Friday, October 28, 2005

Jack-o-Lanterns for Dummies

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" You've stumbled onto a broad boulevard on the Web where we admit deities, ancient and modern. The HOV lane is reserved for the bored gods -- those poor, forgotten (or worse, mythologized) pantheons that once had respect and now have food stamps.

Gaaaack! Anne is just back from Billy Bob Agricultural/Technical School, where she makes a pittance as a substitute teacher. For those of you just joining this blog, please be advised that Anne is a goat judge of minor renown who has been downsized by a huge conglomerate called Amalgamated Goat. (It bought out Anne's former company, Goats R Us, of Saline, Michigan and laid off a ton of workers).

Animal Husbandry was not available today, so Anne got stuck teaching the Book of Genesis to a bunch of students. Feature that, if you will. Although it was healthy and refreshing to teach Genesis as a work of literature, i.e., just as pretty a myth as any other, no better, no worse.

Well, I mean, you have to give God some credit. At least he said, "Let there be light," so he could see what he was doing.

Intelligent Design? Well, perhaps Marginally Proficient Design. Giving God all the breaks on this one.

Finally: today's topic. Why do we carve faces in pumpkins on Halloween? Where did this jolly little tradition come from?

It is ancient and holy, my friends.

In the better days, Halloween (i.e. Samhain) was recognized as the day of the year when the veil between living and dead was the thinnest. Therefore one could communicate with the dead, if one practiced the proper respect. Like, don't ask if they have Barry Manilow pumped into their cubicles, okay?

One problem. Some dead people are nasty, ugly, vicious, kitten-killing monsters. And you don't want them roaming around your house, sniffing out your cats.

So the ancient ones carved scary faces into turnips and hung these around the doors of their cozy homes. The turnips would frighten away the bad spirits while allowing the friendly ones to enter and have a spot of single malt.

Wait a minute. Turnips, you say? TURNIPS? Those purple things that taste like Lysol?

Recall, gentle readers, that pumpkins are a New World product and thus were not available in Europe until after 1492. Ditto tomatoes, tobacco, coffee, corn (maize), potatoes, certain potent hallucinogens, and ... that gift that proves the Americas produced better gods ... COCOA.

So the ancients carved faces on turnips until pumpkins started showing up in gardens in the 1500s, and then some retro witch said, "Hey, these would be righteous for keeping away bad spirits."

A tradition morphed.

Anne just wishes it wasn't such a gooey, icky, yucky process. One that significantly highlights her complete lack of artistic aptitude.

Now, reader, you're no dummy if you didn't know this about Jack-o-Lanterns. Just be sure to tell all your Christian friends that the things they're shoving into the lawn and lighting up with candles are PAGAN PAGAN PAGAN.

If they argue, ask them to show you the chapter and verse in the Bible where it says, "And God said, 'Thou shalt pluck a ripe pumpkin and therein carve a likeness of thy ugliest enemy. Thou shalt provide light for the pumpkin on the falling of darkness on the Day of the Dead.'"

Nope. Not in there. Not written down anywhere. That's druids for you. Tell the kids and the grandkids, don't write it down.



Athana said...

Alright, alright, I've been trying to avoid it, but I guess I'll just hafta spring for a pumpkin if that's what's going to keep the kitten-killing monsters from my door on Monday!

Scott said...

We still use turnips here,, they make good goblins to hang in trees....
PS: thanks for the candle,, I too lit one tonight in Brighid's honor and asking for healing for a number of good souls,,, thanks a bunch of turnips!!!!!! My three face candle will go all night, and I always buy my pumpkins only two days before Samhain, carve it this year on Sunday, lite it the first time on the 30th,,, which has the planet Mars closer than you would care to know hangin in the skies.... and then light again on Samhain,then on Nov 1st,,, no more no less... another granny tradition I guess. Three aspects of the Goddess, three days.