Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Wednesday What Herb Is This - Pumpkin


Pumpkins aren't technically herbs, but this did seem the most appropriate location for this information. Samhain/Halloween is fast approaching, and what would this holiday be without pumpkins..? Besides a lot more dark...

The origin of Halloween dates back at least 3,000 years to the Celtic celebration of Samhain (pronounced "sow-ain"). The festival was held starting at sundown on October 31st and lasted until sundown on November 1st. It was similar to the modern practice of the New Years celebration. On this magical night, glowing jack-o-lanterns, carved from turnips or gourds, were set on porches and in windows to welcome deceased loved ones, but also to act as protection against malevolent spirits. Burning lumps of coal were used inside as a source of light, later to be replaced by candles.

Samhain was not the name of a "Lord of the Dead", no historical evidence has ever been found to back this up, it was simply the name of the festival and meant "Summer's End". It was believed that the souls of the dead were closest to this world now,  and this was the best time to contact them to say good bye or ask for assistance. It was also a celebration of the harvest. It is still treated as such today by those who practice Wicca or other nature based religions. It has absolutely nothing to do with Satan, who was a creation of the Christian church. When European settlers, particularly the Irish, arrived in America they found the native pumpkin to be larger, easier to carve and seemed the perfect choice for jack-o-lanterns. Halloween didn't really catch on big in this country until the late 1800's and has been celebrated in many ways ever since!

Pumpkins are believed to have originated in North America. Seeds from related plants have been found in Mexico dating back to 7000 to 5500 B.C. References to pumpkins date back many centuries. The name pumpkin originated from the Greek word for "large melon" which is "pepon." "Pepon" was changed by the French into "pompon." The English changed "pompon" to "Pumpion."

Native American Indians used pumpkin as a staple in their diets centuries before the pilgrims landed. They also dried strips of pumpkin and wove them into mats. The native Americans would also roast long strips of pumpkin on the open fire and eat them. When white settlers arrived, they saw the pumpkins grown by the natives and pumpkin soon became a staple in their diets.

As today, early settlers used them in a wide variety of recipes from desserts to stews and soups. The origin of pumpkin pie is thought to have occurred when the colonists sliced off the pumpkin top, removed the seeds, and then filled it with milk, spices and honey. The pumpkin was then baked in the hot ashes of a dying fire. 

A treatment made from Pumpkin is a good vermicide, which has long been a popular remedy for tapeworm. An infusion of the seeds, prepared by pouring a pint of boiling water on 1 OZ. of seeds, has been used in treating urinary complaints. The 'meat' of the Pumpkin can be used cut up in soups and also makes excellent pies, either alone or mixed with other fruit, and their pulp is also utilized as a basis by jam manufacturers, as it takes the flavor of any fruit juice mixed with it, and adds bulk without imparting any flavor of its own.

The Pumpkin is sacred to the Moon. The Pumpkin is also associated with vampires.... The Islamic gypsies of Bosnia (Kosovo-Metohija region) believe that pumpkins, if kept too long in the house, can become "vampires". These vampire vegetables might show a bit of blood, roll around the house and stables, make a noise described as 'brrr, brrr, brrr', and just generally annoy the living.

Pumpkins can be used to represent the spirit in magic, plus they can be used in any moon magic. Pumpkin seeds can be used for divination. At the time of year that Samhain occurs, Pumpkins are commonly used in many magical spells and rituals. They can be used to decorate the altar to represent the harvest, the spirit and the moon. When carved, the Pumpkin becomes a Jack O'Lantern which is the modern offspring of an ancient custom of lighting candles in the windows to help guide the spirits of the recently departed along their way. 


The Pumpkin Patch

Disclaimer: No one involved in this blog or its contents may be held responsible for any adverse reactions arising from following any of the instructions/recipes on this list. It is the reader's personal responsibility to exercise all precautions and use his or her own discretion if following any instructions or advice from this blog.

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