Purple and green northern lights in Lofoten

Myths and legends about the northern lights

In the old days the Aurora lights inspired many beliefs and tales in the Nordic countries. While the Vikings happily celebrated the lights as an earthy manifestation of their gods, others thought they posed a dangerous threat.

In Sámi territory

The Sámi people believed the lights were caused by the water spumes from whales. The Sámis feared the lights thinking they were a bad omen. Thus, the lights shouldn’t be talked about.

In Finland

Known as revontulet (fox fires) in Finnish, the ancient Finns thought the lights were caused by sparks from foxes running across the tundra. The foxes would run so fast that when their large, furry tails brushed against the mountains they created sparks that lit up the sky.

In Sweden

The ancient Swedes viewed the northern lights as a sign of good news for fishing and farming, as well as a gift of warmth and light from the gods.

In Iceland

In Iceland, the ancestors believed the northern lights would relieve the pain of childbirth, so long as the mother didn’t look at the auroras while in labour.

On Greenland

Greenlandic folklore taught the northern lights were the souls of babies who died during birth dancing across the sky.

In Norway

Norwegian tails said that the Northern lights were believed to be the souls of old maids dancing in heaven and waving at people down below.

Norse Mythology

In Norse mythology, the northern lights were thought to be Bifröst, also called the rainbow bridge, which connected Midgard with Asgard.