Six Northern Lights Legends of the Arctic

Aurora HouseNorthern Lights are translated to other words in Arctic Europe. In Russian it is Cеверное Cияние (Sjevjernoye Siyaniye), in Swedish it is Norrsken, and in Norwegian it is Nordlys. All words are literal translations. In Saami, it is Guovssahasat – the hearable light. In Finnish, the word is Revontuli – the fox fire.

Among scientist there have been rumors that the Northern Lights pass on sound waves. Ms. Riikka Maijanen at the Arctic Academy in Orajärvi says that this hasn’t been confirmed. They haven’t heard anything conclusive yet.

It is no wonder that people, especially in the Arctic, through time have looked at the Northern Lights in awe. Stories to fill the scientific void have been told to explain and deal with it. What is clear is that the people of the Arctic have always treated the Northern Lights with respect.

The Saami people didn’t necessary listen per se. Maybe they interpreted messages from the special lights, and therefore, called it Guovssahasat? Of Saami descend myself, I can recall my grandmother telling us kids not to whistle at the Northern Lights, not to shout and yell at it either.

Whistling was bad in general; perhaps she used nature to nurture us. Great folklore, fairytales and stories have been used to cultivate one generation after another. In Japan, Northern Lights have been attributed to even creating the next generation.

Revontuli – the fox fire, is an example of Finnish folklore. Riikka at the Arctic Academy would explain the fox fire.

There are in fact several fox stories:

  • The most common one is that Revontuli are visible when a fox is running by the mountain. When the fur hits the mountain wall the Northern Lights is created and goes up to the sky
  • In Eastern Finland there are many foxes playing and fighting. When they hit each other Northern Lights is created and goes up to the sky
  • Revontuli, some argue, is derived from another old Finnish word; Repontuli. This word is translated to the Magic Fire. The old word sounded like fox and stories have been created to include the fox. The fox is important to the Finns.
Aurora House

The fox and Aurora Borealis

My personal experience with whistling and making sounds at the Northern Lights is also part of the folklore in Orajärvi.

  • You were not allowed to whistle at the Northern Lights. It could become angry if you did, come down and take you with it. Or you could simply disappear
  • Another old story is that when the Northern Lights are really bright, you better hide. Otherwise the Northern Lights might come and catch you
  • In this case, if you are on the mountain with a reindeer pulling your sled, you must act quickly.  Stop the reindeer, turn the sled and hide underneath it. Hopefully, the Northern Lights won’t take your poor reindeer

More and more people are traveling to the Arctic to experience this incredible nature phenomenon first hand. And, I am sure, making personal Northern Lights stories.

Orajärvi

Orajärvi outside the main road

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Posted in LIFE, SANTA'S ROAD, Sodankylä

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