#SuperstitionSat Spooky Season Highlights: Get Thee Behind Me! Superstitions of Old Nick

Good afternoon, or should we say… bad afternoon? Because today, we shall be looking at the Highlights of our ultimate Spooky Season Session on Twitter, featuring none other than Old Nick, Old Scratch—the Devil himself! Yesterday (29/10/22), we read so many tales that surround this ancient character. Some, quite fearful, but others shockingly hilarious, leading us to wonder: is the Devil really all that smart? Doesn’t seem like it. Let’s have a look at our first Highlight and see how that’s possible!

We’ll begin with a tale shared by Mythos_Tweets, concerning the Irish legend of Stingy Jack and the origins of lighting up produce… It all began with an inebriated man called Jack, of course, who outwitted the soul-seeking Devil after a night out at the pub—of all places! With sheer wit and well-placed stinginess, Jack tricks the Dark Lord into shapeshifting into a silver coin to pay for the tab, only to put him in his pocket next to a crucifix and in the process, preventing the Devil from changing back into his hellish form! And thus began a series of adventures that culminate with Jack asking the Devil for a piece of ember from Hell, and placing it in a turnip, to light the way in this darkest night:

“Before he left, Jack begged the Devil for a light, and the Devil gave him one burning ember from hell. Too hot to hold, Jack hollowed out a turnip and placed the ember inside. Those who see distant lights at night are said to be seeing the flickers of Jack’s lantern.” – Mythos Blog

In time, these turnip lanterns became pumpkins, as Irish migrants headed towards North America and the belief in All Hallows’ Eve and Stingy Jack went with them, as pumpkins were larger and easier to hollow out. But All Hallows’ Eve (now commonly shortened to Hallowe’en), isn’t the only special occasion of the season. No, this night of restless spirits on October 31st is, in fact, followed by a couple of Catholic holy days, which are All Saints’ Day on the 1st of November, and All Souls’ Day on the 2nd of November: a day of honouring our faithful departed by visiting cemeteries and cleaning their resting sites. To read about some of the traditions of this ancestral period in English-speaking locations, check out this article on the Folklore Journal (if you have access to it) here; or, to read more from the Mythos Blog—why, then just click here!

Tweet says:

"Stingy Jack, notorious drunkard, managed to outwit the devil twice. First he tricked the devil to transform into a silver coin, using a crucifix to stop him changing back. A year later, he trapped the devil at the top of an apple tree."
Tweet by Mythos_Tweets.

For our second Highlight, we picked one more tale that showed how clever the Devil is… not. As written by Godyssey, the Dark Lord is capable of changing into many forms: a gentleman, an animal, or even a coin, like in Jack’s story. Yet most of the time, the transformation is incomplete, as the resulting form either maintains the Devil’s pointy tail, or his goaty cloven feet. One would think that being so powerful would mean that the Dark One has his act together, but curiously he doesn’t. One of my favourite tales where this foot-related incident happens is the “Legend of Goat’s-Feet-Lady”, from Portugal. The gist of it is that, one day, a rich lord was out hunting, when he spotted a beautiful lady sitting on a rock. Thinking just from this snap encounter she would make a cracking wife, he snatched her away and took her to his manor. There, he married her, under the condition set by the mysterious woman that he should never make the sign of the cross ever again—which he accepted, just before noticing the handsome stranger also had goat’s feet. Still, the years passed, and the marriage continued, until a string of misfortunes ocurred that led the rich lord to make the sign of the cross three times. In that moment, Goat’s-Feet-Lady finally made her escape, revealing that she was none other than the Devil himself!

“‘Such faith I have not seen! Blessed Virgin! This is the work of Beelzebub.’ And thus saying it and doing it, he made the sign of the cross. ‘Ouch!’, screamed his wife, as if she had been burnt. The baron looked at her and saw her, glinting eyes, darkened face, crooked mouth and hairs on end.”

To find the original source of the quote and story above, check out Lendas E Narrativas Tomo II by Portuguese writer Alexandre Herculano here, where the story was originally called Lenda da Dama-Pé-de-Cabra.

Tweet says:

"Folklore can't make up its mind with Old Scratch's human form: sometimes he is a dapper gentleman, other times a wild man or animal. The common points: cloven feet or a tail."
Tweet by Godyssey.

We move on from the Devil’s wits (or lack of them) to head into our final Highlight—which is, after all, our final destination and the purpose of this entire month of spooky superstitions: what happens on October 31st, All Hallow’s Eve, Hallowe’en! To begin, “Hallowe’en” is but one of many names for this night, which, as shared by Dr Delyth Badder, is called Nos Calan Gaeaf in Wales, meaning “Winter’s Eve”. Not to be confused with Samhain, which is not a Welsh word at all! In this thread, which Dr Delyth Badder has been composing since last Saturday, we can find many Welsh traditions of this time, such as the belief that devilish spirits are to be found lurking in churches late at night, reading out lists of names of those who will die within the year… So scary! To read the entire thread, which is much better than anything we could possibly write about Nos Calan Gaeaf, either click here or the caption below!

Tweet says:

"So we come full circle in this Nos Calan Gaeaf... There are many examples of devilish spirits said to lurk within Welsh churches on this night. Curious folk could listen at the keyhole at midnight to hear them announce the parish deaths for the year ahead."
Tweet by Dr Delyth Badder.

And that’s a wrap on Spooky Season! I hope you enjoyed this month’s special themes, as well as today’s selection of Highlights. To cleanse and purify ourselves after all this darkness, let’s celebrate the season of fires and chestnuts next week (05/11/22), with superstitions of:


Our photo of a bonfire, so large that an industrial digger next to it looks like a toy.
Photo by Superstition Sam, featuring a large bonfire.

As always, whether you’re old, new or just passing through, your presence was very much appreciated, and I was so glad to see you stop by for our #SuperstitionSat Spooky Season Sessions. Have a wonderful night on Monday!

The wishes of your lucky cat pal,
– Superstition Sam 🐾