If approached, the lights seem to advance but are always out of reach to its observers! These mysterious lights are so old that even Sir Isaac Newton is said to have mentioned them in his 1704 work, “Opticks.”
These lights came to be known as the will-o’-the wisps or jack-o-lanterns and are usually seen in marshy grounds and graveyards. The area has a long history of strange lights and legends. Tales were told of wandering travelers led into muddy grounds too soft to support them. The strange lights were called “ignis fatuus,” meaning the foolish light.
The most famous legend of all belongs to the jack-o’-lantern, which goes back hundreds of years in Irish history. The Irish told a tale of a miserable, old drunk named Stingy Jack who loved to play tricks on family, friends, his mother and even the devil.
According to legend, his antics were so fiendish that when he died he was given a burning ember to light his way as he roamed the earth. The glowing ember was placed in a hollowed out turnip, one of his favorite foods, which he carried around with him. Stingy Jack was said to roam the earth without a resting place, lighting his way as he walked with his “Jack-o’Latern.”
On All Hallow’s Eve, or Halloween, people in Ireland and Scotland began making their own versions of Jack’s lantern by carving scary faces into turnips, potatoes, rutabagas and, in England, large beets. In the 1800s, Irish immigrants came to America and discovered pumpkins, which were larger and easier to carve.
As folklore became legend and legend mixed with popular customs, Americans gradually picked up these practices that their forefathers, the Puritans, had rejected as being of pagan origin. How so?
The Encyclopedia Americana says, “Elements of the customs connected with Halloween can be traced to a Druid ceremony in pre-Christian times. The Celts had festivals for two major gods — a sun god (called Lug) and a god of the dead, called Samhain, whose festival was held on Nov. 1, the beginning of the Celtic New Year. The festival of the dead was gradually incorporated into Christian ritual.”
According to www.history.com, Halloween “is thought to have originated with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, when people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off roaming ghosts. In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III designated November 1 as a time to honor all saints and martyrs; the holiday, All Saints’ Day, incorporated some of the traditions of Samhain. The evening before was known as All Hallows’ Eve and later Halloween.”
Of course, not all strange lights are connected with supernatural legends. Take for example, the mysterious lights seen year-round after sunset, nine miles east of Marfa, Texas, on Highway 90 in the U.S. Reports of brightly glowing lights — white, blue, green, red, orange and yellow — floating above the ground and high in the air have mystified eyewitnesses and experts for decades.
According to the Marfa, Texas, Chamber of Commerce, Native American residents knew about Marfa Mystery Lights long before the first recorded sighting by rancher Robert Ellison in 1883. The basketball size lights are said to move laterally at low speeds or may dart around rapidly in several directions. They appear in pairs, bundles or may divide into pairs or merge into one, only to disappear and reappear. They even move in patterns, at times.
Those who have seen these mysterious lights say they may appear at any time of night in unpredictable directions for a fraction of a second to several hours. Scientists are still trying to figure out how and why these lights float above the ground. There are many theories, but the most popular is that the lights are a mirage caused by sharp temperature gradients between cold and warm layers of air.
As far as those strange lights in Derbyshire near Ireland are concerned, that phenomenon is thought to be caused by gases given off from rotten animal and vegetable matter. These natural gases, such as methane, may be ignited by another natural gas, diphosphane, to create the glowing, flickering lights.
Of course, there are no unexplained phenomena to the Creator of light and life. From strange lights to black holes and dark matter — it is all elementary to Him. As Creator of all the mysteries in the sea, on land as well as the wonders in outer space and beyond, 1Peter 2:9 calls the Almighty the One “who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” — New International Version. This light is truly wonderful because it is a spiritual light that frees humans from myths and falsehood.
If strange lights produce superstitious legends that become popular customs in our area, would it be wise to ask ourselves what would Christ, “the light of the world,” do? Would Jesus join in such celebrations? You decide. Whether we choose to honor God by engaging in superstitious customs or not is a personal decision.
Shedding light on the subject, however, should not be viewed as strange nor curious — but, hopefully, as a tiny flash of enlightenment.