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Jack O’Lanterns: The Story of Jack October 16, 2010

Posted by The Wayward Wiccan in : Random Ramblings , trackback

Jack O'Lanterns: The Story of Jack

One of Halloween’s most popular symbols is without any doubt: the Jack O’Lantern. Carving pumpkins is a well known ritual of the Samhain season, loved by both children and adults. The Jack O’Lantern is created with a candle and a beautifully carved pumpkin. You put the candle or, for safety, a battery powered tealight into the pumpkin, and then you light it off to illuminate the carved out design. For some people, the more elaborated the carved design, the better. I prefer the classic smiley face version.

Of course, there are series of folktales evolving around the Jack character. The common point: all stories start with Jack getting in some kind of trouble and end up with him solving the problem, but not without a cost. So a Jack story is basically a cautionary tale. The one story which inspired “Jack’ O’Lantern” is the one in which our character tries to outsmart the Devil. According to the tale, Jack manages to trick the Devil himself into agreeing to never collect his soul. However, once our hero dies, he discovers that since he has led a sinful life he can’t go to heaven. Because of his agreement with the Devil, he can’t go to hell either.  He finds himself stuck in a dark place, wondering alone. Out of nowhere someone tosses him a hot coal, which he places in hollowed-out turnip. He is forever forced to use his improvised lantern to light his way. And that’s how Jack became known as Jack O’Lantern.

In other creepy variations of the story, Jack only comes out on Halloween night to look for someone to take his place. So…beware!


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