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The Legend of Stingy Jack

by Harmony Todd October 08, 2018 2 Comments

The Legend of Stingy Jack

There is a wealth of folklore surrounding Halloween traditions. Halloween’s Irish origins date back to the ancient Celtic celebration of Samhain and inspired our candle with the same name. Checkout the candle and read about Samhain traditions here. One of the most beloved Halloween traditions is the Jack O’ Lantern which was brought to the United States by Irish immigrants. Many families keep a yearly tradition of going to the pumpkin patch to pick out a perfect pumpkin, hollowing it out and carving a spooky face into it, illuminating the design by placing a small candle inside the pumpkin, and placing it on the front porch to give a fire-filled grin to our neighbors.

Over the course of time, folklore surrounding this iconic Halloween decoration have faded from memory. Here is the story of Stingy Jack, my rendition of one of the most popular folklore origin stories of the Jack O’ Lantern, which originally was a carved turnip.

Long ago in a small village in Ireland lived a drunkard named Stingy Jack. He wasn’t held in very high regard by the townsfolk. One evening, Satan overheard stories of the devious deeds of Jack and decided he must have this fellow’s soul. Jack may have been stingy, but he was quite clever. When Satan came to collect his soul, he successfully made the case that the least Satan could do was allow him to have a final drink at his favorite pub. After which, Stingy Jack left Satan on the hook for the tab. Jack suggested he turn himself into a coin to pay the bill and they would be off on their journey to the underworld. Satan was fooled when Jack took the coin and put it into his pocket alongside a crucifix, thereby trapping Satan in his pocket. The devil begged and pleaded, and only upon agreeing to leave Jack alone for ten years was he released.

Exactly ten years later, Satan found Jack stumbling home from the pub. With a heavy sigh, Jack looked at the devil knowing full well that he intended to drag him to hell. Jack made the request of Satan to climb a nearby apple tree to get him a final snack to eat before the journey southbound. Satan, apparently still not as clever as Jack, climbed the apple tree. While Satan was climbing the tree, Jack carved a cross into the trunk, thereby trapping Satan up in the tree. The devil begged and pleaded, and only upon agreeing to never take Jack’s soul to hell was he released.

Many years later, when Stingy Jack took his last breath and died, St. Peter refused him entrance into heaven for all his evil deeds. Satan refused him entrance into hell due to their contract. In one final parting gift, Satan gave Jack an ember ablaze with hellfire. Alas, Jack was stuck roaming the earth with only a carved turnip glowing with hellfire to light his way. When Stingy Jack ceased to be, Jack of the Lantern began. On Halloween night, keep an eye out for a restless wandering soul every time you see a Jack O’ Lantern, for it may just be the hellfire glow from Jack’s lantern. 

A traditional Irish turnip Jack-o'-lantern from the early 20th century. Photographed at the Museum of Country Life, Ireland.

A traditional Irish turnip Jack-o'-lantern from the early 20th century. Photographed at the Museum of Country Life, Ireland. Source: Wikipedia.

You can protect your home by warding off Jack and other evil spirits on Halloween by illuminating your porch with the glow of your own Jack O’ Lantern. Here are some links to get you started:

Tips for selecting the best carving pumpkin.

Free pumpkin carving stencils:

Vampires, Werewolves, Ghosts & Other Iconic Halloween Pumpkin Stencils

The Pumpkin Lady

Pumpkin Seeds:

Pumpkin seeds make an amazing snack. My favorite way to eat them is to roast them lightly in olive oil on a baking sheet in the oven and sprinkle with cumin. Here are more ideas.

Sources:

History of Jack-o'-the-Lantern". Dublin Penny Journal. 3–4: 229, 1835

Wikipedia articles on Jack O’ Lanterns



Harmony Todd
Harmony Todd

Author


2 Responses

susan
susan

October 19, 2018

Love this story – I didn’t know of the original origins. Enjoying all your work and inspired by your delightful candles to use for all my rituals. Can’t wait to receive my first order. Keep up all the great work!!!

Melissa A Tinsley
Melissa A Tinsley

October 19, 2018

The devil doesn’t seem that smart in this story, lol. If he can be trapped up a tree it seems like he’s not as terrible of a Christian foe as he’s made out to be. This was a fun read! We’ve already got our pumpkins out on the porch! I can’t wait for trick-or-treating!

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