Folklore And Mythology About The Northern Lights Aurora Borealis CulturallyOurs

Folklore And Mythology About The Northern Lights Aurora Borealis

Folklore And Mythology About The Northern Lights Aurora Borealis CulturallyOurs

The aurora borealis is one of the most beautiful and enigmatic sights on earth and have awed communities through the eras. There is something so magical about seeing the night sky explode in colors of green, yellow, amber and many shades in between. For eons, many fantastical theories have been imagined to explain the sky’s shifting glow. While the scientific explanation of the norther lights, or aurora borealis, is around electrons from the sun that interact with the gas particles in the atmosphere to produces light, the folklore from various cultures is much more mythical and magical.

Aurora borealis, the lights of the northern hemisphere, means dawn of the north while Aurora australis means dawn of the south. Scientists have learned that in most instances northern and southern auroras are mirror-like images that occur at the same time, with similar shapes and colors. Because the phenomena occurs near the magnetic poles, northern lights have been seen as far south as New Orleans in the western hemisphere, while similar locations in the east never experience the mysterious lights. As result of this, many cultural groups around the world have legends and folklore about the northern lights.Folklore And Mythology About The Northern Lights Aurora Borealis CulturallyOurs


This northern nation still calls the aurora borealis revontulet, which literally translates to ‘fox fire.’ Legend says that an arctic fox dashed across the tundra swiping snow up into the sky, while others claim his bushy tail caused sparks when brushing the peaks of tall mountains.


According to Norse mythology, female spirits called Valkyries chose who lived and died in battle. They escorted the most heroic warriors who fell to Valhalla, which is hall of the slain in nordic culture and is overseen by Odin himself. The Vikings believed the lights were the reflection of the Valkyries’ armor and shields as they led the dead to their final resting place.


In ancient Sweden, the term for the northern lights was sillblixt, which translates to ‘herring flash.’ They believed the aurora was caused by the reflections of light off the scales of large shoals of fish swimming in the sea. If a fisherman spotted the sillblixt, it was a sign they were about to stumble upon a particularly large haul of fish.


Danish legend speaks of the swans that held a competition to see who could fly the farthest north. Some birds became caught in the ice and tried to escape by flapping their wings. This flurry is what even today produces the waves of the aurora borealis.


In Scottish Gaelic folklore the Northern Lights are known as the Na Fir Chlis – the merry dancers. The Lights were described as epic fights among sky warriors or fallen angels. Blood from the wounded fell to earth and spotted the bloodstones or heliotrope found in the Hebrides.


Auroral sightings in China would have been very rare caused by a significant solar event. Hence ancient Chinese were in awe of the lights that sporadically illuminated their night sky. It is said that many of the early Chinese legends associated dragons with the Northern Lights. The belief is that the lights were viewed as a celestial battle between good and evil dragons who breathed fire across the sky.


Aboriginal Australians were more used to seeing the Aurora Australis which are the southern lights and watched in awe as their gods danced overhead.


Perhaps the most playful explanation for the sky’s colorful ripples comes from the indigenous populations of North America and Greenland. They both believed the lights come from the spirits of the dead in the afterlife playing soccer with a walrus skull. The Eskimos of Nunivak Island had the opposite idea, of walrus spirits playing with a human skull.Folklore And Mythology About The Northern Lights Aurora Borealis CulturallyOursOne of the most common things to do when you see the northern lights is to try and photograph them. Cameras are better equipped to capture the aurora borealis. Here are some tips to improve your chances of capturing an epic Northern lights photos. Having the correct camera settings are really what will make or break your northern lights photography. So first things first, set your camera to full manual mode and use the following settings. 

Tips for photographing the northern lights

  • Shutter Speed – Adjust your shutter speed to 10 to 20 seconds depending on the intensity and speed of the lights.
  • Aperture – f/2.8 or as high as your lens will allow. 
  • ISO – This is a big point of difference between cameras. Setting the ISO to 1,600 is a good starting point, but generally the lower you can keep this value the better your overall image quality will be (with less grain).
  • Photo timer – Turn on a 2-second timer to avoid camera shake from pushing the button and remove your hand from the camera as soon as you press the shutter.
  • Make sure your flash settings and image stabilisation are turned off. Set your lens to manual focus and turn it all the way to infinity and then a back a little.
  • Take a test shot and check if the stars in the shot are in focus. They should be as small as possible. If they are out of focus, you’ll need to adjust the focusing on your lens. The easiest way to check whether your shot is in focus is to zoom in on the stars in camera. 
  • Once your shot is in focus, set your shutter speed to around 15 seconds and take another test shot. From here, adjust the exposure time based on how fast the lights are moving to get the perfect shot.  

Folklore And Mythology About The Northern Lights Aurora Borealis CulturallyOursIf you don’t have a fancy camera or a camera that allows you to adjust to full manual mode, you can potentially take photos of the northern lights armed with just your smart phone. You won’t have as much control over the shot or be able to get the same quality as a camera in such low light. On a smartphone, you’ll need to download an app that allows manual control of your phone’s camera setting like Northern Lights Photo Taker and NightCap Camera. Choose similar settings to those you would use on a camera with high ISO, large aperture and slow shutter speed. Use a tripod or phone stand to get the shot so that you don’t have any camera shake.

Do you believe in folklore? Have you ever seen the northern lights and felt like there is a little magic in the air?

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