corpse candles

Death omens. A common apparition in the counties of Cardigan, Caermarthen, and Pembroke, and also in some other parts of Wales and the United Kingdom. They are called candles from their resemblance not to the body of a candle, but the fire. In their journey they are sometimes visible and sometimes disappear, especially if someone comes near them. If a little candle is seen, of a pale bluish color, it presages the death of an infant; if a larger one, then it presages the death of someone come to age. Multiple corpse candles reveal the number of persons soon to die.

Sometimes these candles point out the places where people shall sicken and die. They may also predict the drowning of persons crossing a ford. A similar superstition existed in Northumberland; they called it seeing the waff or ghost of the person whose death it foretold.

At Kirkcudbrightshire, it was believed that wraiths of persons dying would be visible to one and not to the others present with him. Sometimes the good and the bad spirit of a person were seen contending in the shape of a white and black dog. Only the ghosts of wicked persons were supposed to return and visit and disturb their old acquaintances.

In south Hampshire corpse candles are said to accompany the souls of the departed and are extinguished when the souls leave the earth.

In northern England and Ireland they are called fetch lights.



  • Hazlitt, W. Carew. (1905). Faith and Folklore. 2 vols. London: Reeves and Turner, pp. 1:88, 2:665.