Collecting the folklore and uses of plants


1111.  Poster in the village shop window, Hinton St George, Somerset, advertising mangolds for carving for the village’s Punky Night, 29 October 2015.

2.  When I was child, in west Dorset, c.1955-62, we used to make punkies from mangolds and take them to our bonfire, made from hedge-trimmings, on Guy Fawkes night, then more usually known as Bonfire Night. Mangolds were grown as winter food for my parents’ dairy cows. We would select a big one, cut its top off, hollow out the interior and then make holes to represent the eyes, nose, and mouth, before inserting half a candle which was lit to create a lantern. If you were sufficiently skilful you could carve the mouth removing the skin so that it had white teeth, and leave only a thin layer where the cheeks were, so that some light showed through making them glow. Holes were made at the top of the lantern, and string (baler-twine) threaded through these to make a handle.
Although similar lanterns are more commonly associated with Hallowe’en (and locally with Punky Night at Hinton St George, which we never visited, but read about in the local papers), Hallowe’en was unknown as a festival in that part of the country at that time.
As far as I’m aware Bonfire Night punkies were made only by my family; they were not made by other people locally, or by my cousins; possibly because they didn’t have such an easily available supply of mangolds [Tooting, London, February 2012].

Image: Zynance, Wiki Commons.