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7 myths and legends of the Northern Lights

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The Northern Lights, otherwise known as the Aurora Borealis, is an impressive natural phenomenon that many spend their lives searching for.

Nature’s fascinating performance is best seen between September and March in the Northern Hemisphere. Now that some of the best places to see the Northern Lights have been established, it’s time to explore some of the weird and wonderful myths and legends surrounding the aurora borealis.

If you’re still getting to grips with the scientific mystery behind the northern lights, Expedia Norway’s handy visual guides are useful in explaining all you need to know about the Aurora Borealis.

1. Babies with supernatural abilities

Nordic myths from Finnmark (that’s Finland and Denmark, by the way) tell that children conceived during the occurrence of the Northern Lights will be born with supernatural abilities.

2. …And good fortunes

Similarly, Chinese and Japanese beliefs insist that a child conceived within the Northern Lights will be born with the luxury of good looks and good fortunes. In fact, last year the National Post reported that Canadian city Yukon hosts between 4,000 and 5,000 Japanese tourists during the winter season, with all-season resorts in Alaska also reporting clientele compromised of up to 90% Japanese.

3. Fox fires

Before scientists identified the causes of the Aurora Borealis, an old Nordic belief was that foxes running over the tundra wag their furry tales and emit sparks in the sky, leading to the Finnish word ‘revontulet’ or, in English, ‘fox fires’.

4. Dragon’s breath

A less cuddly myth originating from ancient China led people to believe that the Northern Lights were in fact the breath of a fiery dragon.

5. A time for waving

We’ll leave it up to you to decide whether this particular myth, still believed by many, is good or bad. It is said that merely waving at the Northern Lights will enable you to be carried away. Where you’d be carried, we cannot guarantee.

6. Don’t whistle

Maybe it’s best to save whistling to Christmas tunes for when you’re safe, cosied up by the fire because even the simple action of whistling also has dangerous mythical roots.  In Sami mythology, it’s considered bad luck to whistle at the Northern Lights, since most people believed they were old souls or gods in the sky. 

7. War outbreak

One of the most dangerous myths surrounding the Northern Lights is that a red Aurora Borealis is a bad omen. Soldiers in medieval Europe believed that a red Aurora Borealis signified the outbreak of war.

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