Thursday, October 31, 2013

Stingy Jack and the Legend of the Jack O' Lantern -Disinformation

Originally published October 31, 2013 via disinfo.com

It’s Halloween.  Time to help your kids develop their bed-wetting habits.  Time to buy a ton of candy, claim it’s for trick-or-treaters, turn off the porch light, and gorge yourself on waxy chocolate.  Time to carve the ol’ jack-o’-lantern.

One of my favorite Halloween myths is the origin story of the jack-o’-lantern: the trickster legend of Stingy Jack.  This folk tale comes from Ireland, which was also a major cultural center for the Celts, who observed the festival of Samhain, which serves as the root from which our modern Halloween sprang.
According to the story, which may be centuries old, a drunkard known as Stingy Jack was infamous throughout Ireland as a liar and a cheat.  He was especially despised for his love of trickery, his favorite pastime.

One day, while bored and lounging lazily around Hell, Lucifer happened to overhear some horrible stories about Jack’s devious skills, which were apparently even more dastardly than his own.  Not to be outdone by a mere drunken Irishman, the Devil decided to find Jack and see if the stories were true.
That night, while stumbling in an alcoholic haze through the darkened Irish hills, Jack came upon a body, lying in the road.  Always curious when it comes to inert bodies (dead people don’t usually press charges against thieves), Jack shambled over for a closer look.

Turning the body over, Jack was surprised to find the face of Satan staring back at him.  Assuming he was there to take Jack to his final reward, he pleaded to be taken to the local pub for one last drink.  Seeing the humor in the situation, the Devil conceded.

The rest of the night should probably have its own legend attached, considering the new levels of debauchery discovered by the pair as they drank the pub dry.  When the party finally died down and the bill showed up, Jack, who wasn’t called “Stingy” for nothing, turned to the Devil and demanded he pay for it.

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