Halloween    Halloweens History, Superstitions and Omens    Magick 7

 

 

 

“Jack-o’-Lantern”

 

The phrase “jack-o-lantern” was used as a name for the unexplained phosphorescent light that sometimes appears in marshlands and swamps after sunset. Also known as “will-o’-the-wisp” in the United States, “corpse light” in England, “fox fire” in Ireland, and “witch fire” in Africa. According to European folk legends, the jack-o’-lantern light is a wandering soul that has been turned away from both Heaven and Hell. These souls are condemned to spend eternity earthbound and restless. It is dangerous to see one, because they have been known to beckon humans to follow them into marches where they ultimately drown or mysteriously disappear and never heard from again.

The name of the jack-o-’lantern appears to reflect the Church’s early efforts to link Halloween and its Pagan customs to the Prince of Darkness, as Jack is another name for the Devil (especially in England).

A old Irish folktale attributes the invention of the jack-o’-lantern to a man whose name was Jack. Jack was disliked by most of the villagers. Jack was notorious for his drunkenness and mean disposition. He was drinking at the local pub when the time came for the devil to claim his doomed soul. He talked the Devil into having one last drink with him, before taking him to Hell. After they finished their drinks, Jack told the Devil that he did not have enough money on him to pay for the drinks. Jack cleverly convinced the Devil to change himself into a sixpence, and then change back to his true form after Jack “paid for the tot of grog.” The Devil agreed to the plan. But as soon as the Devil transformed himself into a shiny new sixpence, Jack snatched the coin from the tabletop, and without hesitation, deposited it in his coin purse, which had a silver catch in the shape of a cross. The Devil was rendered powerless by the cross, and was trapped inside the coin purse and unable to escape. Upon Jacks death, Heaven would not permit him to enter the Pearly Gates because he was filled with too much greed. Jack was also denied entry into Hell because he managed to trick the Devil, which understandably angered his Satanic Majesty to an extent that no mortal had ever angered him before. Jack was eating a turnip when the irate Devil threw Jack a lighted coal from the fiery pit of Hell. Jack picked up the coal and placed it in the turnip, creating a lantern which he used to illuminate his way as a restless spirit wandering the earth in search of a final resting place. (How the Devil escaped from the change purse is not clear).


The carving of the pumpkin is fun for everyone young and old. However this custom, is far from being a modern one. In fact, it is well over two thousand years old. The origin of the jack-o’-lantern dates back to Ireland, where hollowed out turnips, rather than pumpkins, were carved with simple faces and used as hand held lanterns. They were used to light the roads for travelers on Halloween night, and also to scare away evil earthbound ghosts --- especially those who pursued the sprits of deceased loved ones and prevented them from finding their way to peace in the Land of the Dead.

It is believed that faces, rather than symbols were carved onto pumpkins because they gave the “jack-o’-lantern” the look of a head. The Celts of ancient times believed that the head was the most sacred part of the human body, for it housed a person’s immortal soul.

Each year on a night that is the Japanese equivalent of Halloween, a glowing paper lantern takes the place of the carved and candlelit pumpkin. Traditionally hung near garden gates, they welcome home the ancestral spirits and keep all evil-natured , light-fearing demons at bay.