Last Call For Turnip Protection: The Jack-O-Lantern

Fall. It’s the time of year where nutmeg is on the whiff of our noses, leaves are nimbly falling on the ground, and we’re all taking a bit of that crisp apple pie. As we look around and feel that brush of wind hit our face, we see the red trees, the greyish sky, and the setting sun at 4.30 pm, one distinct, superior thing catches the light in our eyes - the Jack-O-Lantern. Jack-O-Lantern, an everlasting American tradition that has been the promising sign for all of us that Halloween is coming. Though commonly regarded as an American contraption, the origins of the Jack-O-Lantern can be traced to Ireland, where it was used as a tool to safeguard crops from demonic spirits.


The origins of why Jack-O-Lanterns were utilized to protect crops can be derived from the tale of Stingy Jack and the Devil. Now, as you can tell by the name, Stingy Jack was a miser and regarded as the “town drunk”. Because he knew that no one in all of Ireland would buy him a drink, something which desperately yearned, he called upon the Devil to drink with him, reassuring the Devil time and time again that we would pay for the drinks, as the Devil had no earthly currency. When the time came to pay for the drinks, Stingy Jack beseech the Devil to transfigure into a coin so Jack could pay for their drinks, but right after he could conveniently return to his original form. The Devil credulously agreed to such, however, once the Devil changed into a coin Jack hastily put the coin into his pocket where a silver cross was conveniently located. Due to crosses being the equivalent of bug repellent for all forms of insidious beings, rather than varies from a lowly demonic spirit to the Devil himself, the Devil was unable to reverse himself back into his original form. After hours of compromise and pleas from the Devil's behalf, Jack took the cross out of the pocket and permitted the Devil to return to his traditional form, with one small contingency. Stingy Jack, knowing very well that he had incurred the wrath of the man behind all evil which has ever walked this Earth, made the Devil affirm that he would not bother and murder Jack or claim his soul if he passed away that year.

When the year wrapped up Stingy Jack knew that his time was up and expeditiously devised a plan to save himself. Though a drunk, Stingy Jack was canny and knowing that the Devil has a HUGE ego challenged him to get a fruit from the top of a tree, which the prideful Devil immediately accepted. Soon after, Stingy Jack got a carving knife and carved a cross on the tree, meaning the Devil could not get down from the tree. Mirroring the encounter from the previous fiasco, the Devil and Stingy Jack reached a compromise that the Devil could now not bother Stingy Jack for ten years, which would be more than enough time for Stingy Jack to pass on.

Expectedly, Stingy Jack passed almost instantaneously after his last deal with the Devil and because the Devil could not collect his soul, even though Stingy Jack was meant to be in Hell, so he went to the Gates of Heaven. Once at the Gates of Heaven, God refused to let Stingy Jack in on account of his tendency to deceive those around him, but due to his accord with the Devil, could not enter Hell. The Devil felt a pang of empathy for Stingy Jack, as God who had kicked him out of Heaven had kicked Stingy Jack, gave him a burning pierce of coal to roam the Earth for all eternity. In order to preserve the one belonging which he had possession of, Stingy Jack had put the coal into a turnip which he had carved, and since has walked the Earth for eternity.


Legend has it that because Stingy Jack is the conceiver of the Jack-O-Lantern, the Devil will stay away from all of them in fear of being blackmailed and coerced into cheating more people out of their rightful place in Hell. For that reason, fields upon fields of crops are lined with Jack-O-Lanterns in Ireland in order to give wary attention to the Devil. So next time you need to keep the Devil away make sure to keep your Jack-O-Lantern on!


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