Early Irish Jack-o-Lanterns were Terrifying Oct 10, 2014 12:22:43 GMT -5 Kate and aprillynn93 like this
Post by Graveyardbride on Oct 10, 2014 12:22:43 GMT -5
Original Irish Jack-o-Lanterns were truly terrifying and made of turnips
The photo above shows a 19th century Irish Jack-o-Lantern carved from a turnip on exhibit at the Museum of Country Life in Castlebar, County Mayo. A far cry from the grinning pumpkins of Halloween today, the first Jack-o-Lanterns, named for Jack O’Lantern of Irish myth, were actually quite terrifying. They were carved from turnips or beets, rather than festive orange pumpkins and were intended to ward off unwanted visitors.
Gourds were one of the earliest plant species, domesticated by humans around 10,000 years ago, mostly cultivated for their carving potential – for kitchen tools, dishes, musical instruments, toys, furniture and more. Maoris began carving them for lanterns 700 years ago – the Maori word for “gourd” and “lampshade” are actually the same.
According to Irish folklore, a man called Jack O’Lantern was sentenced to roam the earth for eternity. A ghostly figure of the night, O’Lantern walks with a burning coal inside of a carved-out turnip to light his way. As the tale goes, a man called Stingy Jack invited the devil for a drink and convinced him to shape-shift into a coin to pay. When the devil obliged, Jack decided he wanted the coin for other purposes and kept it in his pocket beside a small, silver cross to prevent it’s turning back into the devil.
Jack eventually freed the devil under condition he wouldn’t bother Jack for one year and would not claim Jack’s soul once he died. The following year, Jack tricked the devil once more by convincing him to climb a tree to fetch a piece of fruit. While he was up in the tree, Jack carved a cross into the trunk so the devil couldn’t come down until he swore he wouldn’t bother Stingy Jack for another 10 years.
When Jack died, God wouldn’t allow him into heaven and the devil wouldn’t allow him into hell. He was instead sent into the eternal night, with a burning coal inside a carved-out turnip to light his way. He’s been roaming the earth ever since. The Irish began to refer to this spooky figure as “Jack of the Lantern,” which then became “Jack O’Lantern.”
This legend is the reason people in Ireland and Scotland began to make their own versions of Jack’s lantern by carving grotesque faces into turnips, mangelwurzels, potatoes and beets, placing them by their homes to frighten away Stingy Jack and other wandering evil spirits and travelers.
Once this became a Halloween tradition, Jack-o-Lanterns were used as guides for people dressed in costume on Samhain (Oct 31 – Nov 1), a traditional Gaelic version of Halloween, believed to be a night when the divide between the worlds of the living and the dead is especially thin. The Samhain festival marks the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter, the “darker half” of the year.
When the Irish and Scots emigrated to America, they took their traditions with them and discovered that pumpkins, native to America, made perfect fruits for carving. Pumpkin Jack-o-Lanterns have been an integral part of Halloween festivities ever since.
Some believe Jack-o-Lanterns originated with All Saints’ Day and represent Christian souls in purgatory. Roaming Stingy Jack is, after all, in what would be considered purgatory.
Although it is widely held the myth of Jack-o-Lanterns is Irish, there is no scholarly research into Irish customs and mythology proving this. There is also evidence of turnips being used for what was called a “Hoberdy’s Lantern” in Worcestershire, England, at the end of the 18th Century. Hoberdy's Lanterns had carved-out faces in turnips with the stump of a candle within.
Source: Kayla Hertz, Irish Central, October 8, 2014.