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Northern Scandinavia, Iceland and Greenland
Our Icelandic ancestors associated the lights with childbirth and held that they would relieve the pain of delivery as long as the expectant mum didn’t look at the Aurora whilst giving birth (we imagine she had other things on her mind at the time!) because the child would be born cross-eyed!
In Greenland the lights were also linked to giving birth but rather sadly they were judged to be the souls of still born babies or even babies killed at birth.
One of our absolute favourite myths comes from Finland where it was held that the lights were caused by the firefox who ran so quickly across the snow that his tail caused sparks to fly into the night sky creating the Aurora. Indeed, the Finnish word for the Northern Lights “revontulet” translates literally as “fire fox”. Another belief held by the Sámi people of Finnish Lapland amongst others, was that the lights were created from the spume of water ejected from whales.
It’s perhaps worth mentioning here that one of the Sámi words for the Northern Lights is “guovssahasah” and it’s best not trying to pronounce it after a few drinks!
In Sweden, the Aurora was often seen as a portent of good news. Many of our Swedish forefathers believed the lights to be a gift from benevolent gods providing warmth and light in the form of a volcano in the north. Elsewhere in the country they were believed to be the light reflection from large shoals of herring and bode well for the local fishermen and the Swedish farming community saw the lights as heralding a good harvest in the coming year.
The Northern Lights feature prominently in Norse mythology. One legend suggests that the lights were reflections or glow from the shields and armour of the Valkyrie, female warriors who would choose who may die in battle and who may live to fight another day. Dying in battle seemed to occupy Norse mythology quite a bit and the Aurora was also believed to be “Bifrost Bridge”, a glowing and pulsating arch which led those fallen in battle to the warriors final resting place in Valhalla.