The Ignis Erraticus
By Jeffery A Lindell
B.A., IU Folklore Institute
Electronic Warfare Systems Analyst U.S.A.F.(Ret.)
jeff.lindell@comcast.net

I have chosen the name Ignis Erraticus (erratic fire) to represent this collection of names concerning the Will-o'-the-wisp lights because it is more descriptive and packs less of a punch than the Ignis Fatuus (fool's fire.) Both of these names were coined around the early 19th Century in Europe and were never used among the Latin speaking peoples. The term Ignis Lambens (lapping flame) may have also been coined in a like manner, I am unsure of it's origin at this point in time. This term has been generally applied to the phenomenon of coronal discharges of electricity, more frequently know as St. Elmo's fire. Very often this term is used in vague attempts at filing unknown phenomena into a "believable" category. This process of exchanging one "unknown" for another "unknown" is very common within the scientific community. Whenever a borderline issue arises that may be viewed as a "supernatural" phenomenon, scientists are often the first to use these techniques to reassure us that we live in a "natural" world which fits neatly into a compartmentalized world-view. Unfortunately, many visual sightings of this nature are thoroughly discarded in favor of keeping the filing system tidy. Legends concerning St.Elmo's fire at the turn of the century were not distinguishable from many Will-o'-the-wisp legends, one such religious version has Christ as being the bearer of the wandering lantern.

Many attempts were made in the late 19th Century at classifying the Will-o'-the-wisp into the category of burning gases. During this time gas lighting was the most popular form of residential lighting. My Webster's dictionary also contains this etiological legend. Our contemporary assumption that St.Elmo's fire describes (and has always described) the coronal effect is rather shallow. Bio-luminescence today is called Fox-fire if seen on logs above ground, in mines it is called Jack-o'-lanterns. Our (human) language is ill equipped at dealing with concise phenomenological descriptions due in part to cognitive selectivity and the ambiguity of language. Dr. David J. Hufford has addressed these issues at length. All of the following names are related in many ways to the phenomenon of language, cognition and ambiguity. These issues must be considered when interpreting personal experiences involving ambiguious encounters with anomalous phenomena such as erractically moving lights at night.

All of the below names represent beliefs and elaborative narritive traditions concerning such luminous anomalies. Absolutely none of the these belief traditions can be positivly distinguished from the autokinetic sensation of movement as well as a multitude of other related visual and perceptual illusions of motion. In fact, in 1857, a Dr. G. Schweitzer had discovered the autokinetic sensation, which he had coined as "Sternswanken" meaning "swinging star." He began his study by collecting written narrative accounts from individuals who had witnesed, first hand, --stars, planets and terrestrial lights moving in an erratic manner. Many of the written accounts Dr. Schweitzer collected concerning erratically moving terrestrial lights were refered to by the observers as "Irrlichten," which is German for the Will-o'-the-wisp. Many of the below names are very important when considering the fact that the observers are reporting "real" visual and perceptual phenomena. Here are a few Dutch names that are very revealing: Dwaallicht --wandering light; Wildelanteern --wandering lantern; Spooklicht --spook light; Dwarloch --wandering light; Dwaalster --wandering star; Wandelende Kaars --wandering candles. These names alone decry the fact that the legends concerning the Will-o'-the-wisp have had, and do have a relationship with visual and perceptual illusions of motion, especially when viewing lights at night. To quote Rene Descart,

"There is nothing so far removed from us, to be beyond our reach, or so hidden that we can not discover it."



Names of the Ignis Erraticus

Will-o'-the-wisp

Billy of the wisp
Billy-wi'-t-Wisp
Kitty with the wisp
Kitty-wi'-the-wisp
Waller-Wups
Will a' wisp
Will-in-a-wisp
Will o' wisp
Will-o'-the-wisp
Will of the wisp
Will o' the Wykes
Will the wispe
Will with a wisp
William with a wispe
Willy-ba-wisp
Willy wisp
Wull-er-de-Wust
Wull-er-de-wusses
Wull-er-de-Wuts
Jack-o'-lantern
Jack-a-lantern
Jack and lantern
Jack-a-t-wad
Jack i' the lantern
Jack in a lanthorn
Jack in the lantern
Jack-me-lantern
Jack-me-lantun
Jack-muh-lantern
Jack-o'-lantern
Jack-o'-my-lantern
Jack-o'-the-lantern
Jack of the lantern
Jack-o'-lattin
Jack of the wad
Jack o' t' wad
Jack Polant
Jack the lantern
Jack with a lantern
Jack with a lanthorn
Jack-w'-a-lanthorns
Jack with his lantern
Jacker-mer-lantern
Jacket-a-wad
Jacketawad
Jacky lantern
Jacky lanthorn
Jacky-ma-lantun
Jacky-mi-lantuhns
Jac-y-lantern
Lantern-Jack
man-jacky
woman-jacky
Hob with a lantern
Hob-with-a-lantern
Hoberdy's lantern
Hoberdy's lanthorn
Hobbledy's lantern
Hobby lantern
Hob of the lantern
Hobbady-lantern
Hobbady's lantern
Hob-lantern
Hob-lanthorn
Hob-lantan
Hobby Lantan
Hob with the lantern
Hob wi' the lantern
Hob with 'e lantern
Hob 'ithe lantern
Hobbedy's lantern
Hobby lanthorn
Hobany's lantern
Hobany's lanthorn
Hob and his lantern
Hob-puck
Hob and his lanthorn

