Saturday, October 31, 2009

Halloween in the Forge: The Original "Jack o' Lantern" Was a Blacksmith with a Glowing Lump of Coal

by Fran Jurga | 31 October 2009 | Fran Jurga's Hoof Blog

So here's the way the story goes...I''ll tell the short version because it's an Irish story and you know how long they can get.

There once was an Irish blacksmith named Jack. He was a miserable man, and he spent his nights in the pub trying to make everyone around him miserable, too.

One night he made a deal for one more drink, but he had no money so it had to be paid for by the devil.

The devil demanded to be paid back, but Jack tricked the devil. That's never a good idea. The devil promised Jack that he'd take his soul.

When Jack died, he was refused admission to heaven for all his evil, selfish deeds, and foul moods. He was sent straight to the gates of hell.

Whom do you think was waiting for Jack? The devil met him at the gate to Hell and recognized him as the Irishman who had cheated him. The devil crossed his arms and refused to even let Jack into hell.

Where would Jack go? The devil didn't care, but Jack had better get going. Jack pleaded for a coal so he might see his way as he wandered through the darkness.

The devil granted his wish and squashed a glowing coal into a half-eaten turnip. He handed it to Jack with a smirk.

Jack wandered off and guess what? He wandered forevermore. It's said his coal and turnip could be seen across the countryside of Ireland at night as he wandered aimlessly, the ultimate ghost.

And of course as a smith, Jack had the skill to keep the ember going. He made the most of the devil's generosity.

Irish children began to imitate Jack's lantern and Irish-American children switched from turnips to pumpkins on this side of the Atlantic.

And so it is that so many of us still place glowing vegetables on our doorsteps on Halloween to scare away the haunted Jack, the grumpy, cheapskate blacksmith.

--Fran Jurga


Unknown said...

Interesting. I had never heard of this. Now here is another farrier halloween(sort of) story for you the devil and the horseshoe

Anonymous said...

Well done! A non-Irish person who got this story correct, even down to the turnip and wandering through the bogs of Ireland forever more!