The Magic of Pumpkins
It’s Halloween night. A certain fresh briskness fills the air as children dressed as goblins, ghouls, superheroes, and witches scanter excitedly from house to house pillaging the neighborhood for treats. In the backdrop of the dark of night are the Autumn leaves, providing a certain fiery orange glow that seems to warm the autumn chill.
And on many a doorstep is the quintessential symbol of the Halloween season – the jack o’ lantern, lit from within by the soft ember of a burning candle, secretly protecting homes from the spirits that wish to harm while guiding the way of the ancestral spirits who walk among us for a brief moment in time.
Pumpkins are an honored part of the All Hallow’s Eve festivities – and the fall season overall. They are the quintessential symbol that Autumn has arrived. You’ll find the local grocery stocking up on juicy, plump pumpkins while the scent of pumpkin spice wafts seductively from the nearby coffee shop. Many are dusting off their favorite, tried-and-true pumpkin pie recipes.
The pumpkin patch just down the road has come to life with the thrilled squeals of children marveling at the treasure trove of pumpkins and accompanying fall-themed festivities. Pumpkins not only capture the joy and enchantment of the fall season but are also intricately connected to the spirit world and the mysteries of magic.
They decorate our porches and fill our bellies while also providing us protection from the unknown dangers of the unseen world. They entice the winds of good fortune and prosperity to grace our homes while providing us with a bit more keen insight so that we do not miss the secret wonders occurring around us during this peculiar time.
Pumpkin Magical Correspondences
- Botanical Name: Cucurbita
- Folk Names: Pumpkin, Winter Squash
- Deities: Oshun, Hecate
- Element: Water
- Magical Attributes: (Fruit) Protection, Divination, Banishing, Prosperity; (Seeds) Fertility, Abundance, Wealth, Love, Prosperity, Good Luck
From Shirley Twofeathers Blog Article: “Pumpkins in Magic.”
Magical Ways to Use Pumpkin
- Pumpkins have a long history of warding off evil spirits on Halloween Night. It is tradition to carve a face in a pumpkin and light it with a candle from within to protect the home from evil spirits and apparitions during All Hallow’s Eve.
- Carving and lighting pumpkins during the Halloween season can help your ancestors locate you in case you wish to communicate with them, since during this time the veil is quite thin, making it a suitable time for communication with the spirit world.
- Adding the fruit of the pumpkin to your delicacies, entrees, and desserts is not only delicious but lucky as well. It is said that doing so will raise your good fortune and attract wealth into your life.
- Pumpkins share a close association with Hecate, Goddess of the Night, Magic, and the Moon, and can be used in spells to hone and strengthen magical gifts and abilities.
- The magic within pumpkin lends itself well to divinatory pursuits. Keep small pumpkins or light pumpkin-scented candles near your divinatory tools to increase the potency of your readings and revelations.
- Pumpkin scented sachets placed around the home not only smell wonderful and provide a cozy ambiance, but they are all very effective in protecting against negative entities and maligned energies.
- Pumpkins, especially pumpkin seeds, are very keen on attracting wealth. Place whole pumpkins near your door or scatter pumpkin seeds around your sacred space to draw the energies of abundance and prosperity.
- Casting a next spell near the light of a pumpkin-scented candle is said to raise its potency.
Understanding the Symbolism of Pumpkin
Pumpkins evoke the magic of the Fall season. When we think of pumpkins, we are reminded of jack-o-lanterns sitting on porches for Halloween, the scent of pumpkin pie baking for Thanksgiving festivities; the warmth of pumpkin-scented candles, and the return of (gasp!) pumpkin spice.
Pumpkins are intricately connected to Autumn and its various festivities, especially Samhain. Pumpkins help to unveil the intrigue, mystery, and magic of this supernatural time, as pumpkins are intricately connected to the Underworld and the Goddess of Magic.
When the veil is at its thinnest, and the spirits of our ancestors as well as not so familiar spirits find purchase in the physical realm once again, it is the glow of carved pumpkins lit with candles from within that help guide the path – or steer them away.
The spirits of the dead return for a brief moment in time to remind us that all that is living will one day pass away. In this regard, pumpkins also carry with them the sobering message of our own mortality and respect for those that have passed before us.
With the arrival of pumpkins also comes the awareness all things come to an end. The sweltering heat of the summer season is making way for the settling chill of the autumn and winter.
All the planning, preparation, and sowing we had engaged in at the beginning of the growing season now come full circle and we see the fruits of our labor. The time of growth has come to an end and now it’s time to harvest and store.
