The name wraith, can be traced
back as far as 1513. It means the
same as ghost or specter (that is, an
apparition of a living or once-living
being, possibly as a portent of death).
In 18th century Scotland it was
applied to water spirits (water
wraiths), and in England it became
used in a metaphoric sense to refer to
wraith-like things, and to portents in
general. The water wraith are
described as skinny, withered old women
with scowling features, traditionally
garbed in green. These spirits are said
to lure unwary travelers to their deaths
Sometimes living persons have an
exact double, which is also called a
wraith. It is thought that this type
of wraith is an omen of the person's
imminent death. The ghostly "apparition"
portends a person on the verge of death.
According to old traditions, it appears as the exact likeness of
its human counterpart, and commonly reveals itself to the friends
and family of the person who is about to die.
If a person is unfortunate enough to see their own wraith, it is
regarded as heralding death within a fortnight, or a span of two
weeks. The tradition appears to have developed from the ancient
belief that a person's soul is a precise duplicate of the physical
form, and that it escapes the body when death is imminent.
A variation of this spirit type is the "water wraith". See also
"co-walker", "doppelganger", and "fetch".
Thin Rain, whom are
That you haunt my door?"
—Surely it is not I she's wanting;
Someone living here before—
Nobody's in the house but me:
You may come in if you like and see.
Edna St. Vincent Millay, Wraith