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Folklore: Jack-o-lantern

Jim Dixon 02 Nov 09 - 09:25 PM
open mike 02 Nov 09 - 10:58 PM
Jim Dixon 02 Nov 09 - 11:56 PM
VirginiaTam 03 Nov 09 - 02:41 AM
Jack Blandiver 03 Nov 09 - 03:33 AM
Jim Dixon 03 Nov 09 - 02:38 PM
Penny S. 03 Nov 09 - 02:58 PM
Bryn Pugh 04 Nov 09 - 07:00 AM
GUEST 04 Nov 09 - 07:11 AM
GUEST,CS 04 Nov 09 - 07:12 AM
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Subject: Folklore: Jack-o-lantern
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 02 Nov 09 - 09:25 PM

I was curious about the history of the term Jack-o-lantern, so I went searching for early examples. Apparently the term was first applied to meteorological phenomena that we would now call St. Elmo's fire or Will-o-the-wisp:

Jack with a Lantern. Ignis fatuus.
A Dictionary, English-Latin, and Latin-English by Elisha Coles (London: G. Sawbridg, 1679), page 180.

What a foolish and silly thing is Astronomy? what a man in the Moon, Will' With the wisp, Jack with the Lantern? 'tis all a bubble, a cheat and imposture.
The Grounds & Occasions of the Contempt of the Clergy and Religion Enquired Into by John Eachard (London: Obadiah Blagrave, 1685), page 238.

Q. What is your opinion of an Ignis Fatuus, or Jack-a-Lantern?
A. An Ignis Fatuus is a meteor consisting of an oily exhalation....
The British Apollo: Containing Two Thousand Answers to Curious Questions in Most Arts and Sciences (London: Theodore Sanders, 1726), page 112.

Why the fiery Appearances Castor, Pollux, and Helena, and what they call Jack in the Lantern, appear amidst Storms.
NOT one, but a great many, are seen on the Masts of Ships, ...
A Compleat System of General Geography By Bernhardus Varenius (London: Stephen Austen, 1734), page 526.

Jack with a lantern, een Dwaal-licht, stalkaers.
A Large Dictionary English and Dutch by Willem Sewel (Amsterdam: Jacob ter Beek, 1735), page 120.

Jack with a lantern, (or Will with a whisp) Un feu folet, forte de méteore.
The Royal Dictionary, French and English, and English and French by Abel Boyer (London: D. Midwinter et al., 1740), page 625.

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Subject: RE: Folklore: Jack-o-lantern
From: open mike
Date: 02 Nov 09 - 10:58 PM

I thought st. Elmo's fire was like spontaneous combustion..
as in a buddhist monk bursting into flames...

or like foxfire...the glowing swamp gas phenomenon

more on will o the wisp here:

i thought it was a type of bird...oh, yes, whipoorwill...

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Subject: RE: Folklore: Jack-o-lantern
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 02 Nov 09 - 11:56 PM

When I searched for the older spelling lanthorn, I found some older examples:

Ignis-Fatuus, is a certain Meteor that appears chiefly in Summer Nights, for the most part frequenting Church Yards, Meadows, and Bogs, and consists of a somewhat viscous Substance or fat Exhalation, which being kindled in the Air, reflects a kind of thin Flame, yet without any sensible heat. This Meteor is called by the common People, Will of the Wisp, or Jack with a Lanthorn. ...
Will with a wisp or Jack in a Lanthorn, a fiery Meteor, or Exhalation that appears in the Night, commonly haunting Church-yards, Marshy and Fenny Places, as being evaporated out of a fat Soil; it also flies about Rivers, Hedges, &c.
Glossographia Anglicana Nova: or, A Dictionary, Interpreting Such Hard Words ... by Thomas Blount (London: Dan. Brown et al., 1707), page 497.

* * *
We that were the followers of thy false Glimmerings, must forsake thy Errors, and seek the Lord by a more perfect Illumination, for the false fading Jack-a-Lanthorn which thou left'st among us, is burn'd into the Socket, and now stinks in the Nostrils of the Righteous far worse than the dying Snuff of a Cotton-Candle....
The Works of Mr. Thomas Brown by Thomas Brown, James Drake (London: B. Bragg, 1707), page 128.

* * *
And now the Priests, and high Professors of Christ, they are so far from receiving the Light of Christ, and believing in it, that they have hated the Light, and Scoff at it, calling it a Natural Conscience; and some have called it Jack in the Lanthorn.
A journal or Historical Account of the Life ... of ... George Fox by George Fox, Margaret Askew Fell Fox (London: J. Sowle, 1709), page 497.

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Subject: RE: Folklore: Jack-o-lantern
From: VirginiaTam
Date: 03 Nov 09 - 02:41 AM

fascinating stuff Jim. Thanks for posting this. I love Mudcat.

