magic of firefox and other myths behind the phenomena



Northern lights is a mystical phoenomena that has been lighting up the northern skies as long as eyes have gazed them. For centuries we have feared and respected the phenomena. At first aurorae was explained with myths and beliefs. Nowadays we science to explain the phenomena in a different way. But as usual stories and myths give the more interesting explanation. Already inside Finland there are several different beliefs about the green curtain.

In South-Finland it is said that the north sails. An arc that slowly rises from the northern sky resembles a sailing boat that is heading towards you. Some thought that northern lights shine to the sky from sparkly harness of a rich mans reindeer. Other said that the mighty whale in the northern sea shines its scales and lights up the night sky. Sami word for northern lights is guovssahasat which is a bird called siberian jay. Vivid colours of the feathers resembles the multi-colour aurora and the quick movement is similar to the fast dance of the northern lights curtain.


The two typical colours of auroras, pale green and blood red have stimulated the imagination of the northern folk also outside Scandinavia. The pale green shine is linked to people who have already deceased. In Greenland the Inuit people imagined the flaming of aurorae (aksarnirq) is a play amongst the souls of dead children. Skottish version is a little happier. They are called the merry dancers. In northern Russia meaning is similar. Saluny translates to a playful fight amongst children. The reddish glow reflected in the minds of people a fight between dead soldiers and the giants. From this theme theres a set of variety amongst the northern folk. 

When science couldn’t explain the phenomena they were a supernatural, even a divine manifestation.
Enjoying the beauty of the auroras was hard if the first thought when seeing them was the destruction of our world. In South and Middle Europe where auroras were much more unusual than for us up here in the north they were devastating event that could not be reasoned. In some villages people would seek help from the nearest church.
Up in the north people respected the northern lights so that singing and whistling was considered dangerous during auroras. The beliefs of many folks had to with campfires and torches. Indians of Northern Canada thought that auroras had an impact on your health. It is said that there was a greater risk for heart attack during the dance of auroras. Inuits thought that they could go on a spirit journey in which they could receive information about treating illnesses. Sioux thought that northern lights were the souls of future generations. Indians living by the Yukon river in Alaska thought that the lights were dancing souls of reindeer, whales and salmons.


Firefox – every hunters dream

Northern lights were also a sign of good. Some Inuits deducted next days hunting fortune from auroras. Auroras could also reveal the whereabouts of your prey. Also in Scandinavia people foresaw the fishing catch for the upcoming days. In Sami beliefs northern lights had an ability to solve arguments. That’s why they were drawn in shaman drums.

Word Repo is an ancient word from North and East Finland. Fire fox (tulirepo in finnish) is a mythical animal that was in dreams of every hunter.  Catching one would mean reaching a some sort of life goal. Hunter who would catch one would becaume rich and famous amongst their tribe. According to folklore hair of the fox has a heatless light phenomena when touching an object. It is true because fox hair holds static charge and makes sparks when touching something in dry air. So the explanation of flaming auroras was seen caused by a fox when its body touches a tree or when the tail slides along the snowy surface of a fjell. 

Stories about the scream of firefox were terrifying. When firefox screamed, a ghostly whimper filled the skies. Old people said that firefox screams to the sheep so that they would start moving and reveal themselves. Sound of firefox has been so strange that when people heard it they were completely terrified.

What do you see in auroras?

Activity of northern lights increases and decreases during the night. A bright arc and fast dancing curtain is a jaw-dropping phenomena but the fastest dance happens after the biggest storm. When the biggest auroras have subsided and sky is filled with faint and fast pulses of auroras you know that the biggest storm has subsided and pulsating auroras will fill up the sky for the rest of the night.
Pulsating auroras are fast-pacing pulses that come and go much quicker than normal auroras. Pulsating auroras is caused by electricity wandering in our magnetic field. Pulsating auroras occur much higher in ionosphere than normal auroras.

Below you see a set of images taken by Antti Pietikäinen in fall of 2020. What figures do you see in the photos?