The Story of Jack-O-Lantern
By Tammarigan Tyrsdaughter
Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, there lived a man named Jack.
Jack was a handsome man, big and strong, equal in prowess both in battle and in bed. He had many friends, and many a young lass pined after him.
It so happened once, when Jack was in the midst of a battle, laying low the foes of his tribe, that he suddenly saw a wondrous vision. A woman, beautiful beyond his wildest dreams, dark of hair and eye, and with skin as pale as virgin snow, riding a flaming chariot, spear in hand, and a raven on each shoulder.
As the chariot drew close, the woman spoke to Jack.
"Come with me," she said, "for I love Thee, and would have Thee with me for all time."
But Jack was frightened, for he recognized the woman for what She was. "I don't want to go with Thee," he answered in a shaking voice, "I know Thee - Thou art the Morrighan, the Chooser of the Slain, and I am not ready to die."
Bright sparked the eyes of the Goddess in pride and anger, and She wheeled her chariot and was gone from Jack's vision.
But as he stood there, frozen in awe, an enemy warrior struck him a great sword blow across the face. Jack did not die from his wound, but his face was forever ruined, and the lasses that pined after him before, now ran from him in fear. And so Jack did not marry.
Time passed. Jack learned the art of a harper, and became known across the land for his beautiful melodies, for though he could not sing, his hands were skilled and gentle on the strings, and his lilting tunes brought both joy and sadness to the heart.
It so happened once, that when Jack was travelling, he stopped at an Inn on the crossroads. He was served his dinner by a beautiful middle-aged woman, full of figure, with dark, all-knowing eyes, and raven tresses braided in a crown around her pale face.
When Jack got into his wagon, and was ready to travel on, this same woman, wearing a dark cloak, stepped from the shadow of a nearest tree.
"Do not travel further, Jack," she said in a husky voice, "Come with me instead, for I love Thee, and I would have Thee with me for all time."
But Jack was frightened, for he recognized the woman for what She was. "I don't want to go with Thee," he answered in a shaking voice, "I know Thee - Thou art the Morrighan, the Fantom Queen, and I am not ready to die."
Bright sparked the eyes of the Goddess in pride and anger, and She whirled around, her dark cloak flaring around her like the wing of a raven, and disappeared into the shadow.
Jack continued on, but not half a mile along the road his horses spooked and ran wild, his wagon overturned, and he was gravely wounded when he fell out and was caught under the wheel. He did not die, but he lost his arm, and could play his harp no more after that.
Time passed. Though Jack was never again a warrior or a harper, his family, his kin, cared kindly for him. But everyone grows old, and in time, his brothers got old, and his sisters got old, and the younger generation no longer cared for him as well as his own siblings.
It so happened once, that right after his last brother's death, Jack was crossing a small river at a ford. It was late Autumn, and he paused on the bank to take off his shoes and socks, and roll up his breaches before wading into the almost-freezing water. Then, when he looked up again, he noticed something strange. Where the bank he was on was still red and gold with Autumn leaves, the other bank was white with snow, which lay in a thick blanket, as if it had been there for weeks. Amidst the snows, behind the dark shapes of old, gnarled trees, he saw a village, half-hidden in the mist. Warm, golden light shined from the windows of the houses that seemed familiar and welcoming to him. In front of one the houses he thought he saw his dead brother wave and fade into the gathering gloom. He also noticed an old woman on the other side, crouched by the water, and covered in dark, shapeless rags. She seemed to be washing something in the river, and her arms were red up to the elbows, and where she touched the water, the river ran red as blood. To his horror, Jack noticed that what she was washing looked very much like his own best embroidered tunic that he was wearing for his brother's funeral. The old woman looked up, and her face was as white as snow and deeply lined, with grey wisps of hair framing it like a halo, and deeply sunken black eyes that seemed like the pits of the night.
"Cross the river, and come to me, Jack," she said in a harsh, raspy voice, "for I love Thee, and I would have Thee with me for all time."
