posted on Apr, 10 2007 @ 10:40 PM
Here is a letter I wrote to a friend concerning the origins of the "Will-o'-the-Wisp" which I consider the Foo Fighters to be a modern variant of
this Legend type.
Indeed, the Will-o-the-wisp lights are fascinating. I have boxes and boxes of photocopied stories from all over Europe, Africa, Asia and the
America's, oh ya, and Australia. I don't believe that I have collected any stories from New Zealand but I know the stories were popular there during
the colonial period. The Ausies had several names for these "balls of fire," the Min Min lights and Walking campfires are two names that come to
mind. Ofcourse, the Jack-o'-lantern and Will-o'-the-wisp are everpresent in all english speaking lands, even India. I've collected versions of this
tale that have this ball of fire chasing people on foot, trains, planes, boats, snowmobiles, cars and on horseback. The popular Disney tale of Sleepy
Hollow is one such variant of the Jack-o'-lantern tale. In this tale the headless horseman carries a Carved Jack-o'-lantern pumpkin and not an
actual lantern. It's an interesting variant of the tale but many of the motifs of the story are still intact.
So far as I have been able to research, Jack and Will are around 400 years old. I've found stories about wandering lights that predate the 17th
century but they bare no resemblance to the Jack and Will stories. There are a ton of stories about these two demons which were fully incorporated
into traditional beliefs about fairies. Pixies, Cobolds, Tuckabolds, Elves, etc were trickster type sprites whom also carried lanterns and used to
chase night travlers. Even the Queen of the Fairy peoples, Queen Mob, was a Jack-o'-lantern. The British Folklorist, Katherine Briggs was one of the
world's most knowledgable persons on Fairy beliefs. She has published several books on beliefs if the Fairy Realm.
What I feel is so important is that Jack and Will were Devils, if not Satan himself, in the tales from the early 17th century. But into the 18th and
19th centuries they were fully intigrated into the realm of the Fairies and almost completely lost all of their associations with the devil. During
the mid 19th century Jack and Will became ghosts, or undead roaming spirits. This belief in the disembodied spirit roaming at night with a lantern has
become what we pretty much understand as a Jack-o'-lantern. This was perhaps the most popular Ghost story of the 19th Century which also represented
a shift from fairy beliefs towards spiritualist beliefs. At this time Spiritualism was sweeping through Northern Europe and North America.
Today, Jack and Will are still alive and kicking within UFO legendry. Not all UFO legends are Jack and Will stories obviously, as was true that not
all Fairy legends were Pixie or Colbold legends. They are only a small sub-set of a much greater tradition of supernatural beliefs. These legends and
others serve as building blocks for the establishment of a mythological order, or as I call it, a supernatural zoology. We have been guifted, as a
species, with an incredible ability for abstract and colorful thought. An imagination is a powerful tool for constructing highly complex ideas and
theories, without this highly evolved cognative facilty we would still be grooming ourselves with our tongues. We are aside from all other beings
known to mankind, very unique, yet somehow alone. This I find to be unsettling, that man is the only being which posesses the ability to imagine.
Before our age of science and reason people have expressed this situation of our uniqueness in a multiplicity of beliefs. The Hindu god Indra among
many of his totemic features was depicted as the great god of renewal. Indra was believed to float on his back alone in a great sea with a lotus
growing from his naval and within that lotas was another great sea where a smaller Indra was floating on his back with a lotus growing from his naval
and so on to infinity. This is a profound image of mankind, but what is even more profound is that this belief is well over 2000 years old.
Well, I could write a book on the stuff I have researched in libraries. The folklore library at Indiana University was my second home for about five
years. But considering all of the materials I was able to dig up none of it was anywhere as useful as was interviewing people who had seen the stuff I
was looking for. Human beings, and not books, are the greatest source of information a folklorist has to draw upon. When I researched the foo fighters
I got to be good friends with many WWII veterans and collected many other stories and personal anecdotes from these guys. The fear, or better yet, the
terror that these men lived through during this period in their lives had a massive impact upon them for the rest of their lives. One guy was so
terrified to fly at night that the operations officer left the flight tower and hopped onto the wing of his aircraft, put a 45 against his head and
threatened to blow this guy's brains out if he didn't fly that mission. The guys that were on the great fire raids over Tokyo were mortified when
they found out that they had killed over 150,000 civilians. Now, almost all of these guys that I interviewed are dead. These were some great men and
their experiences were real, but I guess it is up to everyone of us to decide for themselves what these experiences mean.
What I believe is stated in my research paper, but this is a narrow and appended version of what greater implications I feel that they point to. I
left these implications out of the paper because these are my beliefs, but I do feel that the foo fighters, as well as all human folklore is a human
creation. That is, that these tales are an attempt to address the absurd realities of life and that because these things do occur points to the
obvious flaws in our well meaning, although niave, attempts at pretending that we know what it is all about. I don't care if you pile 100 college
degrees on my ass, I'd still be an idiot if I told you that these things didn't happen, yet they do. And unlike Stan Fredman, I do not believe that
if you have 100 observers looking at the earth with three of them saying that the earth looks flat and 97 saying that it looks round and that derived
from that evidence that it then is a false assumption to assume that the earth is round 100% of the time. Thus, that the world is flat because 3% of
the observations did not conform to the theory that the earth is round. This appears to me to be more of a religious argument than that of a
scientific method of reasoning.
To quote the immortal mathematician, Rene Descartes, who in the 17th century said that, "There is nothing that is so hidden that we can not discover