Thursday, 11 April 2013

A-Z Blogging Challenge: J is for Jack o' Lanterns

Jack o' Lantern by Madame Luciel
With their hollowed-out, glowing orange faces and distinctive silhouettes, Jack o' Lanterns are an instantly recognisable symbol of modern Halloween celebrations. Originally carved from turnips, beets, and other root vegetables, Jack o' Lanterns represented faries, spirits and the Will o' the Wisp phenomenon (lights / orbs that floated above marshland etc.) in Gaelic folklore and were part of the Samhain celebrations. 

Will o' the Wisp / Stingy Jack Folklore

One of the tales associated with Jack o' Lanterns is that of Stingy Jack, which comes from Ireland and Scotland and is similar to the story of Will o' the Wisp. Although there are many different variations, one version tells of a thief called Jack who is running from villagers from whom he has stolen. He meets the Devil,  who wants to take his soul, but Jack comes up with a plan in order to prolong his life for a little longer. 

Jack o' Lanterns by myself & Madame Luciel
He tells the Devil - who can take any form he pleases - to turn himself into a coin and allow himself to be found by the villagers. Then, when he makes himself disappear the villagers would begin to fight and their souls would be more susceptible to the Devil's trickery. The Devil agrees to the plan and jumps into Jack's wallet; however, he finds himself next to a cross, which has also been put there by Jack. The cross strips the Devil of his powers and he is trapped there. 

Before Jack releases the Devil, he forces him to promise never to take his soul, to which he agrees. When Jack eventually dies, his Earthly deeds mean that he is not allowed into Heaven, but because of the Devil's promise, he's not allowed into Hell either and so has nowhere to go. Jack asked how he would find his way in the dark without light and so the Devil mocked him by throwing him an ember from the fires of Hell, which would never extinguish. Jack then carved out a turnip, in which to put the light and endlessly roams the Earth, looking for a place to rest; thus he became known as Jack o' Lantern.

Modern Jack o' Lanterns

Jack o' Lanterns by Madame Luciel
Although pumpkins were never traditionally carved for Halloween, in the 19th century US, where pumpkins were harvested close to the Harvest Festival / Samhain / Halloween celebrations, they began to use these orange gourds. Their skin was much easier to carve and their size made it much easier to put candles inside of, and so the pumpkin became much more popular and synonymous with modern Halloween celebrations. 

Pumpkin Crafting

Death Jack o' Lantern by Kei of Unfortunately Oh!
Traditionally, pumpkin carving was limited to faces, but now there are a vast array of designs used by crafters; it really is an artform!

Witch Jack o' Lantern by Madame Luciel

Frankenstein's Monster Jack o' Lantern by Kei of Unfortunately Oh!

This post is part of the A-Z Blogging Challenge, 2013.


  1. Woot! Pumpkins! Good post!

  2. I have never heard the story before, and the pumpkin art is very cool indeed.

    1. There's another story about Jack trapping the Devil by tricking him into climbing up a tree and putting crosses around the base of it, and a few other version as well. Folklore is entertaining :)

  3. A great choice.

    I love the sound of the blogging challenge and may give it a go myself.

    Have a perfect day

    Yvonne - My Haunted Attic

  4. Jacko'lanterns! I needed a bit of Halloweenie today. XD Awesome.

    Cath from Dramatics and Words


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