corpse candles, lights

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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).

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