Pumpkin Roots

Have you ever thought about whatever started the first pumpkin patch? The first sightings of fall and all the things that currently fill the season? Everything from pumpkin pies to jack-o-lanterns.

Often when we think of pumpkin patches and Halloween, we associate the meaning with current western ideologies of materialism in collectables, costumes, candy and pumpkin cravings. However, it has actually evolved from traditions from our European ancestors that started over thousands of years ago. It is said that jack-o-lanterns where actually used by our Celtic ancestors to ward away evil spirts and marking the drastic changes between summer and winter. The harvesting of summer’s hard work and gathering its rewards in crops. While pumpkins and Halloween is often associated with witch craft, paganism and other darks occults and rituals, it really does not have dark beginnings and intensions demonized by Christianity and other orthodox religions. Things we were passed down for centuries, like pumpkin craving and harvest festivals, actually evolved from cultural traditions planted with intensions of thanks to our Gods and attempts to keep away evil spirts. In adoption of modern ideologies and social advances and expansion in our knowledge and understanding of social structure and the human belief system, we can follow patterns of tradition back in time. Learning the roots and meanings and the reemergence of new cultures such as Wicca – “A broad revival of Samhain resembling its traditional pagan form” (Editors)1 which evolved into a formally recognized established religion during the 1950s and grew in popularity in the 1980s. “By the 1960s the word Wicca had emerged as a general term for this new religion, although there was some internal contestations as its specific applicability” (White)3. Wearing “costumes and masks to disguise themselves” (Gilroy)2 in attempts to “avoid harm” and “scare away evil spirits” was driven by the belief Celtic ancestors held in the purpose for dressing up like “monsters” and “dragons.” This is seen in a multitude of other cultures and traditions across the world and human attempts to keep away evil sources. Now a days you can go as your favorite movie characters or trends, even personal and inside jokes. Costumes in itself has its own beginning and evolution. 

The symbolism of half between summer and winter. Light and darkness. A thing we understand about all human spirit forms in terms of recognition of good and evil. The need for the recognition of good and bad in all of us which cannot exist without the other but within the pretext of coexistence. How our Native ancestors shared their knowledge of their crops with our pioneer ancestors which was in turn passed down to modern entrepreneurs and their reinvention and use of it – like pumpkin pie and pumpkin spiced mochas. The irony of local farms from the 1920’s inviting local patrons in celebrations of end of harvest traditions and the meaning and significance of successful crops for the winters and dark nights ahead. Keeping thousands feed throughout the winter so that spring can begin the cycle once again. How these doors where open to not only reinventing our modern enjoyments and entertainments, but creating new avenues for celebrating our local farmers and farms and in hopes we get to see them for the next harvest festival activities the following year. It will be hard to ever look at a craved pumpkin again and think of it as just a “jack-o-lantern.”    

Cited Sources:

  1. Editors, History.com. “Samhain.” 2018, April 6. https://www.history.com/topics/holidays/samhain. Accessed 27 October 2022. 
  2. Gilroy, John.  “An expert from Tlachtga: Celtic Fire Festival.” Unknown. https://www.newgrange.com/samhain.htm. Accessed 27 October 2022.
  3. White, Ethan Doyle. “Wicca”. Encyclopedia Britannica, 2 Sep. 2022. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Wicca. Accessed 27 October 2022.

Published by Ms. Selective

Writer, traveler, and photographer from the Northwest.

%d bloggers like this: