Saturday, October 18, 2008

Lore Kick - Stingy Jack

I’ve been on a Lore kick for a number of months now – not just about the games I’ve been playing but really anything to do with traditional stories or fairy tales. Seeing as Halloween (my favoritest Holiday evar) is coming up, I thought I’d post something I found from the History Channel Halloween section.

People have been making jack o'lanterns at Halloween for centuries. The practice originated from an Irish myth about a man nicknamed "Stingy Jack." According to the story, Stingy Jack invited the Devil to have a drink with him. True to his name, Stingy Jack didn't want to pay for his drink, so he convinced the Devil to turn himself into a coin that Jack could use to buy their drinks. Once the Devil did so, Jack decided to keep the money and put it into his pocket next to a silver cross, which prevented the Devil from changing back into his original form. Jack eventually freed the Devil, under the condition that he would not bother Jack for one year and that, should Jack die, he would not claim his soul. The next year, Jack again tricked the Devil into climbing into a tree to pick a piece of fruit. While he was up in the tree, Jack carved a sign of the cross into the tree's bark so that the Devil could not come down until the Devil promised Jack not to bother him for ten more years.

Soon after, Jack died. As the legend goes, God would not allow such an unsavory figure into heaven. The Devil, upset by the trick Jack had played on him and keeping his word not to claim his soul, would not allow Jack into hell. He sent Jack off into the dark night with only a burning coal to light his way. Jack put the coal into a carved-out turnip and has been roaming the Earth with ever since. The Irish began to refer to this ghostly figure as "Jack of the Lantern," and then, simply "Jack O'Lantern."

In Ireland and Scotland, people began to make their own versions of Jack's lanterns by carving scary faces into turnips or potatoes and placing them into windows or near doors to frighten away Stingy Jack and other wandering evil spirits. In England, large beets are used. Immigrants from these countries brought the jack o'lantern tradition with them when they came to the United States. They soon found that pumpkins, a fruit native to America, make perfect jack o'lanterns.

(Story from the Stingy Jack entry.)

Wikipedia also has a Stingy Jack article.


mbp said...

Thanks for that great story Khan. I am Irish but I never realised that the carved lantern tradition originated here. I do know that Halloween is a Celtic festival though - it has a very ancient tradition here in Ireland. My mother's was actually born on 31st October and she likes to think of herself as half witch.

Khan said...

No problem. :) I like finding these kinds of stories - they shed light on our current traditions.

I was also interested to read that trick-or-treating isn't practiced much outside the USA - I guess the tradition didn't catch on or parents looked at it like begging.

Though I don't expect any kids this year (I live in an apartment and didn't get any last year) I still bought several bags of candy just in case. I also made sure to buy candy I like in the event I'm the one that has to eat it. Hehe. :)

Khan said...

And also ...

(Ack ... double-posting on my own blog ... boo!)

Halloween most definitely has Celtic origins. It's related to the Celtic New Year / Samhain.

Here's the Wikipedia link on Samhain:

mbp said...

Trick or treating is a big thing here in Ireland. I think it is based on a very old pre-Christian tradition of dressing up to frighten away the spirits who walk on the feast of the dead. Having exported the tradition to America we have now re-imported the American version complete with pumpkins and "trick or treat".

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