In the Garden
Field Pumpkin (Cucurbita pepo var. pepo)
The familiar orange pumpkin is actually a variety of a plant that also produces yellow crookneck squash (var. torticollia), zucchini (var. cylindrica), acorn squash (var. turbinata), and others. In addition, there are many cultivars that provide a wide range of shapes, sizes, and colors of pumpkins. Cucurbita is Latin for “gourd” and pepo, “melon.” The latter may have been derived from the Greek pepon, meaning “ripe.” 102
The thick, winding, branching pumpkin vine can grow more than fifteen feet long. The rounded leaves have deeply cut lobes and serrated edges. Large, bright yellow or orange, trumpet-shaped flowers start blooming in July. The pumpkins ripen in September and October. If they have a hollow sound when thumped, they are ready to harvest.
It is believed that pumpkins originated in Central America about 7,500 years ago.103 Early European explorers took the curious-looking fruit back to the Old World. By the time the Pilgrims set foot in Plymouth, they were already familiar with pumpkins. Originating as a carved turnip, the jack-o’-lantern found a more impressive medium in the larger pumpkin.
In the past, dreaming of a pumpkin was regarded as a bad omen. It was also believed to indicate that witchcraft was being used against you or a trick was being played on you.
When carving a pumpkin for Samhain, don’t throw out the pulpy goop. Sort through it and save the seeds because they also serve as magical tools. There’s no way around making a mess, so just place the pulp in a colander, rinse with water, and then start picking out the seeds. If you have a second colander, use that to hold the seeds because they will need further rinsing. Afterwards, lay the seeds out on a paper towel to dry, which will take about a week. Alternatively, dry them on a baking sheet in the oven with the temperature set as low as possible for three or four hours. Stir them frequently to keep them from singeing.
As a symbol of abundance, pumpkins can be used to draw prosperity to your home. Place three small pumpkins on a kitchen windowsill or table during the autumn season. As you do this, say three times:
May wealth, health, and love abound; in this house and all around.
After Samhain, bury the pumpkins in the ground.
Like reading tea leaves, a handful of pumpkin seeds can be used for divination. First, hold them between your hands as you visualize your question or whatever you seek guidance for. Toss them into the air, and then look for patterns or symbols that they may form on the floor.
Make a circle with seeds on your altar for an esbat ritual or when working with moon magic to draw the power of Luna. When blowing out the candle inside a pumpkin, place an index finger in front of your mouth as you blow, and make a wish.
Pumpkin is associated with the element earth, and its astrological influence comes from the moon.