You knew it was coming and here it is…my thoughts on the season, pumpkins, and the almost psychopathic desire to eviscerate the fall gourd to make a jack-o-lantern. First off, while some are in a furious hurry to skip my beloved Halloween, to get to the other holiday, that shall remain nameless; I have been obsessing, as some will know on the process of picking out my pumpkin, planning a design and the final execution, pardon the pun, of this most beloved icon. For over a month I have been finding wonderful examples of jack-o-lanterns and posting them on Facebook for everyone’s inspiration, you’re welcome.
Some would say I have an obsession with jack-o-lanterns and Halloween, but I would argue there is just something fun about it all. First, you get to be someone or something else, everyone needs a little escapism. Second, you get to take part in some way, in an ever changing tradition. Last but not least, you get to be creative with this big pumpkin and create something unique. I sincerely hope that everyone will not be too terribly disappointed with my jack-o-lantern after seeing so many incredibly creative and well executed designs; I probably won’t get to spend too much time actually doing mine, but I will give it my best effort.
This venerable and ever changing tradition around this fall gourd began being common place at Halloween in Ireland and England but it’s use dates back far beyond this; it was a way to turn away unwanted travelers or to ward off evil spirits. On the eve of All Saints’ Day and All Souls Day, the idea that spirits roamed the earth and the jack-o-lantern was there as protection to keep them out of your home. Even the term jack-o-lantern comes from another name, ‘will-o-the-wisp’, or as some call them ‘spook-lights’ or ‘ghost-lights’ by people who study the paranormal. Today the jack-o-lantern is a source of whimsy and amusement, which I quite enjoy. But I like studying things like this that have histories we take for granted or are completely oblivious too. If you ask most people they discount the idea of this child’s icon as a force to ward off evil spirits; and yet, if you ask them if they believe in bad spirits the greater percent of people would say they believe in such things. So my question is posed to them, ‘then why don’t you believe in this possibility?’
I am writing this with one week until Halloween so you have plenty of time to decide if you will join the ranks of those of us who love to carve jack-o-lanterns. It doesn’t matter which camp you belong to, whether you do it for the fun of the season or whether you do it for protection from the things that go bump in the night, there is still time. Go find yourself a nice pumpkin, one that speaks to you and picture in your mind what it would look like when it’s carved. You have to let it speak to you to find its true nature. There are templates to carve some amazing pictures, but I prefer to listen to each pumpkin itself. Whether yours will be happy, sad, or scary, the choice is yours; just get out there and make a jack-o-lantern that will accomplish whatever it is you need. I for one will be carving something that will be a little scary and hopefully a little interesting. No evil spirits for me. In just several days my butcher knife will be put to good use and I will be elbow deep in my pumpkin, covered in pumpkin guts; que the sound of thunder and some spooky music.