The Northern Lights undoubtedly make for one of the world’s greatest spectacles and their presence has been met with some interesting and differing reactions throughout the course of history. Having been voted in at lonely planet’s poll as the most desired travel experience, the Lights are in popular demand like never before- but it hasn’t always been this way!
Here are our top ten (5 positive, 5 negative) interpretations of the lights through history:
- The aurora shine a reddish hue at lower altitudes, and this signaled the outbreak of war during the Middle Ages!
- The Finnish name for the lights is ‘Revontulet’, which means ‘Fire Foxes’, and originates from a myth of the lights being caused by a magical fox spraying snow up into the sky by brandishing his tail across the snow.
- Whistling under the Northern Lights is a big Sami no-no! They believed this would provoke a reaction from the fearsome lights which would take the rebellious whistler away with them!
- Young Labrador Inuits believed that the Lights were torches lit by the dead who were playing soccer in the heavens with a walrus skull- they would then dance to the Lights.
- Icelandic folklore dictated that the Northern Lights eased the pain of childbirth, although if pregnant women were to look at the lights their child would be cross-eyed! A bit of a double edged sword there then!
- The Danish thought that they were a throng of swans caught in the ice too far North, with their flapping wings responsible for the fluttering light reflections.
- Many Sami people believed that the lights were a malevolent spirit and would keep their families indoors during the Lights and hide their children- even throwing dog faeces and urine up in the air to make the lights go away!
- The Danish and the Swiss thought the Northern Lights were from an active volcano in the north, placed by the creator to provide light and warmth in otherwise cold and unforgiving regions.
- Fox Indians of Wisconsin believed lights were apparitions of enemies looking to take revenge.
- Eskimos in Greenland thought they were dead friends trying to communicate with their living relatives.
Why not see the Northern Lights yourself and pick your best interpretation!