Wraiths (魔獣 Majū, lit. magical beasts) are manifestations of grief in the new world recreated by Madoka Kaname. They replace the witches that magical girls must fight. They resemble tall statue-like men wearing robes with no visible limbs (though concept art shows them as having hands that shoot thin lasers to attack). Their faces are partially covered by digital polygon-like shapes that appear to glitch out randomly on or around their being.
Wraiths first appear at the post-credits scene of episode 12 of the original anime after Madoka's wish erases all the witches, and Homura Akemi is seen fighting several of them afterwards. It is shown that in the new world, magical girls now fight wraiths instead, which are merely a different form of curses born from humanity.
They appear to travel in large groups and do not reside in barriers, mostly appearing at night, unable to be seen by normal people. It is implied by Kyubey that they give off miasma in the air, which supposedly points to how many are in a single area. When defeated, wraiths drop (possibly several) small, cubic fragments of their grief similar to witches' grief seeds that can be harvested by magical girls to clean their soul gems and combat entropy (though Kyubey points out that this comes at the expense of energy efficiency).
Wraiths are mentioned but not seen nor focused on in Puella Magi Madoka Magica the Movie: Rebellion.
Wraiths feature prominently in the manga spin-off Puella Magi Madoka Magica: Wraith Arc, where they serve as the main antagonistic forces and sources of conflict in the plot, outside of the characters' interactions with one another. Wraith Arc also gives more information on the nature, behavior, and types of wraiths. Wraiths are shown to be able to affect soul gems (as performed on Sayaka Miki), steal away magic powers (as performed on Homura Akemi), take objects (stealing Homura's ribbons from Madoka), and even take on the forms (including memories and intelligence) of magical girls and possibly other human beings.
- Because Madoka's wish only erased witches, grief was not removed from the new world as Madoka didn't change human nature. As a result, the wraiths are distortions of Madoka's cause and effect of her wish, and give magical girls other means of obtaining grief seeds to clean their soul gems and combat entropy.
- Wraith types are named after Buddhist levels of enlightenment.
- Shugen is a Buddhist term referring to a form of asceticism that involves becoming one with nature/kami/the Tao (the practice tends to be syncretic)
- Satori refers to spiritual awakening and is often translated as "enlightenment", but it's different from Buddhahood. It's more about understanding one's own nature, which is just a step towards complete enlightenment.
- Moksha means emancipation from earthly desires. It's like nirvana, but not quite, since a person undergoing moksha hasn't died yet.
- The wraiths to resemble "moirae" from Greek mythology, beings that personified the inescapable destiny of man.
- Early fansubs of the anime called wraiths "demons". The name of "wraith" comes from the official translation of the anime.
- The official translations of the manga versions refer to them as "magical beasts". It should be noted, however, that the official manga translations are already inconsistent with the official anime translations.