Jack-o'-lantern is in origin a term for the visual phenomenon known as a will-o'-the-wisp ignis fatuus (lit., "foolish fire") in English folklore. The term "will-o'-the-wisp" was used as early as 1660 when people called a bundle of sticks or paper sometimes used as a torch a “wisp.” Properly named "Will": thus, "Will-of-the-torch." Jack-o'-lantern came from this construction, first named "Jack of [the] lantern."
The Jack-o-lantern story from Irish folklore, Stingy Jack, arrived in the 1800’s with Irish immigrants to America. They discovered that Pumpkins were easier to carve than turnips. However the turnip remained in their folktale:
Several centuries ago, There was a man in Ireland named "Stingy Jack". Jack was known throughout the land as a deceiver, manipulator a burden on society. Jack met up with the Devil and suggested they have a drink. The Devil agreed. When it came time to pay the bill, Stingy Jack didn’t want to part with his money so he pleaded with The Devil until they struck a deal. The agreement was that the Devil would turn himself into a coin and Jack would use that coin to pay for their drinks.
Jack, stingy person hatched a plan, he waited until his drinking partner had changed before he continued with his plan. Instead of paying for their drinks, he didn’t pay at all-instead he put the coin in his pocket where he also had a silver cross. The cross made it impossible for the Devil to change back to his recognizable form. He told Jack he would not bother him for an entire year and would not claim his soul if he died before the year was up. Both agreed and they went their separate ways.
The next year, the two drinking companions met near a tree. Jack saw the ripened fruit and thought what a good snack it would make but was too lazy to climb up high to get it. He knew he had been successful outsmarting the Devil the year before so he came up with a new plan. When the Devil was up in the tree picking the fruit, Jack carved a cross into the tree trunk. The cross blocked any chance of the Devil coming down from the tree so that gave Jack time to negotiate. The Devil agreed not to bother Jack for the next 10 years.
After Jack died, he wasn’t allowed into heaven because of all the cunning, underhanded deals he’d made with the Devil. True to his word, the Devil would not claim this newly departed soul — not because he was known for keeping his promises, but because he resented all the trickery aimed at him. Instead, he gave Jack a piece of burning coal, Jack put the coal in a hollowed out turnip and, to this day, roams the earth. Over time, he became known as “Jack of the Lantern” and later, “Jack O’Lantern.”
Jack- o’-lantern books:
· The Story of the Jack O'Lantern by Katherine Tegen
· The Happy Jack - O - Lantern by Andon Arnold
· Goosebumps #48: Attack of the Jack-O'-Lanterns by R L Stine
· A Very Scary Jack-O'-Lantern (Glows in the Dark) by Joanne Barkan
· Aliens Don't Carve Jack o' Lanterns by Debbie Dadey and Marcia T. Jones
· Pumpkin Jack by Will Hubbell
The original jack-o’-lanterns were carved from turnips, potatoes or beets.
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