But Jack was frightened, for he recognized the woman for what She was. "I don't want to go with Thee," he answered in a shaking voice, "I know Thee - Thou art the Morrigan, the Hag, the Washer at the Ford, and I am not ready to die."
Suddenly, where before there was an old woman, The Great Queen stood in all Her Otherworldly majesty, the dark rags magically transforming into the dark wings of a raven.
"Thou art a fool, Jack!" She raged, as her black tresses flew wildly around Her face, and her eyes flamed like stars at midnight. "Thrice thy time came, and thrice I offered thee my love, for I had chosen thee as a wife would choose a husband. Thou could have been a young warrior at my side. Thou could have woven songs of splendor at my feast. Thou could have lived with me in peace and with thy family about thee. And thrice you rejected me out of fear. Now I reject thee. Never more shall I come to thee. Never more shall I call to thee. But by my curse thou shalt live for as long as this candle burns."
She reached across the river - it seemed easy now, for She was more then human - and placed a candle on the ground at Jack's feet. Then she was gone, snow and the misty village disappearing with Her, leaving nothing but an Autumn forest behind.
At first, Jack was terrified. The candle was small - surely it would burn down and die within minutes, and Jack along with it. But as minutes passed, he felt great relief, for not a drop of wax rolled down the side of the candle, and it did not seem to be burning down at all.
Carefully guarding the flame of the candle, Jack went home.
Time passed. Year after year, rolling in unending cycles. Everyone whom Jack had known as a young man had long since passed away. No one was left who even knew who he was, and in his small village he was just treated as a crazy old man, a burden on everyone, and a helper to none, for while he lived on and on, he also got older and older, and weaker and weaker, and even his mind started giving out after awhile. After a very long time, all he knew was that he had to keep his candle burning, lest he die.
His house fell into ruin, his field went untended, and all that would grow there were some turnips that his neighbors planted for him out of kindness. One night, a lightening bolt struck his house, and it burned down. Jack then took one of the turnips from his field, carved it into a lantern, and put his candle there, so that it would be protected from the rain.
He left his village and started wondering about with his lantern, looking and calling to friends and family long gone. His body grew older and older, until even his flesh disappeared, leaving only a spirit without physical substance. He hardly even noticed, for even as a spirit he still could not pass to the Other World, wondering this one with his lantern, a sad and lonely ghost, forever cursed from his fate by his fear.
And that is why turnip lanterns - now pumpkin lanterns - are called Jack-o-lanterns, and that is why we light them on Samhain - to remember Jack and his great fear, and to light the way for all the lost souls wondering about in the darkness looking for the passage to the Otherworld.
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Sabbats and Rituals:
Sabbats in History and Mythology / Samhain (October 31st) / Yule (December 21st) / Imbolc (February 2nd) / Ostara (March 21st) / Beltane (April 30th) / Litha (June 21st) / Lughnasadh (August 1st) / Mabon (September 21st)
Animals in Witchcraft (The Witches Familiar) / Antelope / Bats / Crow / Fox / Frog and Toads / Goat / Honeybee / Kangaroo / Lion / Owl / Phoenix / Rabbits and Hares / Raven / Robin Redbreast / Sheep / Spider / Squirrel / Swans / Wild Boar / Wolf / Serpent / Pig / Stag / Horse / Mouse / Cat
