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Jack O’ Lantern

Written By Michael Reign on Friday, October 31, 2014 | 6:42 PM

At first glance, a figure appearing to possess an inherently innocuous connotation, is, in actuality, indicative of something far more sinister. The Jack O’ Lantern, an apparently harmless pumpkin replete with various carvings and aesthetic designs intended to represent the mood of those attending various Halloween festivities, is a prominent fixture in the annals of Irish folklore. In accordance with these customs the Jack O’ Lantern’s visage became the emblematic symbol of souls, condemned to wander aimlessly amidst a wide chasm separating the spirit realm from one of several eternal destinations ascribed to the afterlife. The fable referencing this assertion reads as such:

A man by the name of Jack, whose miserliness and seemingly insatiable penchant to indulge in luxuries at the expense of others prohibited him from entering the gates of Heaven, his path toward eternal damnation also irrevocably denied him due to numerous pernicious pranks levied against that region’s infernal liege, condemned to walk the space between realities carrying a lantern until the final day of judgment - his grim visage a reminder to all the consequences of one’s actions within the mortal coil.

The Irish townspeople, visibly shaken and noticeably terrified of the possibilities mentioned in the above tale, sought to ward off evil spirits from the confines of their homes by hollowing out large pumpkins and placing lighted candles within the central portion of their creations.

William Schnoebelen, a noted expert on the subject of European and Scandinavian mythological discourse, offers the following description:

Here it’s a pumpkin, but in Europe it was often a turnip, or a skull with a candle in it. This serves two symbols, 1) the Lord of the Dead, a “god” just like a Buddha – in short, an idol. 2) The fearsome face represented the god, Samhain - (Link 1, Link 2, Link 3), who would drive off less powerful demons that night. The lights in the Jack O' Lantern symbolize the “faery fires” or “Will o' the Wisps" which were believed to be the lost souls flitting through the night. They also hearken back to the huge Samhain “balefires” which were lit to help conjure back the god from the darkness. 
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