MARQUETTE, Mich. (WJMN) – Sometimes in the night sky in the far northern or southern latitudes, you can look up in the sky and see an incredible light show.
The Northern Lights, or the Aurora Borealis, is a natural phenomenon where solar winds travel from the sun to the earth and collide with particles in our atmosphere which created lights in the sky. When you see these lights dancing in the night sky, it’s hard not to think about how people through history explained this phenomenon.
“The interesting thing about Aurora is that when you look bad centuries ago before we knew what the phenomenon was from a scientific perspective, people around the world had theories about what was happening in the skies,” said Melissa Kaelin, the founder of the Facebook group Michigan Aurora Chasers.
A myth that originates in North America and in parts of Canada is given to us by the Inuit tribes.
“And one of my favorites is that these are the torches of the spirits as they lead our loved ones to heaven,” said Kaelin. “And so, a lot of people make that connection with the Northern Lights, ‘Oh what is this mysterious thing in the sky? It looks so mystical and magical. I bet it has something to do with heaven or the afterlife, or, you know, spirits when they depart from earth.”
Legends and mythology behind the lights are present all over the world. Kaelin told us a few of these. She told us in Japan they associate the lights with fertility and prosperity. In Scotland they are called the Merry Dancers. Norse mythology believed they were female warriors in battle and in Finland they believed they were fire foxes casting fire into the sky.
“In Finland, they call them the revontulet, which means fox fires,” said Kaelin. “And in Finland they believed they were these arctic fire foxes that come out in the winter and as they race around at night, through the snow, when their tail hits the snow, it shoots up this fiery light into the sky.”
Keeping some of these myths in mind, maybe they can aid you in your journey to find the Northern Lights yourself.
“In Greek and Roman Mythology, the Northern Lights, you know, also known as the Aurora is considered the Goddess of the Dawn,” said Kaelin. “Aurora is Latin for the word dawn. The borealis portion comes from the god of the north wind. So you have borealis which means north, and aurora which means dawn, and so the goddess of the dawn is meant to pull the chariot of the sun god in to the sky in the morning. I like to think about that because a lot of times, the northern lights, people will go out searching for them as soon as darkness hits, right after sunset. But, very often, the Northern lights seem to come instead when everyone is fast asleep at 3 o’clock in the morning or 4 o’clock in the morning. So, I think there must be something to that for centuries, people have been talking about the Aurora as the dawn and that maybe that’s when she most frequently appears.”
If you are interested in meeting Melissa Kaelin for a book
On Saturday, March 18th, Melissa Kaelin will be a part of a Northern Lights event including an Aurora paint class and Kaelin will explain more about mythology and hold a book signing. This will be at The Katydid located in Petoskey, Michigan. If you are interested in this downstate event, you can find the link to the registration here. If you are interested in finding her book, you can find it here.
An event coming up in the Upper Peninsula is the 2023 Upper Peninsula Dark Sky Festival. To learn more about this event, you can find the link here.
If you are interested in joining the Michigan Aurora Chasers Facebook page, you can find that here.