HERB - the period pumpkin

Christine A Seelye-King mermayde at juno.com
Wed Apr 29 10:10:38 PDT 1998

Shall we have a story?  Al right then, (pulling up a seat by the fire), 

	Once there was a man named Jack.  He was a godless sort, always
drinking, gambling, and pursuing other pleasures, including lying and
telling a story to get himself out of a fix.  Well, before long the Devil
heard about old Jack, and came to get him.  Jack was not about to stop
enjoying his earthly pleasures, so he made a bargian with Ol' Nick. 
There was to be a race up a tree, and the fastest one up would win. 
Well, Satan knew he was the quickest one around, so he gladly agreed to
the bet.  So up the tree he went, flying to the highest branch in a
flash.  Jack, in the meantime, stayed right where he was, and as soon as
the Devil started up the tree, Jack went straight to the base, and carved
a cross in the bark.  Satan was trapped up in the tree, because he could
not pass over the sign of the Lord.  Jack tipped his hat and said
good-bye to the Devil, and went on his sinful way.  
	In the fullness if time, Jack's body gave out, and he left this
earthly coil.  He headed up to Heaven, thinking himself a virtuous man
and deserving of his just rewards.  Needless to say, he never got past
the gates, and was told to seek entrance below.  Well, the Devil has a
long memory, and he was still smarting about that incident with the tree.
 He told Jack that Hell wouldn't have him, and that he was welcome to
wander around in limbo for the rest of eternity as far as Satan was
concerned.  Jack pleaded for pity, (a sad case that, pleadin' with the
Devil for merciful entrance to Hell)
but the Satan was unmoved.  Finally Jack said "At least give me some
coals to light my way".  Now Satan had his fair share of coals and more,
but he would only part with one single coal.  Jack had been knawing on a
turnip at the time, and so he ate out the center of the turnip, and put
the coal inside, with holes in the side for the light to shine through. 
To this day he wanders in limbo, and we carve Jack-o-lanterns to light
the way for all souls wandering in the gloom.  

(Irish imigrants in the late 1800's came to America and found few
turnips, but fields full of pumpkins.  Already hollow, they became a
natural replacement for turnips.  [I don't like turnips anyway.  And have
you ever tried to carve out a turnip? I have, and its no picnic, I can
tell you.  Not only that, but if you find a turnip large enough to carve
and sucessfully get a candle inside it, you then have to smell burning
turnip all night.  Thank goodness for Irish inginuity, I say.])

Mistress Christianna
Lover and Collector of Folklore
Pumpkin Carver Extraordinaire

On Wed, 29 Apr 1998 06:23:44 EDT maynedelacroix at juno.com (SCOTT A
WAGGONER) writes:
>I think I read or heard something about carving holes into a turnip 
>(which I realize isn't very big)
>inserting candles and using them as lanterns
>that later became faces
>when the practice came to America pumpkins were used because they are 
>not sure where the practice originated from, however.
>Unfortunately I hear too many stories about all kinds of neat things 
>and don't have the sense
>to document anything
>so I don't remember the source from whence this came
>butternut squash sounds good as a period pumpkin although not very big
>I look for the biggest pumpkins for Halloween
>Ooh, I'm getting chills already
>On Wed, 29 Apr 1998 02:39:25 EDT RAISYA <RAISYA at aol.com> writes:
>>I've been working on figuring out what the period pumpkin is, and I'd 
>>like to
>>hear from other people.
>>There's an illumination of the period pumpkin in the 14th century 
>>SANITATIS.  Both the leaves and fruit of the plant look like a 
>>squash.  The modern pumpkin and most squash belong to Cucurbita pepo 
>>Cucurbita maxima which originated in N. and S. America, while the 
>>squash belongs to Cucurbita moschata.  I haven't found anything 
>>where the C. moschata originate, but these species rarely cross.  
>>else that seems to support C. moschata being Old world is that the 
>>borer, a serious pest of the other 2 species, rarely attacks C. 
>>I think the butternut squash makes the most sense, but maybe there's 
>>I haven't come across.  Has anyone else looked into this?
>>Raisya Khorivovna
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