Sunday, October 4, 2009

Halloween - Part 1: Jack-O-Lantern, Jack the Smith, Stingy Jack

Today in Halloween history we will be studying the origins of the Jack-O-Lantern.

The Jack-O-Lantern began with an Irish legend. So goes the legend there was a man named Jack who was a blacksmith. He was a stingy drunkard and a con-artist. Smooth and silver-tongued it was said he could talk anyone into anything. (For more information, Wikipedia "Stingy Jack".) The Devil heard about Jack and was curious and jealous of his reputation so the Devil went to find him. Some versions say the Devil came to Jack in a bar. Some say Jack met the Devil along a deserted road, and some say Jack came across a body with an evil grin in the path at night on his way home and from there took Jack to the bar to get him drunk enough to kill him. All agree that they were at one point in the pub. Jack requested to have one more drink, or several, or the Devil convinced him to drink more. Jack asked the Devil to pay his tab in exchange for his soul and the devil turned himself into a coin to pay the tab, assuming once it was paid he would turn back into himself and walk out of the bar, but instead of paying with the coin, Jack put it in his pocket with a crucifix to prevent the Devil from returning to his natural form. Jack made a bargain with the Devil to release him if he promised not to come for Jack's soul for another ten years.
Ten years after that the Devil found Jack out walking and informed him it had been 10 years and it was now time to relinquish his soul. Jack was like, 'Oh okay. But could I have an apple first? I'm starving and since I'll be starving through eternity in Hell, at least let me have one last apple before I go!' So the devil climbed up a tree by the road to get Jack his last apple and Jack carved a cross in the tree trunk or laid crosses around the tree so that the Devil would be trapped in the tree. He made the Devil promise never to take his soul to hell.
Jack's lifestyle caught up with him and Jack found himself dead at the Pearly Gates where he was refused entrance to Heaven due to his wicked life. So Jack's soul wandered down to Hell where the Devil reminded him he cannot enter there either. Jack asked, "Then where am I to go?" and the Devil replied, "Back where you came from!" The Devil sent him on his way with a coal from Hell to light his way, which Jack held in a hollowed out turnip. Jack's homeless soul wanders the earth with his coal-in-a-turnip lantern, looking for a home.

Due to this legend, Jack's Lantern or Jack O' Lantern came to be used to describe a strange light flickering over the marshes of Ireland. If approached, the light was always just out of reach. The mysterious occurrence is also known as will o' the wisp and ignis fatuus, Gaelic for 'foolish fire.' It was said that it was Jack's soul wandering, looking for a home.

Part 2: Origins - All Hallows Eve, All Saints Day
Part 3: How it all ties in, Christian response
Part 4: My Personal Beliefs


  1. I love how you are taking a look at halloween history. Can't wait to see the rest! Did you have a good weekend?


  2. Wow, I honestly had no idea bout most of this! Can't wait to read more!

    I tagged you in a fun Q&A about love and marraige - your turn to answer some fun questions :) check out my latest post!

  3. Thanks for posting this! I have never heard this story, but my oldest said he learned it when still going to Public School. We don't do Halloween, but I still can't wait to here the rest!
    Also, I want to thank you for you kind words on my post! Yes, we have talked adoption. We also didn't think w'd ever be able to afford it. Thanks for the info! My cousin has adopted and is in the prosess of adopting again. My best friend is also trying to adopt. As of now, my husband is not too keen on the idea. Lack of a place to put another (especially a girl) is a big part of his hesitancy. The other is he is more content with four than I am! lol
    I appreciatted the **HUGS**. they really do help.

  4. I gave you a blog award!

  5. We do not do Halloween either~
    Last year was the first year we did not celebrate it.
    We are Catholic and celebrate Nov.1 as All Saints Day....remembering and celebrating our dead loved ones!


  6. Thank you all! We don't do Halloween either and I get alot of questions like, 'why not?' and 'what's wrong with it?' and statements like, 'it's harmless fun' and 'you could just not let your kids dress up as the bad things.' I am super shy in person and when put on the spot I can't give a straight answer so I would like to explain why I don't do it, but in a way where I can say what I want to and not bumble about and have people not understand what I'm trying to say. But before I explain why we don't celebrate it I thought it would be good to give some history on it. :) So the history lesson will be this part and the next one, and the two parts after that will tie it all together and get into what we have decided and why and to put out some thoughts for anyone who might be undecided on the subject.

  7. I did not know most of this thanks for sharing. I am looking forward to reading more.


  8. great post! I don't celebrate halloween! please stop by


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