|Photo of Irish 19th century Jack-o-Lantern made from a turnip is on exhibit at the |
Museum of Country Life in Castlebar, Co. Mayo.
A man called Stingy Jack invited the devil for a drink and convinced him to shape-shift into a coin to pay with. When the devil obliged, Jack decided he wanted to keep the coin and put it in his pocket beside a small, silver cross to prevent it from turning back into the devil.Jack freed the devil under the condition that he wouldn’t bother Jack for one year, and wouldn’t claim Jack’s soul once he died.
The next year, Jack tricked the devil once more by convincing him to climb up a tree to fetch a piece of fruit. When he was up in the tree, Jack carved a cross into the trunk so the devil couldn’t come down until he swore he wouldn’t bother Stingy Jack for another ten years.
When Jack died, God wouldn’t allow him into heaven and the devil wouldn’t allow him into hell. He was instead sent into the eternal night, with a burning coal inside a carved-out turnip to light his way. He’s been roaming the earth ever since. The Irish began to refer to this spooky figure as “Jack of the Lantern,” which then became “Jack O’Lantern.”
People in Ireland and Scotland made their own versions of Jack’s lantern to frighten away Stingy Jack and other wandering evil spirits and travelers.
Jack-o-Lanterns were carried by people in costume on Samhain, a Gaelic version of Halloween, seen as a night when the divide between the worlds of the living and the dead is especially thin.