Fire Witch Lore
Te Aurora Borealis and Other Natural Lights
Also known as the northern lights, the aurora borealis is nature’s primary light show. It is described as beautifully colored mists that weave and dance their way across the skies. These stunning lights are shared between fire and air, but are listed under fire because no light would exist if not for fire’s eternal source.
The northern lights are actually a gathering of solar-charged particles attracted to the Earth’s magnetic pull, but the Vikings believed the lights to be the spirits of dead maidens dancing. This belief crossed cultures, and the Native American tribes that lived in the extreme north also associated these lights with the realm of the dead. They believed that they could call these spirits forth by whistling.
In ancient times, some people were afraid of the lights. They saw them as ominous portents of war or famine. They thought that when the lights appeared, it meant the gods were angry.
Will-o’-the-wisps are the earthbound lights that guide travelers away from safety to walk along treacherous paths. They can be considered malevolent, and in the past were often thought to be the souls of the dead. They tend to appear on swampy lands and near graves.
Will-o’-the-wisps are most often described as floating orbs of light that can move about quickly. They have been reported in a wide range of colors. Many who experience the phenomenon say that the light mimics their movements and pace.
Currently explained as a glowing type of swamp gas, will-o’-the- wisps continue to make their presence known in various parts of the world. They are also called ghost lights, spooks lights, corpse candles, foxfire, fairy lights, and peg-o’-lanterns (or jack-o’-lanterns).
In North Carolina, at Brown Mountain, these lights are particularly active. The first recorded encounter with these mysterious lights was in 1771, by a German engineer. Later accounts related that these lights would chase travelers along the trails. Of all of nature’s eerie lights, the will-o’-the-wisps are the only ones credited with actually following people and having a seemingly coherent thought process.
In Irish folklore, the will-o’-the-wisps are described as being quiet and helpful. They appear in order to warn one of possible bad health for family members or loved ones.
While scientists say that will-o’-the-wisps are burning balls of swamp gas, they are known to be cold. They have also been reported to move against the wind, something a real gas cloud could not do.
They have also been called “ball lightning” and are said to explode and crackle with energy. Ball lightning has been credited with causing deaths. In 1638, ball lightning struck a church in Devon County in the United Kingdom, subsequently killing four people.
Often, ball lightning disappears as quickly as it appeared, leaving witnesses bewildered. Sometimes, an explosion is heard just after the light disappears.
St. Elmo’s Fire, on the other hand, is seen as a benevolent force of nature that guides sailors through treacherous areas and signals the end of storms. It is said to be the dead spirit of St. Erasmus returning to aid the sailors. St. Elmo’s Fire is actually a form of atmospheric electricity that appears during stormy weather.
–Tammy Sullivan, Elemental Witch: Fire, Air, Water, Earth; Discover Your Natural Affinity