Last modified 15.3.2011 at 13:16
Folktales colour night sky
Text: Susanna Siironen Photos: Milan Kolarovic
In Finland winter is long and dark. Many foreigners say that the long winter is a shock. But there is something beautiful in those frostbitten nights. On the sky you can see a dance of the gamut of colours. For local people the phenomenon is almost ordinary, but still it takes your breath away always.
In Finland Northern lights have always had strong connections to folklore. In Finnish there are many names for northern lights,because in the past people believed that it caused bad luck if you said the real name of northern lights aloud. In Finland's folklore there are many different stories about the northern lights and what causes them.
Whales, foxes and fairies
In the Karelian Isthmus and Ingria people believed that a big fish caused the northern lights. People thought that a giant fish or a whale fidgets around the Arctic Ocean which evoked northern lights on the sky. More known story a story about fire foxes (and it is not a story about the Internet). People explain that northern lights are born when foxes having a shiny fur are romping all over the North. Glances of the Foxes fur are shown far away.
In Kuopio there is a story about two fairies, a fairy of the cold and a fairy of the heat. These two fairies are fighting over authority of the North. Their fencing creates sparkles that are shown as northern lights.
People who lived in Lapland had always respected and were afraid of the northern lights. They believed that if you jeer the northern lights they may come down and eat you. When there were northern lights on the sky you had to be quiet and women could not go outside bareheaded because spirits of the northern lights could have caught them from their hair.
Frost or rain
Old wives´ tales of the northern lights have not been totally forgotten even though we today know how northern lights emerge. In Different parts of the country there are still stories alive, for example different kinds of predictions. People can predict weather from the northern lights. In Pori the northern lights promise frost and in Seinäjoki they promise good weather. Old people also believed that you can get northern lights nearer by whistling.
But how do northern lights really emerge? It all starts from far away. Particles from the Sun drift as a solar wind towards the Earth. Earth's magnetic field protects Earth from solar wind particles and radiation. When the solar wind runs into Earth's magnetic field, some of the particles are trapped by it. Particles move with the magnetic field towards the circumpolar areas and when they reach Earth's atmosphere particles evoke northern lights.
Source of the northern lights is not simple. Therefore it can be more pleasant to read old beliefs and stories about how fire foxes' tales emerge northern lights.
Source of information:
Kari Kaila, Revontulet - Kansankäsityksistä tutkimukseen
Aurora Borealis by Virtual Finland