The Myth and Mystique of Jack-O-Lanterns
Have you ever heard the tale of Stingy Jack? You probably have, even if you don’t know it. There are a thousand different versions, though many of them don’t go by the same name or have the same main character. The essence of his story is always the same: a man tricks the devil, the man makes a bargain, the man either goes back on the bargain or runs out of time, the man can’t go to heaven or hell, then he’s stuck here. The main facet of the story that makes Jack so interesting, is his lantern. Given nothing to light his way back from hell but a vegetable or tuber (turnip, radish, beet, potato, rutabaga…) of some kind stuffed with a coal, he became ‘Jack O’ Lantern’. This translates to ‘Jack of the lantern’, if the old englishe was too much for you.
My sources tell me this was mainly an Irish story, and the Jack O’ Lantern was brought over during the potato famine. Amongst food, and equality, and complete acceptance, they also found pumpkins. The turnips, radishes, beets, potatoes, and even our poor friend the rutabaga…they were all ditched in exchange for the magnificently large and easy to carve pumpkin. By the way, the bit about equality and complete acceptance was a lie, but the pumpkins were not.
Traditionally, Celts used to have large bonfires to keep the dead at bay on Sowan, the transitional day between Summer (life season) and Winter (death season), but luckily for us, it gradually turned into the Jack O’ Lantern. I can’t even imagine keeping a bonfire on my doorstep. Not to mention if the headless horseman had to tote a cart behind him with a giant fire in it…
I feel like I should give you a pumpkin pie recipe right now, but…maybe some other time.