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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 19.djvu/83

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THE WILL-O'-THE-WISP AND ITS FOLK-LORE.

hammer, and by "false fires," drew him on to the worst ore in the mine. Countless are the stories told in Devonshire of these Pixy illusions; and a popular means of counteracting them was to turn one's coat inside out—a remedy which appears to have been in use in other parts of England, being mentioned by Bishop Corbet in his "Iter Boreale":

". . . William found

A mean for our deliverance. Turne your cloakes,
Quoth hee, for Puck is busy in these oakes;
If ever wee at Bosworth Hill be found,

Then turne your cloakes, for this is fairy ground."

In Cornwall, a strong belief prevails about the mischievous pranks of the piskies, and they are the subject of numerous superstitions. They are said to control the mist, and to have the power, when so disposed, of casting a thick veil over the traveler as he returns home after sunset. Hence the peasant may occasionally be heard uttering the following petition with a certain degree of faith:

"Jack o' the Lantern, Joan the wad,

Who tickled the maid and made her mad,

Light me home, the weather's bad."

By the Dorsetshire folk, this mysterious fairy is called a Pexy and Colpexy; and in Hampshire the Colt-pixy was the supposed sprite who led horses into bogs and other outlandish places. Once more, as a further proof of the connection of the elfin or fairy-face with the ignis fatuus, it may be noted that "Mab-led," pronounced Mob-led, signified led astray by a Will-o'-the-Wisp. Why, however, the fairy Queen Mab should be thus introduced originated, no doubt, in her fondness for playing jokes, as alluded to by Shakespeare in the passage already quoted above from "A Midsummer-Night's Dream."

According to Sir Walter Scott, the Will-o'-the-Wisp is a strolling demon or specter, bent upon doing mischief, who once upon a time gained admittance into a monastery as a scullion and played the monks all kinds of pranks. The followers of Marmion attributed the mysterious disasters that befell them at Gifford Castle to the guidance of the assumed ecclesiastic—"The Cursed Palmer"—and expressed the belief that it had been better for them had they been lantern-led by Friar Rush:

"What else but evil could betide,

With that cursed Palmer for our guide?
Better we had through mire and bush

Been lantern-led by Friar Rush."

The wandering demon, it seems, was known in many parts of Scotland by the familiar name of "Spunkie," whose freaks and mischievous character form the subject-matter of numerous lengthened tales. Mr. Guthrie, in his "Scenes and Legends of the Vale of