Misc.English names
Bad weather lights
Bailey's light
Balls of fire
Blue Jim
Brenning-drake
Burnt-Tail-Jinny
Dank Will
Devil's lantern
Dick a Tuesday
Drach
Dragon
Ephraim's light
The Farmer's lantern
Floating light
The Friar
Friar rush
Friar's lantern
Gealbhain
Gealbhan
Ghost lights
Ghost riders (Johny Cash ballad)
Gill burnt tail
Gill of the burnt tail
Gillion a burnt-tail
Gillion a burnt taile
Gwyllion
Gyl burnt tayle
Indian lights
Jack Harry's light
Jemmy Burty
Jenny Burntail
Jenny Burnt-tail
Jenny Burnt-arse
Jenny Pinket
Jenny-with-the-lantern
Jenny wi' the lantern
Jenny-wi'-t'-lantern
Jild burnt tail
Jinn with the burnt tail
Jinny Burntail
Joan in the wad
Joan the wad
Kit in the candlestick
Kit of the candlestick
Kit with the candlestick
Kitty candlestick
Lampmen
Lantern of Maracaybo
Lantern man
Lode light
Miscann Many
Peg-a-lantern
Peggy-lantern
Phantom light
Pinket
Pinkit
Sam's Lantern
Spirit light
Spook lights
Sylens
Syleham lights
Sylham lamp
Texas Mystery lights
Treasure lights
The Wat
Weize
Welsh lights
Whitburn lights
death fires
elf-fire
elf-fire of Pergatorie
Fairy fire
Fiery dragon
Fire-drake
Marsh fires
walking fire
Wander Ships
wandering fire
wandering wildfires
Witch fires
Candles of St.David
Canwyll corph (Welsh)
Canwyll yr ysbryd (spirit candles, Welsh)
Canwyll yr ysbryd glan (Holy Ghost candles, Welsh)
corp-candle
corpse-candles
corpse flames
corpse light
deadmen's campfires
deadmen's lights
death-candle
death light
fetch candle
fetch light
Fairies
Aw-puck
Bog-sprite
colpexy
Ellyldan (Welsh)
Fenny Campton ghost
Hinky-Punk
Mab
pexy
picksy
piskies
pigseys
pigsies
pixies
poake
pouk
Puck
pwca
pwcca
pwka
Robin Goodfellow
Spunkie
Water-skeerie
Yr Ellyll Dan (Welsh)
St.Elmo's Fire
ampizant
Capra Saltante
Castor and Pollux
comasants
comazant
complaisance
composant
Cora de Nossa Senhora
Corbie's Aunt
cormazant
corposant
corpo santo
corpusanse
corpusant
Cuerpo Santo
Elmo vuer
Faier Ledas twinnes
Fermies' fire
Feu de Helene
flamme lambentes
Friede feuer
Helena
Helenen feuer
Heleneneld
Helle and Phryxus
Hermes
La feu des Gabiers
Leda's twins
Sintelmsvuur
St.Anselm
St.Claire
St.Elemi
St Elias feur
St.Elmo's fire
St.Elmo's stars
St.Ermo
St.Ermyn
St.Helene
St.Helena
St.Helm
St.Helme's fire
St.Herbe
St.Herme's fire
St.Hermes
St.Nicholas' fire
St.Peter's fire
St.Telme's fire
San Pedro de Gonzales
Santelmo
Telonia (Greek)
veirlysvree
vuuren
wetter licht
zee licht
Dutch

