Old World Spirits Haunt October
By Rob Lewis, Marketing and Media Relations Manager
Fans of the Neil Gaiman book “American Gods” are familiar with the ways in which Old World religions and traditions found new life, practices and meaning when carried by immigrants to American shores. Gaiman’s gods are uprooted from their nations only to find strange new adventures, conflicts and struggles in the New World.
As we approach the Halloween season, I cannot help but think of Gaiman’s characters, including Mr. Wednesday, Anansi, and especially the overgrown leprechaun Mad Sweeney. Sweeney, like many American traditions, was brought to America by the Irish, who couldn’t quite shake those ancient pagan traditions no matter how fervent their Catholicism.
The Irish carried to America the tradition of carving vegetables on All Hallow’s Eve and placing an ember inside as a lantern to ward off evil spirits. This “Jack O’Lantern” tradition has its roots in the story of “Stingy Jack,” a mean-spirited prankster who tricked the Devil into not taking his soul on judgement day. When, upon his death, he was also rejected from Heaven by St. Peter, Stingy Jack was forced to wander the Netherworld with only an ember from the flames of Hell burning inside the turnip Jack had been carrying for the journey.
From this story, the tradition became one of carving a face into a turnip, rutabaga, gourd or potato to ward off Stingy Jack’s wandering spirit as he crossed the boundary from the Netherworld into the land of the living on the one night of the year when the boundary dissolves, All Hallow’s Eve.
Upon arriving in the New world, Irish immigrants discovered the pumpkin and realized it was much easier to hollow out and decorate in order to create Jack O’Lanterns. The Old World tradition had a New World vegetable!
Now the days are getting short and the veil between the Netherworld and our own is thinning. It is the time to gather together with friends, raise toasts to the bounty of harvest, share delicious foods and carve pumpkins to fend off the ancient prankster who has found a home in America.
I can think of no better way to celebrate this spookiest of seasons than to join us on October 25 for “Brews & Boos: Pumpkin Carving at Turner Farm.” Chef Stephanie will provide the adult beverages, delicious food and pumpkins for carving. Chef is a Jack O’Lantern expert and can guide you through the creation of your own talisman to ward off Stingy Jack. Check out her most recent creation, which will keep the farm sage (we hope):
Tickets for “Brews & Boos” can be found here. Purchase your tickets before the price increase on Friday, October 11.