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Let’s create a crypt of curiosities for the hauntingly inquisitive! That is to say we thought we should unfurl the Jolly Roger to present you with a page of random spook trivia. But then we had an even better idea – we could create this page together. We could turn it into a cavalcade of mystical factoids, strange legends, and curious tidbits relating to the season of spook.

Have you ever wondered why people carve pumpkins into jagged-toothed guardians of the night? Are you curious about the spine-chilling stories that birthed the myth of the Headless Horseman? Or do you sit on any interesting facts you’d like to share with us? Let’s add them all below as we stumble across them.


Halloween, or All Hallows’ Eve, is not just a modern-day festival of costumes and candy; it has ancient roots. The holiday traces back over 2,000 years to the Celtic festival of Samhain (sow-in/sah-win/sown from Manx ‘Sauin’ – reunion, assembly), which marked the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter. A time associated with death and the supernatural.

As Edda will tell you, in the Northlands we have our own version of a haunted holiday. Álfablót (elf sacrifice) is a time to give thanks to the elves and the spirits for their blessings and to ask for their continued protection. To celebrate the harvest and the changing of seasons. Not much is known about the origin. It was taboo for strangers to watch or participate, but it was a time filled with reverence, mystery, and maybe just a little bit of otherworldly fright!


Like most traditions, the carving of pumpkins for Halloween has a bit of a pick-and-mix past. Did you know that it began with turnips? Or that the practice of carving faces into vegetables goes back centuries?

Last week we talked about Samhain, the Celtic harvest festival, and that’s where we first find turnips and gourds with scary faces to help ward off evil spirits. 

When Irish immigrants came to America, they found pumpkins to be more plentiful – and a lot easier to carve – than turnips. This plump orange vegetable filled with seeds quickly became the new canvas for an ancient art form.

But what about the name?  Why are they called Jack-o’-Lanterns? 

Well, it’s an amalgamation of two concepts. In European folklore, there are many stories about the ghost light that lures travellers off the path and leads them to their deaths. It has many names, but Will-o’-the-Wisp is the one most people know and where we get the o’-Lantern form from. (A wisp is a bunch of twigs or sticks used to light a fire or pyre.)

Jack, or Stingy Jack, is the name of a man in a number of very similar stories. After a life of drinking and bad behaviour, Jack tries to best the Devil himself. The long and short of that story is that he is denied entry to Hell, but the Devil gives him an ember to light his way through the twilight world where he has to wander until the end of time. Jack puts this ember in a carved turnip to serve as a lantern.

So, there you have it. When you’re scooping out your pumpkin this year, remember that you are participating in a tradition that spans both centuries and continents. And that it has a deliciously devilish backstory… 🎃

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