Monday, June 22, 2015

Spirit Guide: Will-O-The Wisps


Class VII Corporeal Entity

Also known as False Fire, Friar’s Lantern, Jack o Lantern, Hobby Lantern, Hinkypunk

Will-o-the wisps, also known as Ignis Fatuus (from the Medieval Latin: Foolish Fire) are a series of flickering lights that have been known to appear over swamps, bogs, and other treacherous locations.  

There is some debate as to the origins of these spirits, but most theories fall into a few widely separated camps. The first of these is that a soul who was particularly wicked in life was somehow able to trick the Devil out of taking his soul. However, as the Devil will always have his due, the sinner was doomed to walk the earth forever with a single coal for light and warmth. According to the Irish tradition, this individual (by the name of Jack) placed his coal in a hollowed out turnip, therefore being responsible for the Jack O Lantern. Similar accounts have also been reported in Scotland, England, Wales, the United States, and Canada.

A second school of thought is that the wisps somehow mark the location of a treasure that has been buried beneath the earth. Similar tales of this are told in Denmark, Sweden, Estonia, Lithuania, Finland, and Mexico (where they are known as luces del testoro.)

Another camp believed that these lights are in fact some form of salamander, or non-human fire entity. It is unknown whether or not this type of spirit is harmful, but all precautions should be taken. These reports have come in from locales as varied as Australia (where they are known as min min lights), Pakistan (chir batti), Germany (the Weiss frauen), and Brazil (the boi-tata, which appears in the form of a giant serpent if one unwitting comes too close.)

The final and most likely explanation of will-o-the-wisps is that they are the spirits of the dead, condemned to walk the earth for either being unbaptized or improperly buried, or for some misdeeds in life as a form of penance and punishment. These accounts have been reported throughout the world, including America, Sweden, Bengal (aleya), Japan (Hitodama), and Argentina (Luz mala.)

It should be noted that while in some situations the spirit appears to be leading the individual to treasure, or to offer help, the vast majority of the accounts show the wisps to be overwhelmingly harmful, especially in the cases of the aleya, Luz mala, boi-tata, as well as a majority of the accounts from Ireland, Scotland, and Northern England. In many situations, the wisps have been exposed attempting to lead travelers away from safe paths to chasms, bogs, quicksand, and the edges of rivers, leaving them there in the darkness in dangerous terrain.

There have been two methods used by the people of Guernsey and Cornwall for several generations to flummox and eradicate the ignus fatuus, or faeu Boulanger. If a villager finds themselves being followed by one of the spirits, they learn from a young age to quickly turn their caps and jackets inside out. This confuses the spirit, and it departs in favor of another pursuit. In order to eliminate one of these spirits, a knife is buried with the blade uppermost. When a spirit then gives chase, it impales itself upon the blade. It has also been shown that the use of iron, in the form of talismans or tools is effective in repelling these forms of spirit, thus eliminating any potential threat.

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