No Boring Borealis

Despite its complex name, one need not be a scientist to comprehend the splendour of the aurora borealis, perhaps better known as the ‘Northern Lights’. The aurora is a natural light phenomenon generated when air particles are collided with charged particles in a magnetic field, causing excitation and the subsequent light emission that we see  in the skies of the Earth’s polar regions (for those of you interested in the scientific nitty gritty, I’ll leave it up to the experts).

Looking for a house beneath the stars? This just might be it.

Looking for a house beneath the stars? This just might be it.

The aurora borealis constitutes an important part of Saami mythology. The Saami people are an indigenous minority who inhabit Lapland, a north Scandinavian region spreading across Sweden, Norway, Finland and Russia.

Map indicating the distribution of Saami people, shaded in grey.

Map indicating the distribution of the Saami people, shaded in grey.

A Swedish Saami family.

A Swedish Saami family.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Saami word for the aurora borealis is ‘guovssahasah’, translating as ‘the sun glowing in the sky in the morning or evening’. Saami folklore describes the aurora borealis as a stream of sparks projected into the sky as foxes tails strike the snow beneath them as they run. It also describes how the Saami were able to cause the lights to come closer by whistling to them. Furthermore, Saami mythology chronicles the belief that one should remain cautious and quiet in the presence of the lights, so as not to upset them. If one dared ridicule the lights they would be subject to the lethal ways of the aurora.

Frants Bøe - Sami on skis in northern lights, 1885.

Frants Bøe – Sami on skis in northern lights, 1885.

Unfortunately, the past few centuries have seen oppression for this indigenous minority and their culture through the discrimination of their people by the Swedish government. Saami culture is often neglected by Swedes, yet the aurora borealis is a part of their culture that can never be erased or forgotten.

So before you leave, don’t forget to take a peek at this video to witness the slow-moving beauty of the aurora.

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One comment

  1. One of the things I’m sad about missing out on is when I was living in Scotland and my housemate stayed up one night watching the Northern lights … but didn’t tell me to wake up.

    Like

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