History of the Jack O'Lantern and Stingy Jack

History of the Jack O’Lantern and the Legend of Stingy Jack

In Ireland, Irish Mythology by Leslie O'MalleyLeave a Comment

The Origin of Halloween is planted in Ireland’s ancient Samhain festival, which prompted earth-worshiping Celtics to offer praise to the Gods for the harvest, and treats to the spirits for safety .

The History of the Jack O’Lantern that has become a staple in Halloween culture over the years is also steeped in ancient Irish mythology.

As the myth has it, there was an Irish lad by the name of Jack who liked his tricks and loved his liquor. Jack’s reputation preceded him and when the devil caught wind of Jack’s abhorrent nature, he sought him out to see for himself. One fateful Halloween night as Jack came stumbling home, the devil came to him to collect his soul. Jack pleaded to the devil to let him have one last drink before he escorted him to Hell. The devil agreed and took him to the local pub but when the bill came, Jack claimed to have no money. Being the clever trickster that he was, Jack persuaded the devil to transform himself into a coin that he could use to pay the bar tab. Once the devil shifted shapes, Jack put the devil coin in his pocket next to a crucifix that made it impossible for him to revert to his original form.

Jack made a deal with the devil that he would set him free provided he would spare his soul for the next ten years. The devil agreed and Jack continued to live a life of debauchery for ten years to the day. On the expiration date of their deal, the devil came to collect his dues but Jack again coerced Satan—this time into climbing up an apple tree to pick fruit to satiate his hunger. Once Satan was up in the tree, Jack surrounded the tree with crucifixes again trapping the devil. In exchange for his freedom, the devil agreed to never claim Stingy Jack’s soul.

When Jack died, he went to the pearly gates begging admission into Heaven but St. Peter refused him entry claiming Jack was too deplorable a human being to be granted access. Desperate, Jack went to the Gates of Hell and pleaded with the devil to let him through but the devil refused keeping his promise to spare Jack’s soul. Jack begged the devil for some light so he could illuminate his path through the darkness of this dimension he was trapped in for all of eternity. The devil threw him an ember from Hell, which Jack put inside a hollow turnip to lead him through the darkness of his purgatory.

The legend has evolved over the years and today a hollowed pumpkin has become the vegetable of choice used to perpetuate the lore of Stingy Jack.

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