Friday, October 29, 2010
Hallowmas Eve - Day Four: Gut a Gourd, Save a Turnip - or, The Devil is WAY Stupid
There are times when I just fall to the floor, overwhelmed by the immense stupidity that seems to plague humanity at every turn. Not that I'm some MENSA-grade rocket scientist (the math was always too confounding), but at least I TRY to be intellectually curious and relatively creative, endeavoring to give back a little to the world and the silly creatures that currently top the food chain.
But then I come across an artistic work or unselfish act that relights my faith in humanity, and thinks everything just might turn out okay for us as a species.
Today, it was jack o'lanterns. Other days, it might be a painting or an inspired piece of prose or even a clever Internet meme. But, today, it was was jack o' lanterns. One of them which looks like this:
More here, courtesy of our friends at The Guardian in the UK.
In closing (and to add volume to this posting without lifting a finger other than to "cut" and then immediately "paste"), I offer a bit of odd and supernatural back story on the ol' carved pumpkin, with this one overriding moral: Don't be a cheapskate, and always pay for your drinks.
People have been making jack o'lanterns at Halloween for centuries. The practice originated from an Irish myth about a man nicknamed "Stingy Jack." According to the story, Stingy Jack invited the Devil to have a drink with him. True to his name, Stingy Jack didn't want to pay for his drink, so he convinced the Devil to turn himself into a coin that Jack could use to buy their drinks. Once the Devil did so, Jack decided to keep the money and put it into his pocket next to a silver cross, which prevented the Devil from changing back into his original form. Jack eventually freed the Devil, under the condition that he would not bother Jack for one year and that, should Jack die, he would not claim his soul. The next year, Jack again tricked the Devil into climbing 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 until the Devil promised Jack not to bother him for ten more years.
Soon after, Jack died. As the legend goes, God would not allow such an unsavory figure into heaven. The Devil, upset by the trick Jack had played on him and keeping his word not to claim his soul, would not allow Jack into hell. He sent Jack off into the dark night with only a burning coal to light his way. Jack put the coal into a carved-out turnip and has been roaming the Earth with ever since. The Irish began to refer to this ghostly figure as "Jack of the Lantern," and then, simply "Jack O'Lantern."
In Ireland and Scotland, people began to make their own versions of Jack's lanterns by carving scary faces into turnips or potatoes and placing them into windows or near doors to frighten away Stingy Jack and other wandering evil spirits. In England, large beets are used. Immigrants from these countries brought the jack o'lantern tradition with them when they came to the United States. They soon found that pumpkins, a fruit native to America, make perfect jack o'lanterns.
(Courtesy of History.com)