In Worship of Trees - Myths, Lore and the Celtic Tree Calendar. For descriptions and correspondences of the thirteen sacred trees of Wicca/Witchcraft see the following: Birch / Rowan / Ash / Alder / Willow / Hawthorn / Oak / Holly / Hazel / Vine / Ivy / Reed / Elder. Also see: The Willow Tree (Folk Music)
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Articles contributed by Patricia Jean Martin: / Apophyllite / Amber / Amethyst / Aquamarine / Aragonite / Aventurine / Black Tourmaline / Bloodstone / Calcite / Carnelian / Celestite / Citrine / Chrysanthemum Stone / Diamond / Emerald / Fluorite / Garnet / Hematite / Herkimer Diamond / Labradorite / Lapis Lazuli / Malachite / Moonstone / Obsidian / Opal / Pyrite / Quartz (Rock Crystal) / Rose Quartz / Ruby / Selenite / Seraphinite / Silver and Gold / Smoky Quartz / Sodalite / Sunstone / Thunderegg / Tree Agate / Zebra Marble
Articles and Stories about Witchcraft:
Murder by Witchcraft / The Fairy Witch of Clonmel / A Battleship, U-boat, and a Witch / The Troll-Tear (A story for Children) / Goody Hawkins - The Wise Goodwife / The Story of Jack-O-Lantern / The Murder of the Hammersmith Ghost / Josephine Gray (The Infamous Black Widow) / The Two Brothers - Light and Dark
Old Masters of Academia:
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Abramelin the Mage / Agrippa / Aidan A. Kelly / Albertus Magnus “Albert the Great” / Aleister Crowley “The Great Beast” / Alex Sanders "the King of the Witches” / Alison Harlow / Amber K / Anna Franklin / Anodea Judith / Anton Szandor LaVey / Arnold Crowther / Arthur Edward Waite / Austin Osman Spare / Biddy Early / Bridget Cleary / Carl Llewellyn Weschcke / Cecil Hugh Williamson / Charles Godfrey Leland / Charles Walton / Christina Oakley Harrington / Damh the Bard (Dave Smith) / Dion Fortune / Dolores Aschroft-Nowicki / Dorothy Morrison / Doreen Valiente / Edward Fitch / Eleanor Ray Bone “Matriarch of British Witchcraft” / Dr. John Dee and Edward Kelly / Dr. Leo Louis Martello / Eliphas Levi / Ernest Thompson Seton / Ernest Westlake and the Order of Woodcraft Chivalry / Fiona Horne / Friedrich von Spee / Francis Barrett / Gerald B. Gardner / Gavin and Yvonne Frost and the School and Church of Wicca / Gwydion Pendderwen / Hans Holzer / Helen Duncan / Herman Slater "Horrible Herman" / Israel Regardie / James "Cunning" Murrell / Janet Farrar & Gavin Bone / Jessie Wicker Bell “Lady Sheba” / John Belham-Payne / John George Hohman / John Gerard / John Gordon Hargrave (the White Fox) / John Michael Greer / John Score / Johannes Junius the Burgomaster of Bamberg / Karl von Eckartshausen / Laurie Cabot "the Official Witch of Salem" / Lewis Spence / Margaret Alice Murray / Margot Adler / Marie Laveau the " Voodoo Queen of New Orleans" / Marion Weinstein / Matthew Hopkins “The Witch-Finder General” / Max Ehrmann and the Desiderata / Monique Wilson the “Queen of the Witches” / Montague Summers / Nicholas Culpeper / Nicholas Remy / M. R. Sellers / Mrs. Grieve "A Modern Herbal" / Oberon and Morning Glory Zell-Ravenheart / Old Dorothy Clutterbuck / Old George Pickingill / Paddy Slade / Pamela Colman-Smith / Paracelsus / Patricia Crowther / Patricia Monaghan / Patricia “Trish” Telesco / Philip Emmons Isaac Bonewits / Philip Heselton / Raymond Buckland / Reginald Scot / Robert Cochrane / Robert ‘von Ranke’ Graves and "The White Goddess" /Rudolf Steiner / Rosaleen Norton “The Witch of Kings Cross” / Ross Nichols and The Order of Bards, Ovates & Druids / Sabrina - The Ink Witch / Scott Cunningham / Selena Fox / Silver Ravenwolf / Sir Francis Dashwood / Sir James George Frazer / S.L. MacGregor Mathers and the “Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn” / Starhawk / Stewart Farrar / Sybil Leek / Ted Andrews / The Mather Family - includes: Richard Mather, Increase Mather, Cotton Mather / Thomas Ady / Vera Chapman / Victor Henry Anderson / Vivianne Crowley / Walter Brown Gibson / William Butler Yeats / Zsuzsanna Budapest
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