A will-o'-the-wisp is a faerie that is more often seen as just a pale floating light, something that attracts a traveler's attention and then leads the traveler off the path and into a thick wood or otherwise unfamiliar place, where it is easy to get lost irrevocably. Often they will continue to tease the traveler until they get their intended result. Will-o'the-wisps are also known as merry moon dancers or ignis fatuus.

A spirit or pixy that is said to roam, bogs, swamps, lonely roads and heaths of England.

The Will O' The Wisp is a mischievous spirit that likes to trick night travellers into following his glowing, misty form into ditches, forests and swamps where they eventually get completely lost and helpless.

The actual scientific explanation of the Wisp is spontaneous ignition of 'Marsh Gas'.
Of course, this wasn't known in the 1500's , so people believed that it was naughty spirits playing tricks on humans to spite them.

Also referred to as : 'Friar's Lanthorn', 'Sylham Lamp', 'Elf Fire' and 'Fire Drake'.


Madison Cawein, The Poems, (1908)


There in the calamus he stands
With frog-webbed feet and bat-winged hands;
His glow-worm garb glints goblin-wise;
  And elfishly, and impishly,
Above the gleam of owlet eyes,
A death's-head cap of downy dyes
  Nods out at me, and beckons me.


Now in the reeds his face looks white
As witch-down on a witches' night;
Now through the dark, old, haunted mill,
  All eerily, all flickeringly
He flits; and with a whippoorwill
Mouth calls, and seems to syllable,
  "Come follow me! oh, follow me!"


Now o'er the sluggish stream he wends,
A slim light at his fingers' ends;
The spotted spawn, the toad hath clomb,
  Slips oozily, sucks slimily;
His easy footsteps seem to come---
Like bubble-gaspings of the scum---
  This side of me; that side of me.


There by the stagnant pool he stands,
A foxfire lamp in flickering hands;
The weeds are slimy to the tread,
  And mockingly, and gloatingly,
With slanted eyes and pointed head,
He leans above a face long dead,---
  The face of me! of me! of me!

Will"-o'-the-wisp` (?), n.

See Ignis fatuus.


© Webster 1913.

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