Thursday, November 01, 2012

The last day of October (featuring little Molly in a Prospect of Pumpkins).



On the last day of October, we did typical things of the season. Tom lit the bonfire, 


and I harvested the rest of the pumpkins.  Molly helped.






The largest pumpkin weighed 10.4 kg (Molly weighs just under 14, she's a bit chubby these days, but we think she's just comfortable).

And of course I carved one of them into a lantern.


I meant to put him outside atop one of these pumpkin towers by the front door.  We had (very polite) trick-or-treaters for the first time last year, and wondered if we'd see them again this Halloween, but the weather turned quite wild and windy (nothing, I know, compared to what some have been enduring), and both lantern and children stayed indoors.


I left the pumpkin stacks outside though.  You never know, I said to Tom, someone might steal some of them.  No such luck, he muttered. So far I have succeeded in getting disguised pumpkin into him in cake, soup and stew, but he's getting wise to it.

Halloween has never been much observed here; there have been attempts to make something of it during the time we've been here, but it's been resisted, either consciously as undesirable commercialism and Americanisation, or simply through apathy.  However, Pierre-Jakez Hélias, writing about his childhood in the Bigouden region of western Finistère in the first half of the last century, says

Just before All Saints Day, we were in the habit of hollowing out huge beets, cutting holes in them in the shape of eyes, noses and mouths, putting a candle inside each one, and closing them up. A human-head lantern like that, placed at night on a slope or concealed in the underbrush along a sunken road, always terrified a few night owls.  

They would set them on peoples windowsills, tap on the window and hide, so that the inhabitant thought they were seeing the Ankou, the personification of death, and another time, he says, they put them on their heads and walked through the village on their home-made stilts in the dark, intoning the Libera, a funeral dirge,

When they [the women of the village] saw the procession of fiery eyes and hellish mouths seven feet above the ground, they made such an uproar that we ourselves were overwhelmed. We got down from our stilts and at the same time our beet-heads fell off like an avalanche straight out of the Last Judgement.  None of us ever admitted that we had taken part in that little drama.  The Libera had been just too much. One doesn't trifle with the Next World, even on stilts.  

(The Horse of Pride. Pierre-Jakez Hélias, 1975, trans.June Guicharnaud)

These children knew nothing of the word or any modern customs of Halloween, their region really was quite a world apart at that time.  The lantern head custom seemed really to have come from some very ancient shared Celtic past as the Irish one.  The assimilated pumpkin with its American continent origin makes for a very attractive orange glow and easy carving, but I've often thought a real turnip lantern could create a more atavistic, primitive, and perhaps more genuinely spooky, effect.  I might get hold of one and try it next year.  I can well imagine we might be so pumpkinned-out by then I won't be growing any more for a while.



12 comments:

Bruce Taylor, a.k.a. Catalyst said...

Your jack-o-lantern is perfectly well done and quite scary!

Julia said...

Fantastic jack-o-lantern! Did you put tiny holes around its mouth and eyes or is that a reflection in the picture?

In Switzerland they carve turnips out too. I'd bet they are easier to carve than the thick hide of a pumpkin!

Zhoen said...

Very elegant and frightening jack-o.

Roderick Robinson said...

You won't be able to keep this up, you know. A week and you'll be down on your uppers, or cruppers which I believe is a horsey term (Thus, if wrong, no need to correct. Life's too short.)

I'm particularly impressed by the forking in of four paragraphs from some book or other just so you can do the attribution (so academic, so suavé - as Gov. George Wallace of Alabama used to say; see, I can do them too) and more important include the name of the translator. My itals.

That's a particularly unfortunate photo of dear Mol, the juxtaposition suggesting she laid those two inedible orange things. Does Mol remember me I wonder, complimenting her on the two-bedroom studio she'd been accorded in the back of the Citroen?

Not satisfied with the Q website you've now associated yourself with some other unpronounceable organisation and are fast outdistancing me.

I should say something nice about the pix. How about Origins Of The Abacus for the last one?

the polish chick said...

how molly likes to pose!

Joe Hyam said...

I don't think that we have to guess what Molly thinks about pumpkins.

Rouchswalwe said...

So you didn't toast any marshmallows then? We've had nothing but rain and so could not light the bonfire. I am sending Molly fur ruffles. I have the same question as Julia about your jack-o-lantern. And the 2 candles inside are a brilliant idea.

Lucy said...

Thanks all.

RR - Still laughing about Molly laying pumpkins. I am being polite and honest giving the name of translator. I SHALL post every day you see if I don't!

The little orange bits are refracted and reflected raindrops, oh ye who read on small mobile devices!

Molly loves pumpkins and posing.

Fire Bird said...

magnificent pumpkins. what a shame Tom doesn't like them...

Isabelle said...

Have you ever tried hollowing a turnip? It's VERY hard work - but traditional here. Pumpkins are very easy and I can't help feeling that it's cheating a bit to use one.

Burning turnip (scorched by the candle) also smells revolting!

zephyr said...

i do love your jolly jack-o-lantern!
And what a harvest!!

Sheila said...

Molly looks so cute sitting next to those pumpkins! So cute!