Life beneath the northern lights

The northern lights has had people in awe since the beginning of time. It's a phenomenon you never get used to and it can cause even the bitterest of us to stop to appriciate its beauty. The dancing lights may have gotten a scientific explanation in recent times, but you can't help to wonder, if it isn't some magic behind it after all?

Love, fascination, fear.
Yes, the northern lights has been stirring up a whole spectrum of feelings over the years and thus inspired to some of the most dramatic myths and legends throughout history.
Foto: Lars-Olov Hultebrand

There are many tales where the nordic lights play a role in Norse mythology. The Vikings celebrated the lights, believing they were earthly manifestations of their gods. Other Norse people feared them, telling stories of the dangers they posed and developing superstitions to protect themselves.

Odin was the all knowing God and ruler of Asgard, revered by all Vikings. Odin was believed to live in Valhalla, where he was preparing for Ragnarök – a series of events that would mean the end of the gods and the world as they knew it. In Viking legend, Ragnarök was predestined and would be Odin’s greatest battle, so he needed the bravest warriors at his side.

Odin therefore picked the warriors who would die in every battle that took place on earth and they would join him in Valhalla. Tasked with leading Odin’s chosen warriors to Valhalla were the Valkyries, female warriors who carried spears and shields. The Vikings believed the Northern Lights were the reflections of the Valkyries’ armour as they led the warriors to Odin.

Other stories refer the nordic lights to Bifrost, the glowing bridge between this world and Valhalla.

Thea Holmqvist

In Finland, the name for the nordic lights is revontulet, literally translated as ‘fire fox’. The name derives from the beautiful myth that Arctic foxes produced the Aurora, and it also helped to explain why the northern light is only visible during the winter. According to the myth the fire foxes tails swept snowflakes up into the sky as they ran, which caught the moonlight and created the Northern Lights. A similar version of this story tells that the fire foxes ran through the sky so fast that when their large, furry tails brushed against the mountains, they created sparks that lit up the sky.

As much as the northern lights told stories about bravery and heroism for the vikings,  it was  a source of fear for others. For the indigenous Sámi people, the lights were to be feared and respected beacuse the appearance of the Northern Lights was nothing but a bad omen.

The Sámi didn’t talk about the Northern Lights since it was believed to be the souls of the dead. They wouldn’t  draw attention to themself by waving, whistling or singing underneath the northern lights because then they would be at risk of getting abducted by the light and carried away up into the sky. Some of the Samí people still respect the lights enough to stay indoors when the display is on, just to be on the safe side. Because..who knows?

Foto: Johannes Holmlund

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