The Corpse Candle--canwyll Corph


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 h
ve 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

corpse candle.

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.