Mysterylights Group Message 0433

Subject: Derham and Dereham on the Ignis Fatuus
From: "Sean B. Palmer" <sean@...>
Date: 23 Mar 2007 14:24

Yep, it's another transcription. This one is from as far back as 1729,
and in fact one of the sightings therein is from 1674. It's also one
of the most commonly cited observations of the wisp throughout the
19th century, and it's easy to see why--it's very information replete.
- Derham and Dereham (1729), Of the Meteor Called the Ignis Fatuus

It appeared in the Philosophical Transactions, and was apparently
pieced together by an editor from submissions by the authors, since
they're both referred to in third person throughout.

The main gist is a refutation that the wisp has anything to do with
insects, a subsequently recurring motif of explanation in wisp
literature. The first observation in the piece is by the Rev. Derham,
who recalls seeing an ignis fatuus, though where is not mentioned,
some fifty-five years ago (i.e. in 1674). He says that he was close
enough to observe that it was one continuous light, certainly not
composed of insects; it was "frisking about a dead thistle", and
skipped from place to place.

The sightings from Italy, recounted by Sir Thomas Dereham, are from
the region of Bologna. The locals, it is said, call them "cularsi"
after some kind of bird, which reminds me of Devereux's mention in
Earth Lights Revelation (1989) of the Scots gealbhan or "tree-sparrow"
for some of their unexplained lights. The characteristics of these
cularsi are gone into in some detail, including their altitude,
motion, the terrain in which their appear, their luminousity and
colour, and so on. The comments again remind me of a lot of earth
lights characteristics, such as the lack of effect on them by rain.

Thirdly is the recounting of a story from a "young gentleman" some ten
miles south of Bologna, in March 1728. He saw a wisp there that
changed in colour and diminished to the point where it disappeared as
he approached it, and then reemerged as he went away. A local man said
that he'd seen it many times, and always in the same spot, though once
it appeared from a neighbouring place.

For such an early report, the detail throughout is remarkable, as is
the fact that apart from the ostensible purpose of refuting the insect
theory, nothing much is entered into in the way of speculation about
the mechanism behind the lights. It's no wonder that it's so often
mentioned throughout the subsequent literature on ignes fatui.


Sean B. Palmer

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