Will-o'-the-Wisp


Will-o'-the-Wisp
   This is the commonest English name for faint, flickering lights seen in marshy areas. It implies a supernatural being, carrying a burning bundle of straw as a torch, to lead travellers astray; there are many other local names (Wright, 1913: 200-1; Briggs, 1976: 231). Tradition varies as to their nature; some informants spoke of them as *ghosts, others as *fairies. If ghosts, they were usually said to be *unbaptized infants, unable to enter Heaven yet not deserving Hell; if fairies, they were usually regarded as a specialized species, but sometimes an individual trickster like *Puck or *Robin Goodfellow, or a local group such as the *pixies, will be credited with this role.

A Dictionary of English folklore. . 2014.

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