10 Stunning Images and Legends of the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis)

December 14, 2008 / 9 Comments

Alex came across some beautiful images of Aurora Borealis (northern lights). They are called aurora australis In the southern hemisphere.

I thought it might be interesting to throw in some of the appearances of the aurora in mythology that I found at wikipedia.

aurora borealis northern lights 1 10 Stunning Images and Legends of the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis)

In Bulfinch’s Mythology, Thomas Bulfinch claimed in 1855 that in Norse mythology:

The Valkyrior are warlike virgins, mounted upon horses and armed with helmets and spears. /…/ When they ride forth on their errand, their armour sheds a strange flickering light, which flashes up over the northern skies, making what men call the “aurora borealis”, or “Northern Lights”.

Pretty stunning stuff. Must be incredible to see it live.

aurora borealis northern lights 4 10 Stunning Images and Legends of the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis)

Check out more pictures …

An old Scandinavian name translates as “herring flash”. The northerners believed the aurora was a reflection cast by large swarms of herring into the sky.

Yet a different Scandinavian source calls them”the fires that surround the North and South edges of the world.”

The Finns named the northern lights revontulet, or fox fires. According to their legend, foxes made of fire lived in Lapland. And, the fox fires were the sparks they took up into the atmosphere on their tails.

In Estonian the northern lights are called virmalised, which is a spirit being of higher realms. Some are bad guys and some are good.

The Sami people believed that a person should be careful and quiet when in the presence of the northern lights (called guovssahasat in Northern Sami). To mock the northern lights or singing about them was considered dangerous and could be reason for the lights to come down on a person and kill him/her.

The Algonquin think the lights are their ancestors dancing around a fire.

In Latvian folklore the aurora borealis, especially if red and observed in winter, are fighting souls of dead warriors especially if it is red and seen in the winter. It is an omen foretelling disaster.

Russian folklore associates the northern lights with the fire dragon (“Ognenniy Zmey”). The dragon came to women to seduce them when their husbands were gone.

The northern lights in Scotland were known as “the mirrie dancers” or na fir-chlis. The dance often ended in a fight – “the mirrie dancers bled each other last night”. The appearance of the lights also predicted bad weather.

Prospectors during the Klondike Gold Rush believed that the aurora borealis was the reflection of the mother lode of all gold.

And, the Inuit people of Alaska say that the “shadows” within the display are relatives and friends who have gone to the sky. They march and dance to remind the living people of their presence. When dogs bark and howl at the sounds of the aurora borealis, it is because the dogs recognize their companions.

I was fortunate to see a bit of the northern lights when my wife and I took a cruise there last fall. Now I realize we missed a lot more than we saw.

Images copyright to 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10