Pumpkins - Food and Drink

The Element Encyclopedia of Witchcraft: The Complete A-Z for the Entire Magical World - Judika Illes 2005

Food and Drink

Pumpkins are the food many people most associate with witchcraft. They are perceived as a magical food: it is no coincidence that Cinderella’s coach was a transformed pumpkin.

Pumpkins are emblems of Halloween. Pumpkins, whether left whole or carved into jack o’ lanterns symbolize Halloween for many; their image is incorporated into all sorts of Halloween memorabilia.

Pumpkins are the fruit of the Cucurbita gourd and are native to the Western Hemisphere. Although pumpkins may be boiled, baked, roasted or made into pie, 99 percent of all pumpkins sold are now used as jack o’lanterns. A jack o’lantern is a hollowed-out pumpkin that has been carved to resemble a face. Pulp and seeds are removed and may be cooked and eaten afterwards although many people do discard them, only desiring the pumpkin’s shell. Most pumpkins are orange, however some are white. White ones have become popular recently and are used to create “ghostly” jack o’lanterns.

Jack o’lanterns are an Irish tradition and were first carved from turnips. However, Irish immigrants to the United States quickly realized that large round pumpkins were perfect for creating jack o’lanterns and turnips are now rarely used.

Pumpkins are also identified with African Diaspora spiritual and magical traditions. Enslaved Africans recognized the pumpkins they encountered in the West as a type of gourd, popularly used as containers and magic spell ingredients in Africa. Pumpkins were thus easily and naturally adapted.

Pumpkins are associated with Oshun, the Yoruba orisha of love, beauty, fertility, and magic. Orange is her sacred color; Oshun is said to cast her magic spells with pumpkins, and pumpkins are identified as her children. Oshun’s devotees or those to whom she has rendered assistance are forbidden to eat pumpkins, especially the seeds. (The injunction also extends to yellow and orange squash.)

In Vodou and other traditions, pumpkins are often hollowed out to serve as magical lamps for divination and spell-casting. The pumpkin is treated as if similar to a cauldron. The hollowed pumpkins are filled with oil; cotton wicks are floated in the oil and lit.

See DICTIONARY: Orisha, Voudou.