, the devil wouldn't let him into hell. His soul had nowhere to go. So, he roams the earth with a burning coal inside a hallowed out turnip to light his way at night.
The spooky tradition of placing them outside, or in windows, began in order to keep Stingy Jack, and the other evil spirits that were stuck in the Netherworld, away from homes on the night the veil was thinnest. Also, the reason why people wear masks on this night? The wearing of masks is meant to confuse evil spirits roaming around, who try to cause harm. The veil between the worlds has long since been considered the thinnest on the same night of the year, all around the world.
In Mexico, the Day of the Dead falls on November 1st. In Haiti, the feast day for Baron Samedi is frequently celebrated on November 1st and 2nd. Eventually, Jack's Lantern began to be called 'Jack O' Lantern' by the Irish, who typically used professions for variations in last names, as did the British and the Scottish.
This was how the hallowing out and lighting of pumpkins began. In Europe, it was originally made from turnips and potatoes. When the export of pumpkins and squash began, the practice continued during the 1800's, with the larger, sturdier shells. The Colonists who had brought their tradition over to the Americas, began to use the pumpkin shell.
That's how the Jack O' Lantern started…with a stingy ole Irish-man and a turnip!
*For more of this blog on the Pumpkin, a Pumpkin Soup recipe, and how to prepare crunchy Pumpkin Seeds for next Halloween, check out my website! Buy my e-books available on Barnes & Noble, Scribd, and iBooks! Stay up-to-date and sign-up to read my other blogs: https://ladysunday13.wixsite.com/mysite