Ignis Fatuus (Will-o'-the-wisp), 2006 by Stefan Blondal
Ignis Fatuus (Will-o’-the-wisp), 2006 by Stefan Blondal

Usually I share Christmassy tales in December, and most of them are happy, with good winning over evil, or a warm tale connected to the Nativity. Today’s is an odd one,  but it does take place during Advent.

On the mountain road to Haenlein, but also in the area around Lorsch, people called the ignis fatuous or phosphorescent lights that could be seen there flibbertigibbets. Purportedly they only appeared during Advent and a rhyme was composed about them:

“Flibbertigibbet, ho, ho,
Burn like straw, oh, oh,
Strike me like lightening if you will!
Flibbertigibbet wisp-o-will!”

Many years ago a young girl saw a flibbertigibbet in the evening and recited the old rhyme. But the flibbertigibbet ran after the girl pursuing her into the house of her parents. It followed quick on her heels and entered the room at the very same time that she did. It struck all the people assembled there with its fiery wings so that from that time forward her family was both dumb and blind.

I guess the moral is be careful what you ask for. She asked the Flibbertigibbet to burn and strike her. Not an uplifting seasonal tale, is it?

According to Wikipedia, the world flibbertigibbet has a historical use as a name for a fiend, devil or spirit. In the Middle Ages, it also referred to a flighty or whimsical person, usually a young woman. Iignis fatuous is also referred to as will- o’-the -wisp.

Thursday’s Tales is a weekly event here at Carol’s Notebook. Fairy tales, folktales, tall tales, even re-tellings, I love them all.


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