The Oxford Biblical Studies Online and Oxford Islamic Studies Online have retired. Content you previously purchased on Oxford Biblical Studies Online or Oxford Islamic Studies Online has now moved to Oxford Reference, Oxford Handbooks Online, Oxford Scholarship Online, or What Everyone Needs to Know®. For information on how to continue to view articles visit the subscriber services page.

Related Content

Related Overviews

Show Summary Details


corpse candles, lights

Quick Reference

One of the omens warning of impending death was the appearance of small faint lights flitting about near the home of the person fated to die, or along the road by which the funeral will reach the churchyard; they might also be seen hovering over the place where the grave would be dug. In areas bordering on Wales, where the belief was particularly common, they were called ‘corpse candles’, and in Sussex ‘corpse lights’; the 19th-century Sussex folklorist Charlotte Latham found the belief was widespread, but thought glow-worms might account for it (Folk-Lore Record I (1878), 49–50).

Reference entries