History Behind the Jack-o'-lantern

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The History Behind the Jack-o'-lantern

The History Behind the Jack-o'-lantern

Another hallmark of Halloween is the jack-o'-lantern.  In America, Jack is always a carved pumpkin, but in Great Britain and Ireland. where the custom originated, turnips originally served as the favorite vegetable.

Master Jack

Master Jack

Apparently, a blacksmith named Jack made an agreement with the Devil: he would give up his soul in return for seven years of absolute mastery of his trade.  Outside his shop, he hung a sign in which he boldly proclaimed, "Here lies the Master of all Masters."

One day, Saint Peter and Christ himself paid a visit, disturbed by the obvious boasting of the sign.  To instill some humility in Master Jack, Christ worked a few miracles, but to no avail.  Saint Peter then offered to grant him three wishes.  Jack's wishes were rather strange: first he wished that whenever he told someone to climb a nearby pear tree that person would have to stay in the tree until Jack allowed them to come down.  He made the same wishes regarding his arm-chair and his purse: one must stay in them until Jack allowed him to go.

"You have wished very foolishly," said Saint Peter.  "You should have wished for ever lasting peace in Heaven."

Nevertheless, Jack used the three wishes to trick the Devil when he came to take his soul.  Each time the Devil came, Jack trciked him into climbing the tree, sitting in the chair, and finally, shrinking himself and entering his purse. Each time, the Devil gave Jack seven more years of mastery of his trade in return for his freedom, and finally the Devil fled in terror.

But Jack's time finally came. Jack went first to the Pearly Gates, where Saint Peter reminded him that he had once had an opportunity to gain everlasting happiness but spurned it. Now it was too late - he could not be allowed into heaven.

The Wandering Soul

Carved Turnip

To Hell he went, only to find that the Devil wanted nothing more to do with him.  "I've had enough of this one already.  You'll not torment me here."

Then the Devil ordered all nine locks of Hell bolted.   Before he was shut out entirely, Jack scooped up a burning coal from the fires of Hell in the turnip he was eating, and to this day he uses the "lantern" to light his way as he wanders the earth until Judgment Day.

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