Category: Superstitions

Jack of the Lantern

boo-who HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

Today is Halloween, the day when children across the country dig the innards out of and carve faces into hapless pumpkins, dress in costume and roam the neighborhood begging for enough candy to rot teeth and cause bellyaches for a full year. I have many fond—and some not so fond—memories of Halloween. Like the year my brother and I dressed up as Christmas packages. Do you know how hard it is to walk to school in a water heater box covered in wrapping paper and adorned with an enormous bow?

The practice of decorating pumpkins, or jack-o-lanterns is said to have originated in an Irish folktale about a man named Stingy Jack. Seems Jack convinced the Devil to buy him a drink but didn’t want to pay for it. So he convinced the Devil to turn himself into a coin. Instead of paying for the drink, Jack slipped the coin into his pocket alongside a cross, candywhich kept the devil from turning back. Jack freed him in exchange for a year of freedom.

When the Devil returned in a year, Jack tricked him into climbing a tree to pick a piece of fruit, then carved a cross into the bark, trapping the dark angel until he promised Jack ten more years of freedom. When Jack died, God didn’t want the trickster in heaven and the Devil had promised not to claim Jack’s soul. According to the legend, the Devil left Jack to roam the countryside with only a burning coal to light his way. Jack put the coal into a carved out turnip and has been roaming ever since. The Irish began to refer to the ghostly wanderer as Jack of the Lantern, or Jack o’ lantern.

Villagers began to carve their own versions of Jack’s lantern intojack-o-lantern turnips or potatoes and placing them in windows or near doors to frighten away Stingy Jack and other wandering evil spirits. Irish immigrants brought the tradition to America, where the native pumpkin proved a perfect canvas, and it is now an integral part of Halloween festivities.

So, tell me: do you still carve pumpkins for your front porch on Halloween?

Horseshoes and Superstitions

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Hi everyone, Winnie Griggs here. I hope everyone is having a wonderful March so far.

Did you ever wonder where the superstitions around horseshoes as a good luck charm came from? I did, so I thought I’d do a little digging.

horseshoe-1Many people believe that the concept of a lucky horseshoe originated from a myth about a man named Dunstan and his encounter with the Devil in the tenth century AD. Dunstan was a blacksmith and when he was asked to re-shoe the Devil’s horse, he nailed a horseshoe to the Devil’s hoof instead. This caused the Devil great pain, and Dunstan only agreed to remove the shoe and release the Devil after the Devil promised never again to enter a place where a horseshoe is hung over the door. Thus, hanging a horseshoe over your door is said to ward off the Devil. As a side note here, Dunstan the blacksmith eventually became the Archbishop of Canterbury and was later canonized to become Saint Dunstan.horseshoe-3

There are two different schools of thought among the superstitious about how to hang a horseshoe to ensure you receive the coveted good luck. Some believe that the charm should be hung in the upward or “U-shaped” position so that all of the luck can’t fall out.  Others believe just the opposite, that if it is hung in the downward position, it allows the luck to rain down on you. So take your pick. Or maybe hedge your bets and do both! 🙂

 

Did you know that, originally, horseshoes were affixed to the animal’s hoof with seven iron nails? That’s because seven was considered to be an extremely lucky number. And that’s why many of the horseshoe good-luck tokens today are made with seven “nail hole” impressions.

 

Of course, I’m not superstitious by nature and don’t set much store by good luck charms.  However, I do have a few tokens I carry with me, but these are sentimental in nature rather than based on the belief that they will bring me luck.

 

What about you? Do you have a good luck charm, a token of some sort, that you like to carry around?  Care to share?

Updated: March 7, 2016 — 10:01 pm
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