One Celtic tradition that crossed the Atlantic with many Irish and Scottish immigrants was the “Jack Tales.” The one familiar to most of us is the story of “Jack and the Beanstalk.” Recently, I’ve learned that there are many more of these tales of a sharp-witted trickster named Jack. Here’s one for Halloween:
The Celts have long observed Samhain (pronounced sah-wheen) on October 31, marking the midpoint between the Autumn Equinox and the Winter Solstice. As the northern nights grew longer, the Celts believed Samhain was the night when the world of the dead and the spirits was closest to the world of the living.
From this has grown our tradition of ghosts and goblins abroad in the night. In ancient times, people dressed in costumes to scare the real ghouls away. Offerings of special foods were set out to appease the ghosts so they would leave without committing mischief. Hence our tradition of “Trick or Treat.”
The popular Jack-o-Lantern was also part of this tradition. The tale goes that Jack’s spirit roamed the earth on Samhain, but decided he needed a light to better find his way. In a farmer’s field he found a very large turnip, hollowed it out, cut eye-holes, and put a candle inside. Thus was born the JACK-o-Lantern.
Perhaps others in the world of the living took Jack’s idea and turned it into a light to keep the ghosts and ghouls away, placing the lights on their porches or in a window. In America, pumpkins were more common than turnips and easier to carve. And so our tradition was born.
This feature by Carol Marino originally appeared in the August 22, 2021 Flathead Valley Daily Inter Lake “Good News” Column.
As we made plans last spring for my mother’s funeral, we were lucky enough to find a florist in Cincinnati who was able to provide flowers as Covid-19 closed businesses and the availability and transport of myriad goods across the country. We hadn’t even considered that floral shops were having trouble replenishing their inventory. The funeral director told us he would see what he could do.
When we arrived at Mom’s visitation a beautiful spray of white flowers (the color we’d requested) lay atop her casket and tall flower urns flanked either side, which were later carried to the church for her Mass.
After her graveside burial, the cemetery director encouraged us (due to Covid, both Mom’s Mass and burial were limited to 10 immediate family members) to take home some of the flowers from the casket spray, also explaining that the deer would just eat them. We appreciated both her candor and the flowers.
I brought home a small bouquet, which we’d carried the 2,000-mile drive back to Montana. I found a place in the center of the house and placed it on top of a painting of Italy given to me by a close friend. A world traveler, Mom had visited Italy more than once. The bouquet has been there now for the passing of five seasons.
A couple of weeks ago I was doing some “purposeful” house cleaning in preparation for a mini-family reunion. As I was dusting the sideboard where the now dried bouquet of flowers lay, I thought that maybe it was time to let them go. After some mental and emotional deliberation, I made up my mind, but didn’t know how to go about it. I couldn’t just throw them away. I couldn’t toss them in the field. I didn’t want to burn them either. It was a delicate matter.
Mom had always planted plenty of flowers around her home. I decided I would place the bouquet in my garden and settled on a corner where African daisies were in bloom.
In her last years, Mom, who was 93 when she died, would often tell me she wanted to make one last trip to Montana. She and her husband had visited us at least once every year since we moved to Montana in 1985. Mom came traveling alone after her husband’s death in 1995. Mom loved Montana and never tired of its beauty or those family treks to Glacier Park.
I would tell Mom we would love for her to come visit, but now she would need to travel with a family member. Even though her mind was still sharp, her hearing, mobility and stamina were issues. I stressed to her that air travel was different now, that it can be all too easy to be stranded at an airport, or worse. She had even been stranded once on a tarmac for six hours with our two kids on their way to Istanbul for a Mediterranean cruise she hosted after our daughter’s high school graduation.
Well, Mom never did get the chance to come back to Montana.
But I’ll think of her every year as I plant the garden in the spring, harvest in the fall, and as the first snow of the season covers the ground.
In her own way, Mom is here in Montana with us once again. This time, forever.
Community editor Carol Marino may be reached at 406-758-4440 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On September 5, four Flathead Valley Mystery/Crime Fiction writers shared their views and experiences in a panel discussion held on the back lawn of Lake Baked Bakery in Bigfork.
The panel consisted of Leslie Budewitz, Christine Carbo, Debbie Burke, and Mark Leichliter. Leslie is best known for her cozy mysteries, such as the Spice Shop Mysteries set in Pike Street Market, Seattle., as well as another series set in a fictional mountain town like Bigfork. She has also just published a crime thriller under the pen name Alicia Beckman, entitled Bitterroot Lake. Christine has published several books in her GlacierMystery Series. Titles include “The Wild Inside”, “Mortal Fall”, “The Weight of Night”, and “A Sharp Solitude”. Mark, a well-known writing instructor from Wyoming and Colorado who now teaches writing classes at FVCC, has recently published his first procedural crime novel, The Other Side, which takes place on the shores of Flathead Lake. He has also published other words under the name Mark Hummel. Debbie has self-published six mystery Thrillers with Passion set here in Northwest Montana, including “Instrument of the Devil”, “Stalking Midas”, “Dead Man’s Bluff”, and “Flight to Forever”.
All four authors followed their presentation taking questions from the audience, and concluded by having copies of their books available for sale. This is the second year for this event, which they hope to make an annual part of Bigfork’s Labor Day Weekend celebrations.
Join Barbara Schiffman: On Fri 10/8 (3:00-4:30pm), for a fun and interactive workshop for screenwriters and filmmakers on “Pitching Your Script or Film in 3 Minutes or Less” at the Bigfork Independent Film Festival (live in downtown Bigfork MT from Fri-Sun 10/8-10). What I will share is also useful for pitching your novels to agents or publishers, or to producers who might want to adapt them to film. There will be prizes for top pitchers. Get workshop info on Facebook at https://fb.me/e/9zWhag38l or http://mtbiff.com – where you can also get the BIFF screening schedule. Come see 2021’s best Montana indie films on the big screen and meet some of the filmmakers.
Also, Barbara and her husband/co-writer Glenn Schiffman’s screenplay “The China Horse” was recently named a Drama/Family Feature Quarterfinalist in the 2021 Creative World Awards. About a teenage girl who doesn’t want to live but finds her “reason for being” while traveling from Chicago to Montana with a stubborn old woman who doesn’t want to die, this script was written long before Barbara and Glenn planned to move to Montana. You can download the script to read what they wrote, including climactic scenes set at a private ranch in Deer Lodge, at https://writers.coverfly.com/submissions/view/331514 .
Shira Marin has edited and project managed a children’s book entitled “Silas the Civet”. The book was written by a 90-year-old great-grandmother, as a legacy for her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
This year’s Flathead River Writers’ Conference is scheduled for Saturday, October 16 and Sunday, October 17. Due to continuing Covid issues, this year’s conference is being held online. More detailed information about speakers, workshop topics, prices, and registration can be found on the Authors of the Flathead Website.