Tag Archives | Samhain

Stingy Jack and the Legend of the Jack O’ Lantern

Jack-o-LanternIt’s Halloween.  Time to help your kids develop their bed-wetting habits.  Time to buy a ton of candy, claim it’s for trick-or-treaters, turn off the porch light, and gorge yourself on waxy chocolate.  Time to carve the ol’ jack-o’-lantern.

One of my favorite Halloween myths is the origin story of the jack-o’-lantern: the trickster legend of Stingy Jack.  This folk tale comes from Ireland, which was also a major cultural center for the Celts, who observed the festival of Samhain, which serves as the root from which our modern Halloween sprang.

According to the story, which may be centuries old, a drunkard known as Stingy Jack was infamous throughout Ireland as a liar and a cheat.  He was especially despised for his love of trickery, his favorite pastime.

One day, while bored and lounging lazily around Hell, Lucifer happened to overhear some horrible stories about Jack’s devious skills, which were apparently even more dastardly than his own.  Not to be outdone by a mere drunken Irishman, the Devil decided to find Jack and see if the stories were true.… Read the rest

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Samhain and Halloween: About as Closely Related as a Toy Poodle and a Wolf

An_Arch_Druid_in_His_Judicial_HabitMany people confuse Samhain and Halloween. Michael Tortorello sets them straight in the New York Times:

How will you be celebrating Samhain this year? What’s that? You say you won’t be observing the high Druid holiday of the ancient Celts? With all due respect, you’re probably wrong and you probably will.

“Samhain is Halloween; Halloween is Samhain,” said Ellen Evert Hopman, 61, an author, herbalist and Druid priestess and scholar. Irish monks, by most accounts, co-opted the earthy ritual and recast it with strait-laced saints. But the bones of the holiday wouldn’t stay buried.

The first historical record of Samhain, an engraved bronze calendar found in Coligny, France, dates to the first century B.C. The Druids of the British Isles went to ground a few centuries later, after the Romans rode in on chariots and “trashed the place,” Ms. Hopman said. All the same, she said: “There have been people celebrating Samhain in Europe for thousands of years.

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