Pumpkins share many associations with wealth, abundance, and prosperity. It is said that dreaming of a pumpkin patch is a sign that you will come into wealth. This makes perfect sense because being fortunate enough to have a pumpkin patch means having access to an abundance of fruit that can be used in so many fortuitous ways.
Pumpkin seeds especially seem to evoke the promise of wealth and abundance to come since pumpkins are replete with them and having so many seeds means much opportunity to grow the fruits that will lead to budding prosperity.
Pumpkin Interesting Facts
- Pumpkins are one of the oldest domesticated plants, with evidence of their use dating as far back as 7,500 to 5,000 B.C.
- The pumpkins that are used for carving jack-o-lanterns are usually not the “pumpkins” used in the canned pumpkin puree and pie filling found at the grocery store. The canned pumpkin puree is usually made from a form of winter squash, most often butternut squash.
- The word pumpkin originates from the Greek word pepon (πέπων), which means “large melon,” and is typically used to describe something round and large.
- All pumpkins are a form of winter squash.
- Basically all parts of the pumpkin plant — seeds, shell, leaves and flowers — are edible.
- Pumpkin seeds are also known as pepitas in North America, from the Spanish pepita de calabaza, which means “little seed of squash.”
- Dubbed “the Pumpkin Queen of America,” Sarah Frey is the owner of Frey Farms — the largest grower of pumpkins in the United States — which sells about 5 million pumpkins annually.
- There is a competitive sport called “pumpkin chunking,” which involves building mechanical devices such as catapults, trebuchets, ballistae, and air cannons designed to throw a pumpkin as far as possible.
- The record for the world’s heaviest pumpkin belongs to Belgium, with a pumpkin weighing in at 2,624lbs (1,190.5kg).
The Legend of Stingy Jack — also known as Jack of the Lantern
As Jack o’ Lanterns are almost synonymous with pumpkins, when discussing pumpkins it’s important to impart the legend of how the jack o’lantern came to be.
Stingy Jack was a drunkard who was known to frequent various villages in Ireland. He was a nuisance with a reputation for being manipulative, deceptive, and general societal runoff.
Stories of Stingy Jack’s misdeeds were common talk of the townsfolk, to the point where Satan could not help but overhear a conversation or two in which Jack’s deviant behavior was the focus.
However, Satan was unconvinced that this Stingy Jack could really be as vile and manipulative as the legends would have it, and thus he decided to investigate and find out for himself if Stingy Jack really lived up to the name he was being given.
Stingy Jack, drunk and hobbling through the countryside one day came across a corpse lying on the cobblestone path he was traversing. Upon closer inspection, the corpse revealed itself to be none other than Satan himself.
Shock and woe overcame Stingy Jack, as he mournfully realized that if this is Satan, his time had come to an end and Satan was here to harvest his soul. He decided to make one final plea to Satan – take Stingy Jack to the local pub so that he could enjoy himself one last bit of ale before his trek into the Underworld.
Satan, feeling quite agreeable today, decided it was a reasonable request so he took Jack to the local pub so that he could enjoy one last drink.
A few drinks later at the pub, it was time to pay the tab. Stingy Jack managed to persuade Satan to pay by suggesting Satan turn himself into a silver coin. Satan, a little impressed by Jack’s assertiveness and the boldness of the request, did just that.
Jack then promptly stuck the silver coin into his pocket which contained a crucifix. Here, Satan found himself in a bit of a predicament – he was now trapped.
Unable to escape, he decided to bargain a deal with Stingy Jack: free him from his prison, and he would delay coming for Jack’s soul for ten years.
Stingy Jack agreed, and Satan was freed.
Like clockwork, ten years later Jack indeed ran into Satan again. He knew what this meant – his borrowed time was now up and this time his soul was sure to be harvested.
As Satan was making arraignments to take Jack’s soul, Jack came up with an idea – he would tell Satan he was hungry and request that Satan get him an apple from a nearby apple tree to satiate his hunger before his descent into the Underworld.
Unwittingly, Satan agreed. As he was climbing the apple tree to procure Jack’s apple, Jack quickly surrounded the tree with crucifixes. Again, Satan was trapped.
Wholly embarrassed, Satan decided to broker another deal with the wily Jack for his freedom. Jack agreed to free Satan, but only on the condition that he never tries to harvest Jack’s soul ever again. Satan had no choice but to agree.
However, another demon was coming for Stingy Jack’s soul – the demon of his rampant alcoholism. Jack eventually succumbed to his debilitating addiction as it took his life.
