...An Irish myth tells of a man named Stingy Jack, who one day invited the Devil to have a drink. He convinced the Devil to change into a sixpence in order to pay for the drink, but instead of paying for the drink he pocketed the sixpence beside a silver cross which prevented the Devil from changing back. Jack made a deal with the Devil before letting him free. For one year the Devil could not harrass Jack. Next Halloween the Devil met up with Jack again, and Jack made another deal with him to be left alone. Jack died within the year and was turned back from the Gates of Heaven. He went to the Gates of Hell and the Devil told him to go away, as Jack had made him promise not to claim his soul. Jack didn't want to leave because it was dark and he couldn't find his way. The Devil tossed Jack a glowing coal and Jack put it inside a turnip, and ever since with this Jack-O'-Lantern, Jack has been roaming the faces of this earth.
So it's a myth, and a harmless one. Nobody will get mad if you say you don't believe it. But other myths surrounding Halloween have a lot of what mythographers call "vitality" -- people believe in them, and get very bent out of shape if you don't share their belief. The links below are full of vital beliefs, and since many of them contradict each other, some of them must be factually untrue. But folklorists are less interested in supporting claims of factuality for one belief or another than in understanding how the beliefs are passed along, and what purpose they serve for the people who hold them. So we send you on to these links, making no claims one way or another about their authenticity or reliablility. For the folklorist, it's all data...
Origins of Halloween
by Rowan Moonstone: a detailed discussion of the origins of the holiday in the Celtic samhain.
A discussion of some of our customs, and their origins, from Rome to the British Isles
Another site with good information on Celtic practices
A Hallowe'en site for elementary school teachers
From a Wiccan/Neopagan Perspective
A Fundamentalist Christian Version of the Holiday's Origins
site derides what it calls "Satanic Panic"
by Katie Maher, 5th class, Dublin