We thought we would liven the spirits for Halloween with some fun facts behind most of the traditions we follow. You will also find the story behind the Jack O’Lantern which might prompt you to put one outside your door this year!
Orange and black are the colours of Halloween because orange is associated with the fall harvest and black is the colour of ‘the other side’. It is also believed that black represent the time of darkness after the ‘death of the sun’ and the waning of light during the day and orange represents the awaiting of the dawn during Yule (Dec. 21st to Jan. 1st).
The Jack-O-Lanterntradition comes from an old Irish legend about a miser named ‘Stingy Jack’ who was too stingy to go to heaven and too clever to go to hell. After his death, Jack had to spend eternity wandering the darkness of purgatory so he made a lantern from a turnip and a lump of burning coal to guide his lost soul.
‘Dressing up’ and the tradition of wearing masks on Halloween gets its roots from dressing up around the sacred bonfire during the original Celtic festival. Some suggest this practice originates from England, when it was believed that ghosts came back to the earthly world on Halloween. People thought that they would encounter ghosts if they left their homes, so to avoid being recognised they would wear masks after dark so that the ghosts would mistake them for fellow spirits.
The Jack-O-Lantern tradition comes from an old Irish legend about a miser named ‘Stingy Jack’ who was too stingy to go to heaven and too clever to go to hell. After his death, Jack had to spend eternity wandering the darkness of purgatory so he made a lantern from a turnip and a lump of burning coal to guide his lost soul.
Jack-O-Lanterns were traditionally made from turnips. The Irish and Scottish people began making lanterns by carving scary faces into turnips or potatoes and placing them into windows or near doors to frighten away the wandering evil spirits and ghosts. In England, large beets were used. Immigrants from these countries brought the tradition to America and since turnips weren’t cheap state-side, Americans started using pumpkins as we know it today, which make the perfect jack o’lanterns.
Begging at the door grew from an ancient English custom of knocking at doors to beg for a “soul cake” in return for which the beggars promised to pray for the dead of the household. Soul cakes, a form of shortbread (and sometimes quite fancy, with currants for eyes) became more important for the beggars than prayers for the dead, it is said. Also known as as souling, this is seen as the origin of modern trick or treating in North America. Souling continued in parts of England as late as the 1930s, with children going from door to door singing songs and saying prayers for the dead in return for cakes or money.
The story behind: Jack O’Lanterns
Others suggest the practice originates from a Christianized Irish myth about a man nicknamed “Stingy Jack.”
Stingy Jack and the Devil enter a pub to have a drink. Jack convinces the Devil to turn himself into a coin to pay for the drinks. But instead of using the coin, Jack slipped it into his pocket and next to a silver cross. The cross prevented the Devil from changing back into his original form. But Jack eventually
freed the Devil, under the condition that he would not bother
Jack for one year. And if Jack should die during that year, the Devil would not claim his soul. And the Devil agreed to these terms.
Jack again tricked the Devil. This time, the Devil climbed 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. Once again, Jacked struck a bargain with the Devil. He would free the Devil from the tree if he promised not to bother Jack for ten more years. And if Jack died during those years, the Devil would not claim his soul. And the Devil again agreed to these terms.
Not long after this, Jack did indeed died. But because of his trickery, God would not allow him into heaven. In keeping his word not to take his soul, the Devil also would not allow Jack into hell. Instead, the Devil sent Jack out into the darkness of the world between worlds with nothing but a burning piece of coal. Jack placed the coal into a carved out turnip and has been roaming the Earth ever since. The Irish began to refer to Jack’s ghostly figure as “Jack of the Lantern,” and then, simply as “Jack O’Lantern.”
Our Thanks to the College of Psychic Studies