Stingy Jack & the True Origin of the Jack-O-Lantern
Legend has it that seven centuries ago; there lived a drunkard in Ireland known as ‘Stingy Jack’. Jack was well known for being a deceiver and a manipulator. One night Satan, overheard the many tales of Jack’s evil doing. Intrigued and a little envious, the devil went to find out for himself whether or not Jack lived up to his reputation. One night a drunken Jack was wandering the countryside whereupon he came across Satan. Fearing his end was imminent, Jack bargained with the devil to allow him a last request before departing this world. He asked the devil to allow him a drink of ale before departing to hell. Seeing no reason not to oblige, the devil accepted Jacks request. Satan took Jack to the local pub where Jack had his fill of ale. Upon quenching his thirst, Jack had the cheek to ask Satan to pay for the ale. Unbelievable! As it happened, Satan did not carry any money either. Jack convinced Satan to turn into a silver coin with which to pay the bartender and then change back when he wasn’t looking. Satan, impressed by Jacks cunning, did as asked. Jack was clever though, as soon as the devil transformed into a silver coin, he grabbed it and put it into his pocket, which also had a crucifix. The presence of the cross would not permit the devil from escaping his coin form. Jack coerced the devil into sparing his life for the next ten years, Satan complied, releasing the devil.
Ten years past and Jack found himself in the devil’s presence once more though this time Jack appeared willing to depart. As Satan was getting readied to take Jack to hell, he asked the devil if he could have an apple. Unbeknownst to Satan, this was another of Jacks tricks. Once again, the devil accepted Jacks request; Satan climbed up the branches of a nearby apple tree. As the devil climbed, Jack surrounded the base of the tree with crucifixes, trapping the devil once more. Frustrated at being entrapped once more, Satan demanded his release. Jack bargained with the devil just as he had done before and demanded the devil never take his soul to hell. Having no other choice but to accept, the devil agreed and was set free.
Years passed, Jacks drinking eventually got to him, and he died. Upon his arrival at the gates of heaven, Jack was stopped and turned away by god. Due to his sinful ways and gluttonous drinking habits, Jack was denied entry. When Jack went down to the gates of hell, he found he was also denied entry. As Satan kept the promise made to Jack, the devil refused to take his soul. In their final encounter, Satan gave Jack an ember which he put inside hollowed-out rutabaga (swedish turnip) to light his way, doomed to roam the world between good and evil.
What a tale! Until the classic pumpkin was introduced, people made use of the rutabaga turnip for all carving ventures. How bizarre to think!