Halloween Myth: Jack O Lantern
Subject: Halloween Story, Myths, Jack O'Lantern, The Devil
By Victor Gonzalez
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.
People 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.
The Irish Potato Famine (1845-50) prompted over 700,000 to immigrate to the Americas. These immigrants brought with them their traditions of Halloween and Jack O'Lanterns, but turnips were not as readily available as back home. They found the American pumpkin to be a more than adequate replacement. Today, the carved pumpkin is perhaps the most famous icon of the holiday.
In the late 1990's a handful of companies began making and selling pumpkins made of plastic or foam.
Please feel free to forward this story to a friend or colleague.
Copyright © 2005 by Victor Gonzalez All rights reserved. This article MAY be reproduced in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, as long as the author’s name, website and email address are included as part of the article’s body. All inquiries, including information on electronic licensing, should be directed to Victor Gonzalez, firstname.lastname@example.org www.thelogicofsuccess.com
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