As a Witch, the celebration of Halloween and Samhain (honoring those departed and communing with ancestors, deities, and other spirit beings) are important to me. Power grows throughout October, as well as a noticeable thinning of the Veil. In my opinion, both Samhain and Halloween are an important observance of those realities. And for me, pumpkin magick is some of the most powerful witchcraft to be invoked during this time.
In my post Halloween Fun and on our recent Samhain podcast episode, I spoke of my love of Jack-o-Lanterns as guardians on All Hallow’s Eve. Car calls our annual Jack-o-Lantern a “temporary gargoyle.” An apt description of what these carved autumnal gourds are destined to become at sunset on October 31st. So, let’s take a look at pumpkins and pumpkin magick, the Stingy Jack myth, and what makes the Jack-o-Lantern so powerful.
Pumpkin Magick: All Hail The Power Of Pumpkin!
As soon as Autumn breezes blow, farm markets and stores become filled with pumpkins of various sizes. Big ones. Little ones. Sweet ones for pies, donuts and breads. Traditional savory types for soups and stews. Pumpkins come in all manner of colors from orange to white to green. In fact, there are multiple varieties of pumpkin beyond what’s seen gracing porches, lawns and seasonal displays through November.
Long ago, pumpkins were a bumper crop in North America, ensuring families did not go hungry in the Winter. Stored properly, a fresh pumpkin is edible for up to three months, the toasted seeds the same or longer. Canned pumpkin can last for over a year. Pumpkin can also be used medicinally to aid digestion, maintain glucose levels and lower cholesterol.
However, the humble pumpkin is even more powerful than it seems. It is a plant ally, willing to assist those who know to “ask” with protection, divination, fertility and prosperity. Need to do some healing work? Consider going to pumpkin for extra oomph in your spell. Pumpkin is associated with Lunar deities, so create a partnership during moon rituals and spells. Draw money by adding pumpkin seeds to a spell bag. Pumpkins are badass at banishing unwanted spirits, which is where the Jack-o-Lantern comes in.
Pumpkin Magick: Stingy Jack and the Turnip Lantern
The Irish tell the tale of a man called Stingy Jack, a miserable old drunk who took pleasure in playing tricks on everyone: family, friends and even the Devil himself. One day, Stingy Jack tricked the Devil up into an apple tree then nailed crosses to the trunk, preventing him from escaping. The Devil was furious but Stingy Jack wouldn’t let him leave until the Devil promised to never take his soul. Grudgingly, the Devil made the promise to Stingy Jack, who then removed the crosses. The Devil climbed down from the tree and went on his way.
Years later, Jack died. But when he went to the pearly gates of heaven, he was told by Saint Peter to leave! “You’ve been too cruel and led a worthless life on Earth. You can never come in to Heaven.” So, Stingy Jack made his way down to hell. However, The Devil laughed at Jack upon seeing him. “You made me promise never to take your soul and I keep my word.”
Devastated by his stupidity, Jack realized he had no where to go. There would be no eternal rest. He had doomed himself to walk in the dark “netherworld” between heaven and hell. Never to find peace or comfort. Desperate, Stingy Jack looked to the Devil and asked for a light. “How can I leave if I cannot see?” he moaned. Shaking his head, the Devil tossed an ember from the flames of hell to Jack, to help light his way.
Searching his pockets, Jack found a single turnip. A favorite food which he always carried with him. Hollowing out the gourd, Stingy Jack placed the hell-fire ember into the pale turnip. From that day until this, Stingy Jack has roamed the netherworld, with only the turnip lantern to light his way.
Pumpkin Magick: The Mighty Jack-O-Lantern
When Irish folk began immigrating to the United States, they brought with them the story of Stingy Jack and other Samhain traditions. They didn’t have pumpkins in Ireland but the goard was plentiful here, so rather than carve a turnip “Jack of the Lantern” to scare away haunting spirits on All Hallow’s Eve, Irish Americans chose what has now become synonymous with Halloween.
As a child I believed in the power of the Jack-o-Lantern, which my mother and I carved each October 31st, to protect our home from unwanted or scary spirits. Interesting, when you consider how many other spirits I interacted with on the regular as a clairsentient child. This belief did not come from my parents or as a story told to me at school. Jack-o-Lanterns as guardians has simply been something I’ve held to be true.
Additionally, a sentinel or guardian Jack-o-Lantern has a face. Decorate a pumpkin however you will or create an egregore with a protective purpose. But in my experience, the strongest power of the Jack-o-Lantern comes when the pumpkin has a traditional face. Why? In my belief, this particular pumpkin magick is intuitive. Passed down, as other types of witchcraft, through lore and collective memory.
Every Halloween, I carve a pumpkin or two (Ode helps me), which stand as glowing sentinels from dusk until midnight and then dark protective watchers until dawn. Therefore, I thought I’d share the ritual/spell with you here (again).
Jack-o-Lantern Sentinel Ritual and Spell
You will need:
A medium sized pumpkin (or several)
Carving tools (kitchen knives work best)
Permanent Marker (for designing the face)
Spoon (for removing seeds)
6-hour tea light candle(s)
This ritual/spell is to be done on October 31st (not the day or two before). Ask the spirit of the pumpkin to be your ally in its transformation. I’ve found pumpkin always ready to assist as a Jack-o-Lantern. Take the permanent marker and use it to create a face (scary, silly, happy–doesn’t matter), and focus your intention on its purpose as a sentinel/guardian for the night. Once you’ve created the face, hold the pumpkin in your hands. Envision it’s light shining into the night, providing a glow of protection surrounding your home.
Using a knife, cut around the stem (leaving plenty of room for your hand to be able to get in there) and remove it. Set the top aside. With the spoon (or your hands) scoop out the inside of the pumpkin until clean. Save the pumpkin seeds to roast and enjoy later! Then using a sharp knife, carve the face of the Jack-o-Lantern by following the pattern created with the marker. Do this with joy, whether by yourself or as a family with children (be watchful with the sharp objects!). Have fun! Once you’ve carved the pumpkin, replace the top with stem.
Place the Jack-o-Lantern on the steps of your home, on the front porch (patio, balcony, etc) or in a window with a street view. At dusk, put the tealight candle in the pumpkin and light it. Speak an incantation if it feels appropriate. The Jack-o-Lantern knows its job and will act as a guardian for the night, regardless. Check on the candle throughout the evening (if for some reason it goes out, re-light or replace it). Don’t leave the candle burning unsupervised. On November 1st, remove the Jack-o-Lantern and return it to the earth (the squirrels and birds will appreciate the extra food).
**Personal note: Several years ago, I didn’t have a long-burning candle for my pumpkin and I didn’t have a replacement. As usual, I lit the candle at dusk, expecting it to go out early. However, every time I checked, the candle was burning. The average burn time for the tealight I used was two and a half hours. Maximum. That candle burned until midnight.**