As his soul arrived at St. Peter’s Gate, his entrance into Heaven was curtailed. Not surprisingly, God let Stingy Jack know that because of the sinful, deceitful, alcohol-driven life Jack had led there was no place for Jack in heaven.
Barred from Heaven, Stingy Jack tried his luck at the Gates of Hell, but there was a problem – Satan had already agreed not to take Jack’s soul into Hell. Satan had no choice but to fulfill this obligation.
Stingy Jack was in a bit of a quandary; he could not enter Heaven or Hell. Thus he was stuck to traversing the Netherworld for eternity.
To warn others, Satan gave Jack an ember housed in a hollowed-out turnip to use to light his way throughout the netherworld, as well as warn others that Jack was a permanent citizen of the world between Heaven and Hell.
Stingy Jack eventually became known as Jack of the Lantern, and his tale explains how the Jack o’ Lantern came to be.
Oshun and the Magic of Pumpkins
Oshun is a Yoruban river goddess (orisha) of fertility, love, and wealth who is intricately connected to the magic of pumpkins. It is said she even keeps her magical tools and ingredients stored away in a pumpkin.
Pumpkins are sacred to Oshun, and the pumpkin fruit and its seeds are all considered children of Oshun. Therefore it is important not to consume pumpkin or pumpkin seeds when beseeching the help of Oshun as she finds this quite offensive.
There are certain magical spells and offerings, however, that you can employ that will garner Oshun’s attention according to your specific needs. Being as she is a river goddess, the river is where she would receive these offerings.
For instance, if you’re looking to conceive, take a whole pumpkin, smear it with honey and throw it into a river for Oshun’s blessing on your fertility efforts. When looking for wealth, throw a handful of pumpkin seeds into the river.
If you carve the name of the one you wish to love into a pumpkin and throw it into the river, Oshun will be more than happy to assist you with your courtship.
The Story of Oshun and the Pumpkin
Typical of Yoruba culture are patakis – myths or legends that explain how a Yoruba deity came to be closely associated with or favor a certain food. Oshun is no exception to this rule, and there exists a tale that explains her deep connection to pumpkins.
According to the mythology, Oshun had a calabaza (pumpkin) field that she cared for with much love and attention.
One of her pumpkins became big, plump, and beautiful, much to the jealousy of the other pumpkins. They saw fit to harass and insult this pumpkin until the abuse became too much to bear, and the beautiful pumpkin cried out to Oshun.
Oshun took pity on the pumpkin and brought it inside to sleep with her in her bed. This frustrated Oshun’s husband, Orunmila, who angrily threw the pumpkin onto the floor.
The pumpkin was furious at her treatment at the hands of Orunmila and sought her revenge the next day by stealing money from Orunmila that he desperately needed to pay his gatekeeper, Echu.
Echu wasn’t having it. He demanded Orunmila pay him or he would do whatever he needed to do to ruin Orunmila and Oshun’s marriage.
This enmity proved to be a fortuitous outcome for the pumpkin, and she proceeded to stoke the fires of animosity by supplying Echu with an ample amount of liquor to stimulate his malcontent but made him ensure he would not harm Oshun.
Echu, fueled by an alcohol-laden haze, cycled out of control as Orunmila’s fortunes, too, began to turn for the worse with the loss of his finances. The two eventually collided, as one day, a broke and destitute Orunmila returned home and tripped over a deeply inebriated Echu lying on his floor.
Orunmila confronted Echu, asking him why in the world he was laying drunk on Orunmila’s floor.
Echu, speaking through his drunken stupor, placed the blame on the pumpkin and told Orunmila to ask her.
So Orunmila went to Oshun and requested that Oshun interrogate her pumpkin and ask her in what ways she was responsible for Echu’s debilitated condition.
Oshun confronted the pumpkin with these inquiries. The pumpkin was unwilling to admit to the charges placed before her but eventually gave up that she did in fact steal money from Orunmila, but only to give the money to Oshun.
Oshun was unconvinced the pumpkin was telling the truth, and after a while of chasing her fleeing pumpkin around the house, she captured the pumpkin and sliced her open to discover what secrets the pumpkin had been keeping from her.
There within the pumpkin now split in twain were two gold coins she had stolen from Orunmila.
So, perhaps as a punishment or perhaps because there’s no good reason to let a good pumpkin go to waste, Oshun consumed the pumpkin. It is through this tale that Oshun came to be known as the Guardian of Money.
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