Jack O’Lantern and the Pumpkin


Jack-o-lantern (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ever wondered where the Halloween [or Hallowe’en] celebration of the pumpkin originated?

Well aside from the religious aspect of All Hallows’ evening or All Saints Eve/  All Souls’ Day.

The Pumpkin lantern seems to have its origin in an Irish legend, a tale really, of a drunkard denied access to both heaven and hell and so he was forced to wander restlessly around here on Earth with a spark from the fires of hell encased in a beet, later a pumpkin.

The now well-known decorated Halloween Pumpkin is an American version of the old Irish tradition no doubt brought to America with the Irish immigrants in the 1800 and the tale relates that

Jack, who was somewhat of a drunkard, a card player and foulmouthed with it, one day met the Devil himself and got into a bit of a drinking bout with him.

When the time came to pay for it, they got into a discussion about who was to pay, but it ended with the Devil transforming himself into a silver coin with which Jack could make the payment.

Jack, however, then cheated the Devil by putting the coin in his pocket next to a Cross. The Devil was now unable to change back to himself. Eventually Jack lets the Devil after he promises to leave Jack alone for a full year.

The following year Jack and the Devil run into to each other again, and somehow Jack tricks the Devil to climb a tree for a piece of fruit hanging there. Jack now scratches a cross into the bark of the trunk stopping the Devil from getting down.

To get down they now enter into a new agreement. The Devil is to leave Jack alone for the next 10 years, and he cannot take Jack’s soul if he dies. The chances of Jack ended up downstairs with his disreputable reputation is  – he is well aware – quite high.

Devil However, shortly after this Jack dies. When he stands before the pearly gates he is refused entry given his past life. So he goes down to hell. But there the Devil refers him to the fact that they had an agreement which precludes the Devil from letting him in, so now he has nowhere to go except back to Earth.

English: A traditional Irish turnip Jack-o'-la...

English: A traditional Irish turnip Jack-o’-lantern from the early 20th century. Photographed at the Museum of Country Life, Ireland. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But before he leaves hell the Devil gives Jack a small piece of burning coal to light his way. Jack puts the ember in a turnip or beet and with that now walks restlessly around the world. And we have managed to turn the evening into a bit of a celebration and in some countries into a holiday as well.

So much for the myth. If you’d like to know more about the historical background click here.

And if you wondered what this little story had to do with SeniorNet Kapiti it is that we carry the torch for enlightening our members to the wonders of computing and the use of good technology to help us celebrate life to the full. Happy Halloween.

Pumpkins at Halloween

Pumpkins at Halloween (Photo credit: Wikipedia)