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The Myths and Legends of the Northern Lights

    The Northern Lights have long fascinated both the eyes and the mind of mankind. In our history, many stories have been told of their origin from all over the world. Indeed, their name, coined by the Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei, was “The Sunrise on the Northern wind” or, in Latin, “Aurora Borealis”.

    The Myths of the Past

    It is not known whether Galileo travelled to see the Auroras for himself, or if he was lucky enough to observe them from his home in Italy. Lucky, being an understatement, as Auroras visible as far south as Italy would have been rare indeed.

    The lights, being then as inexplicable as they were, caused a great deal of hysteria when they were visible. For example, when viewed across the British Isles in the late 18th century, they were attributed to the coming of the French Revolution.

    Across the Arctic countries and territories, there have been several civilizations that rarely crossed paths with one another. And so, there have been told many stories explaining the Northern Lights, each of which is unique.

    The Fire Tailed Queen

    According to Finnish folklore, fox fur causes a light phenomenon when it touches an object. The notion is not completely unreasonable, because furs, as accumulators of static electricity, cause sparkles when touching them in cold and dry air.

    Based on this observation, an attempt was made to explain the Aurora Borealis as caused by a fox’s tail trailing along the forest floor causing sparks that fly up into the sky.

    This so called Fire Tailed Queen story comes from the old Finnish Sámi culture. The exact original telling of the story is long forgotten and although this story changes somewhat from telling to telling, there is merit to the popularity of this tale by its ability to endure. Even in the Finnish language, “Revontulet” (the Fox Fires) is still the word given to the Northern Lights.

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