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Subject: RE: Folklore: Jack-o-lantern
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 03 Nov 09 - 03:33 AM

Lanthorn is one of my eight favourite words of all time. I have it tattooed on the sole of my left foot for reasons too obscure to go into here.

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Subject: RE: Folklore: Jack-o-lantern
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 03 Nov 09 - 02:38 PM

These citations emphasize the deceitful nature of the Jack-o-lantern, sometimes personified, sometimes used as a metaphor for anything misleading.

* * *
Ignis fatuus, the foolish Fire, (Jack with a Lanthorn, or Will with a Wisp) is like the other, is crass, heavy, and nearer the Earth; one alone appearing, named Helena, was look'd upon by the Ancients as an ill Omen; but two together, (called Castor and Pollux) as a Presage of good Fortune. This is said to lead Men out of the Way, into pitches and dirty Places, because in a dark Night a Person not well acquainted with his Way, seeing a Light, may approach nearer to it, expecting to find an House, or a Man with a Lanthorn, but being deceived by it, instead of Company he may find himself in a Ditch, the Amazement of which has sometimes so disturb'd Men, as to make them wander about all Night, and they perceiving in the Morning they have not been far, have been apt to think themselves misled by an evil Spirit.
The Athenian Oracle by John Dunton (London: J. and J. Knapton et al., 1728), Vol III, page 201.

* * *
...a Jack in a Lanthorn, sure to lead his Followers into Briars and Quagmires....
The British patriot: or a timely caveat against giving into the measures of ... (London: Printed for the author..., 1731) page 32.

* * *
But there is a Person whose Name is Will of the Wisp, alias, Jack o' the Lanthorn, who pretends to be related to us, because he was born upon some of our Lands, being sprung up from a Fen, in a hot Day; but he is a raking Vagabond Fellow, that takes Pleasure in leading People out of their Way, and throwing them into Ditches at Night, so that we never own'd him to be of our Family....
Select Letters Taken from Fog's Weekly Journal by Mr. Molloy (Charles) (London: 1732), page 3.

* * *
And Others, again, have even adventured to condemn the whole Practice of Oratory, to represent it as rather meretricious than meritorious, as a Trick to inflame the Passions, rather than a necessary Power to command the Reason of Mankind, rather a Jack o' Lanthorn, to allure and mislead wandering Imaginations, than a Star to conduct the Wise to a Saviour....
The Case of Authors by Profession or Trade, Stated, with Regard to Booksellers, the Stage, and the Public ... by James Ralph (London, R. Griffiths [1758]), page 53.

* * *
I confess I have been many times highly entertained with your philosophy, but never convinced: It is a Jack in a lanthorn, which pleases one on the discovery, hoping it may prove a true light; but alas! it only creates a sudden hope to leave one in more impenetrable darkness.
The Hibernian Magazine, or, Compendium of Entertaining Knowledge, Volume 4, January, 1774, page 34.

* * *
Of the Phenomenon, vulgarly called Will or Kitty with the Wisp, or Jack, with a Lanthorn.

THIS Appearance, called in Latin, Ignis Fatuus, has long been an article in the Catalogue of popular Superstitions. It is said to be chiefly seen in Summer Nights, frequenting Meadows, Marshes, and other moist Places.

It is called Ignis Fatuus, or foolish Fire, because it only feareth Fools. Hence is it when Men are led away with some idle Fancy or Conceit, we use to say an Ignis Fatuus hath done it.

Observations on Popular Antiquities by John Brand, Henry Bourne (Newcastle upon Tyne: J. Johnson, 1777), page 369.

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Subject: RE: Folklore: Jack-o-lantern
From: Penny S.
Date: 03 Nov 09 - 02:58 PM

St Elmo's fire is a separate phenomenon, a sort of electrical discharge. Will o the wisp is supposed to be ignited methane produced in places with submerged vegetable matter. I have a memory of reading something about this lately on the scientific side. I'll see if I can find it.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Jack-o-lantern
From: Bryn Pugh
Date: 04 Nov 09 - 07:00 AM

Willo' th' Wisp is called corpse candle in some parts of the UK.

I have heard 'Jack-o-Lantern' applied only to those awful carved pumpkins.

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Subject: RE: Folklore: Jack-o-lantern
Date: 04 Nov 09 - 07:11 AM

"I have heard 'Jack-o-Lantern' applied only to those awful carved pumpkins."

McGrath posted this in BS - a carved swede, *this* is inspiring...
I don't know what they called them, but a friend of mine would do something similar with turnips when they were kids - hollowing out and carving a face, then lighting with candle and eating once cooked.

Carved Hallowe'en Swede

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Subject: RE: Folklore: Jack-o-lantern
Date: 04 Nov 09 - 07:12 AM

Me above..

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