Uncanny Georgia: Atsil-dihyegi

Here is one more Cherokee myth, as reported by James Mooney:

Hermann Hendrich, Will-o'-the-wisp and Snake

Hermann Hendrich, Will-o’-the-wisp and Snake

There is one spirit that goes about at night with a light. The Cherokee call it Atsil’-dihye’gï, “The Fire-carrier,” and they are all afraid of it, because they think it dangerous, although they do not know much about it. They do not even know exactly what it looks like, because they are afraid to stop when they see it. It may be a witch instead of a spirit. Wafford’s mother saw the “Fire-carrier” once when she was a young woman, as she was coming home at night from a trading post in South Carolina. It seemed to be following her from behind, and. she was frightened and whipped up her horse until she got away from it and never saw it again. (Myths of the Cherokee [1900] 235)

This sounds like a will-o’-the-wisp or ignis fatuus, a phenomenon known—and mythologized—in many cultures of the world. This version seems to provoke a bit more terror than most, however. There may be more here than meets the eye.

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