Tonight is Samhain for us in the southern hemisphere. Samhain is a powerful night on the pagan calendar, when the veil that separates the world of the living from the spirit world is said to be thinnest (the same is true at Beltane, on the opposite side of the calendar).
Tonight we will light old pumpkin head (or Mr Soon-to-be-pumpkin-pie), to light the way for any lost souls that may be roaming the streets.
Although not considered a true pagan tradition, the bright orange glow of the menacing face and the flickering shadows of the candle light are perfect for this time of darkness. Umm... I think ours looks more comical than menacing...
Here is one interesting rendition of the Jack-o-lantern legend, from About.com:
Originating from Irish folklore, the Jack-o-lantern was used as a light for the lost soul of Jack, a notorious trickster, stuck between worlds. Jack is said to have tricked the devil into a truck of a tree and by carving an image of a cross in the tree's trunk, he trapped the devil there. His pranks denied him access to Heaven, and having angered the devil also to Hell, so Jack was a lost soul, trapped between worlds. As a consolation, the devil gave him a sole ember to light his way through the darkness between worlds.
Originally in Ireland turnips were carved out and candles placed inside as lanterns lit to help guide Jack’s lost spirit back home. Hence the term: Jack-o-lanterns. Later, when immigrants came to the new world, pumpkins were more readily available, and so the carved pumpkins carrying a lit candle served the same function.Happy Samhain to all!