The ignis fatuus, or ‘‘foolish fire,’’ a name also given to fire
obtained by rubbing two pieces of wood together, used in superstitious
ways. The elf-fire proper is the phosphorescent light
seen hovering over marshy ground. When approached, it appears
to recede or vanish suddenly, reinforcing the superstition
that it is a mischievous spirit. When seen in graveyards the ignis
fatuus is known as a ‘‘corpse candle.’’ Among the Russian peasantry
it was believed that these wandering lights were the souls
of stillborn children, who did not desire to lure people from the
path but who got no rest until they found their bodies.

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