The Corpse Candle--canwyll Corph
Category: DEATH PORTENTS.
Source: Welsh Folk-lore
The corpse candle, or canwyll corph, was a light like that of a candle,
which was said to issue from the house where a death was about to occur,
and take the course of the funeral procession to the burial place. This
was the usual way of proceeding, but this mysterious light was also
thought to wend its way to the abode of a person about to die. Instances
could be given of both kinds of appearances.
I have met with persons in various parts of Wales who told me that they
had seen a corpse candle. They described it as a pale bluish light
moving slowly along a short distance above the ground. Strange tales are
told of the course the light has taken. Once it was seen to go over
hedges and to make straight for the churchyard wall. This was not then
understood, but when the funeral actually took place the ground was
covered with snow, and the drift caused the procession to proceed along
the fields and over the hedges and churchyard wall, as indicated by the
It was ill jesting with the corpse candle. The Rev. J. Jenkins, Vicar of
Hirnant, told me that a drunken sailor at Borth said he went up to a
corpse candle and attempted to light his pipe at it, but he was whisked
away, and when he came to himself he discovered that he was far off the
road in the bog.
The Rev. Edmund Jones, in his book entitled A Relation of Ghosts and
Apparitions, etc., states:--
Some have seen the resemblance of a skull carrying the candle;
others the shape of the person that is to die carrying the candle
between his fore-fingers, holding the light before his face. Some
have said that they saw the shape of those who were to be at the
Those who have followed the light state that it proceeded to the church,
lit up the building, emerged therefrom, and then hovered awhile over a
certain spot in the churchyard, and then sank into the earth at the place
where the deceased was to be buried.
There is a tradition that St. David, by prayer, obtained the corpse
candle as a sign to the living of the reality of another world, and that
originally it was confined to his diocese. This tradition finds no place
in the Life of the Saint, as given in the Cambro-British Saints, and
there are there many wonderful things recorded of that saint.
It was thought possible for a man to meet his own Candle. There is a
tale of a person who met a Candle and struck it with his walking-stick,
when it became sparks, which, however, re-united. The man was greatly
frightened, became sick, and died. At the spot where he had struck the
candle the bier broke and the coffin fell to the ground, thus
corroborating the man's tale.
I will now record one tale not of the usual kind, which was told me by a
person who is alive.
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