Monday, 30 October 2017

Cabinet of Curiosities: Cat O’Lantern (not by) Charlotte Wightwick

Happy Halloween!

I have to admit that Halloween always takes me slightly by surprise, although why this should be, I don’t know given that the shops are full of plastic ghouls, fake cobwebs and tiny witches’ hats for weeks beforehand. But yet again, here we are and the most I have done to celebrate is to watch the brilliantly-costumed edition of Strictly (although to be fair, I also don’t need the fake cobwebs – I have real ones of my own.)

My amazing friend is far more organised than I and sent me a photo of her take on the traditional carved pumpkin – this truly stupendous ‘Cat O’Lantern’ (I advised that the whiskers were necessary, so I think I get to take some credit for this masterpiece of vegetable artistry).

Cat O'Lantern - Photo: Kate Wheeler

As I gazed in awed wonder at its glowing glory, however, I got to wondering about the history of this (actually, when you think about it) rather odd tradition. I knew of course, like most people, that Halloween in its current form is a relatively new phenomenon, although the roots go back a long way. But what about the pumpkins with faces?

It turns out that they too, are older than I thought. The original Jack O’Lanterns were carved, not from pumpkins, but from turnips, and the practice was recorded in both Ireland and parts of England in the early nineteenth century, although the tradition is said to be much older. The faces, with a small ember or stub of candle in them, were designed to ward off evil spirits. In America, Irish immigrants continued the tradition, only now with the native pumpkin.
Traditional Irish Jack O'Lantern  - Photo: rannṗáirtí anaiṫnid b  

So now you know.

I’m afraid it all seems like a bit too much work to me – so I shall continue to admire my friend’s feline-veggie handiwork and settle down to watch the Strictly results!

Have a spooky time! 

Cat O'Lantern: Kate Wheeler

1 comment:

Mary Hoffman said...

I'm off to make my pumpkin lantern now!