Dwaallicht
dwallichtje
dwaallich
dwaallichje
dwaallichie
dwaallichien
dwaallichkes
dwaallichtie
dwaallichtjen
dwaallech
dwaallechjen
dwaallecht
dwaallechtken
dwaalleecht
dwaalleeg
dwaalleegske
dwaalleegter
dwaalljocht
dwaallochie
dwaallochien
dwaallocht
dwaallochtie
dwaall(oe)chjen
*dwaalluchie
dwaallucht
dwaalluchtje
dwaillicht
dwaollicht
dwaollich
dwaollichje
dwaollichie
dwaollichien
dwaollichtsjen
dwaollech
dwaollechje
dwaollechjen
dwaollecht
dwaollechtie
dwaollocht
dwaolloch
dwaollochie
dwaoll(oe)cht
dwaoll(oe)chtie
dwaolluchien
dwaolluchjen
dwaolluchje
dwaollucht
dwa(oa)llicht
dwollich
dwoolleech
dwooleicht
dwoollicht
dwoollochien
dwullicht
dwillichtt
dwilljocht
dwylljochtsje
dwaellicht
dwaellichtje
dweollicht
Dwaaslicht
dwaasleech
dwaasleecht
dwaesleegh
dwazelicht
dwazelich
Waaslicht
waasleegt
waasleicht
wazelicht
wazelit
wazeleeg
wazeleejt
Wildelanteern
wilde lantaarn
wylde lantearn
wylde lantea(r)ne
wielde lanteern
wylde lanteerne
wielde lanteerne
wielde lantiene
Doodkaars
doodkeers
doodkeersje
doodkeerse
doodskeers
doodkers
dookeers
dookeerse
Stalkaars
stalkaarske
stalkaerse
stalkaesse
stalkars
stalkarse
stalkeers
stalkeerskep
stalkees
stalkeies
stalkeisse
stalkers
stalkerske
stalkaerske
stalkes
stalkeske
stalkesep
stalkisse
stalkjes
stalkjesken
stallekjesken
steilkaars
steilkars
steilkees
stelkaars
stelkars
steltkaars
steltkars
Spooklicht
spooklichtje
spooklecht
spooklich
spookleech
spookluchtje
spoeklicht
spoeklochtp
spoeklochie
spouklicht
Vuurman
veurman
vuurmenneke
vuurmannetje brandende
vuurmanvurige man
vurige
vuurkel
Gleunigekerel
glinnekerel
glennigekerel
glendkerl
glendekereltje
glenekirl
glunigekerel
gleunigekerel
gleunigekerl
gleunigekeerl
gloonigenkeal
gleuigekerl
gleuigekeerl
gleujende landmeter
gluende kerel (u w/ umlaut)
gleujende kealvurige kel (u w/ umlaut)
Gloeiigeman
gloeiend menneke
gloeiende man
gloeiende paap
gloeiende landmeter
gloeiige man
Brandendescheper
gloeiegeschepe
gloeiendescheper
gloiende scheper
brandende herderd
walende schepe
verbrande scheper
Misc.Dutchnames
nachtlicht
nachtluchtje
daalleech
doalleech
tdoolleegt
doollicht
dwarrellicht
dwarrellichie
dwarlochien
dwarloch
tdwaalgeest
dwaalster*
glimhout
glimlicht
glimlochie
glimuilbrandende
kaars
kaarsspook(k)eers
wandelende kaars
verkeersel
weergekeerseld
waalempkenacht lampje
laempielanteern
falske lantearne
German
br(ue)nniger mann
Bergmonchen
Der ewige Jude
Dickepoten
drak
dwellicht
dwerlicht
elflicht
feuergeister
feuermann
feurig gehn
feuriger mann
fuchtelmann
geisterlicht
gloiniger man
heerwisch
hirrlig-spor
hroe-lios (Old Norse)
hroevar-lios
"hroevar-eld "
irreding
irrlicht
irrwisch
irwisch
laufende fackels
malgenfur
tuckebold
tukkebode
vafr-logi (Old Norse)
vafrloga
wiesenhupfer
zeusler
zundler
zunsel-gespenst
zunsler
Icelantic
Loka daun
malmlogi
vafurlogi
Danish
blaasmand
lygte-maend
lygtemand
vaettylis
vatte-lys
Swedish
lys-eld
lyktgubbe
French
dipsas
fuoleeclaireur
farfadet
fifollet
feu folet
feu follet
feux follet
flambars
flammerole
furole
furolle
fourolleles
lumerottes (Flanders)
Looke furole
Porte-brandon
sauterai
Irish
Buitseach
dreag
dreug
driug
drook
Foidin Seachrain
Liam na lasoige
Manadh bais
Ghradh
Sean na gealaige
solus adhlaic
solus an traigh
solus bais
solus biorach
solus corp
solus spiorad
solus taisg(stray sod)
teine adhlaic
teine biorach
teine mor
teine Seannachain
teine Seonaid
teine side
teine Sionnachain
teine sionniic
Spanish
brujas
fuego errante
fuego fatuo
La luz del llano
Tlaciques
Italian
Cularsi
fuochi fatui lambenti
Mirichicchui
Hungarian
liderclidercfeny (also an Incubus)
lidercnyomas*
ludverc
mit-mitke
svecar
vodyi mulengre
zmaj
Bulgarian
zmej
zmeici
Contemporary English Names
Baka bombs
Brown mountain light
Chinati Peak light
Earth lights
Edison Star
Electric balloons
earthquake lights
Foo fighters
Flying Dutchman
flying saucers
Ghost fireball of Hamburg
ghost fire (Australia)
ghost flame
Ghost fliers
ghost light
Ghost rockets
Hornet ghost light
Hornet spook light
John Craig light
Kamikazes
light of Rannoch
Maco lights
Marfa lights
Marquis de Malauze
Me 262
Mystery star
Ozark spook light
Palatine light-fireship
peat-fire flame
Phantom Air Ships
Phantom ship of Chaleur Bay
Prague light
Princess Augusta
Robombs
Searchlight fighters
St.Martins
St.Mary's ghost
Seven year light of Bone hill
Teazer light
Tri-state spook light
Unidentified flying objects
UFO spook light
Min-min lights (Australia)
Quinn's light (Australia)




Bibliography

A Historical and Physiological Perspective of the Foo Fighters of World War Two