Spooky tra­di­tion has its roots in Ir­ish folk­lore - and in turnips!

Macclesfield Express - - THE LAUGHING BADGER - SEAN WOOD

NOT that I’m bi­ased or any­thing but there are so many great things that started life in Ire­land – in­clud­ing whiskey, Guin­ness and Ir­ish mu­sic – but you all knew that.

How­ever, in the wake of re­cent so-called ‘tra­di­tional’ cel­e­bra­tions, read­ers may be sur­prised to dis­cover that Hal­loween had its roots in the good old Emer­ald Isle, with the Ir­ish fes­ti­val of Samhain or ‘All Hal­lows Eve’, which then be­came known as Hal­loween.

This was a time of year when the veil be­tween this world and the next was at its weak­est and spir­its roamed the world.

This leg­end is why peo­ple in Ire­land be­gan to make their own ver­sions of Jack’s lantern by carv­ing grotesque faces into turnips, pota­toes and beets, plac­ing them by their homes to frighten away Stingy Jack and other wan­der­ing evil spir­its and trav­ellers. The prac­tice orig­i­nated from an Ir­ish myth con­cern­ing ‘Stingy Jack’, who 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 un­savoury 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 it ever since. The Ir­ish be­gan to re­fer to this ghostly fig­ure as ‘Jack of the Lantern’, and then, sim­ply ‘Jack O’ Lantern’.

Im­mi­grants from Ire­land brought the Jack O’ Lantern tra­di­tion with them when they trav­elled to the United States.

They soon found that pump­kins, a fruit na­tive to Amer­ica, make per­fect Jack O’ Lanterns, and were much eas­ier to carve than the turnip seen here from 1850.

‘Stingy Jack’ – also known as the Jack O Lantern – in a carved turnip from 1850

The Laugh­ing Bad­ger Gallery, 99 Platt Street, Pad­field, Glos­sop

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