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What Is a Will O The Wisp? Will O The Wisp Definition & Will O The Wisp Meaning

Updated on March 21, 2018
kittythedreamer profile image

Kitty has been independently researching and studying the fae for over 15 years. She enjoys sharing what she's learned with her readers.

From Disney's Brave
From Disney's Brave
Leif Eriksson's artwork
Leif Eriksson's artwork | Source

Will O' The Wisp Definition

What is a will o' the wisp, exactly? No one really knows for sure, that is why it's considered a legend...a piece of folklore. And while the will o' the wisp is weaved into fanciful stories, sightings of the will o' the wisp have been occurring for hundreds of years in dozens of different countries on almost every continent. From Europe to Asia, someone has seen will o' the wisp, taken a picture of the will o' the wisp, or has at the very least heard stories about the will o' the wisp.

The will o' the wisp definition if we could actually define it would go something like this: a supernatural luminescent, flickering or dancing white to blue light occasionally seen over bodies of water, in meadows, and in forests. When one approaches the will o' the wisp, they tend to disappear or diminish in thin air. Other names for the will o' the wisp include willowisps, bob-a-longs, elf fire, hobbedy's lantern, faery lights, and fire faeries. The land of origin is believed to be England, but as mentioned previously, these beings have been seen all over the world for centuries.

Scientists have never been able to provide a will o' the wisp definition and there is much speculation as to what these dancing lights really are; however, many people believe that the will o' the wisps are lights of the fairies. Some people say they are lost human souls. Whenever they've been seen, the person will usually try to approach the will o' the wisp, only to have the light disappear and then reappear somewhere else. They say it's almost like the will o' the wisp is playing a game with you. In Disney Pixar's new movie Brave, the main character finds herself following the "wisps" which inevitably are supposed to lead her to her fate.


Will O' The Wisp Meaning & Legends

There has been a lot of theories as to what the will o' the wisp meaning or message really is. As previously mentioned, many people in Scotland, Ireland, and England thought that the will o' the wisp was actually lights emanating from fairies. Perhaps when they were on their nightly "raides" (rides) and needed something to light their way, creating the will o' the wisp. While a fanciful theory and very real to the Scottish, Irish, and English people, many others might disagree as they've seen the will o' the wisp up close and personal...with seemingly no fairies attached to it.

The will o' the wisp is also sometimes associated with the legend of the Jack O' Lantern, and that the will o' the wisp meaning has to do with lost human souls forever wandering the earth looking for their way home. The will o' the wisp is the light that these lost human souls carry, hence the jack o' lantern legend (read more about the Jack O' Lantern legend by clicking here).

Still other will o' the wisp meaning include ideas that they are negative spirits or ghosts of some sort with a purpose of leading travelers astray. Some Scottish legends said that the will o' the wisp would lead you to your fate, as expressed in the Disney movie Brave.

Interestingly enough, I recently wrote a hub about ghosts in Surrency, GA and one in particular is what is known as the "Surrency Ghost-light" or "spook-light". A man just left a comment on that hub describing exactly what happened to him and his family recently on a trip to the Surrency railroad tracks. They found the Surrency ghost-light alright...perhaps it is what some people believe to be the ghosts of the railroad workers killed on the job in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. These will o' the wisps are usually referred to as ghost-lights, spook-lights, or orbs in the United States. To read more about the Surrency Spook-light click here.

While there is debate on whether the will o' the wisp meaning and purpose on this earth is negative or positive, there is one thing for sure...the will o' the wisp is a real phenomenon still not fully explained by science or paranormal researchers. Because I am a strong believer in the supernatural, I believe that the will o' the wisp meaning does have to do with the fairies...I believe a lot of supernatural phenomenon today can be attributed to the fay, it's just that most people have forgotten them. They've been left behind to grace the pages of older books and in fairy tales, while ghosts, vampires, and werewolves have taken their place and have probably received more credit for the fairies' work than the fairies themselves!

© 2012 Nicole Canfield


Submit a Comment

  • profile image

    MaKayla Decker 

    4 years ago

    I am also a huge believer in the supernatural and enjoy reading about it. This information was truly helpful in researching for my book. Thank you for this.

  • profile image


    5 years ago

    I believe in the wilo the wisps. I want to go to Scotland so I can see them.

  • kittythedreamer profile imageAUTHOR

    Nicole Canfield 

    5 years ago from Summerland

    He's known as The Excorcist now.

  • fluke98 profile image


    6 years ago

    What happen to Mak Jo Si???

  • profile image


    6 years ago

    Hey kittythedreamer - check out my hub "

    Exorcist experience with the Orbs", maybe you would enjoy that. I just wrote about my student's experience with the orbs thingy too. Quite something cool.

  • kittythedreamer profile imageAUTHOR

    Nicole Canfield 

    6 years ago from Summerland

    MakJosi - Very interesting, thanks for the comment.

    precy - It sounds to me like you definitely saw a will o' the wisp, my friend! Wow, I'm jealous. :) Thanks for reading & sharing your story with us.

  • precy anza profile image

    precy anza 

    6 years ago from USA

    Just like what I saw one night about 10 years ago or so when the moon was on the night sky. What I saw looks like the round, ball of light on the third photo. I thought it was a farmer and thought who would be that crazy to go out in the field that late! I just realized what I was seeing when it suddenly became bigger and bigger, quicker, and it just took off as high as the tallest bamboo near the riverside where I had spotted it! That creeped me out!

  • profile image


    6 years ago

    Actually during my exorcism life, I did see (and my students did see as well) those orbs like stuff and it was busted with our exorcism tools. They are mostly leftover scattered energy after the ghost or other kinds of spirits that left behind after they "die" or they left. A commonly seen one after exorcism was done to kill ghost is the organe and red grape size orb, which can be busted and turn to gas and vanish by using our magic hand sign as well. Very cool visuals but my students and I all saw it too, common things.

  • kittythedreamer profile imageAUTHOR

    Nicole Canfield 

    6 years ago from Summerland

    crazycatman - I've seen "orbs" in pictures but they are a bit different than will o' the wisps. Although I feel like there is a definite connection between them...also with the ghost-lights on the railroad tracks. Thanks for reading!

  • crazycatman profile image


    6 years ago from Dallas, TX

    Cool article. I've never heard of a "Will O The Wisp," before. I've heard of Orbs but these seem different.

  • kittythedreamer profile imageAUTHOR

    Nicole Canfield 

    6 years ago from Summerland

    MakJosi - Thanks so much! I love the stories of the will o' the wisp.

    bac2basics - I actually think that orbs are mistaken for will o' the wisps! I find it funny how I've been writing about the will o' the wisp and didn't link it to the Surrency Spook-light until a random commenter left a message on the Surrency Ghosts hub...reminding me that it could have a connection. And the will o' the wisp does have a connection with the "spook-lights" in America. Pretty cool! Thanks again!

  • bac2basics profile image


    6 years ago from Spain

    Hi kitty. What an interesting hub. My first thought was glow-worms, I have seen these quite a few times in Spain, but the light from them is a definite green, and they don´t move when you approach them. If science really doesn´t have an answer, then I´m thinking orb´s could be what they are. It´s interesting to think people have been talking about faeries for century´s and in my view there has to be something in it.

  • profile image


    6 years ago

    Wow great article there, very juicy! Lots of stuff learned! Thank you for all that juicy stuff!


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