The Bucket List: #1 The Aurora Borealis


The Aurora Borealis. The Great Wall of China. The Pyramids of Egypt.

These Wonders of the World remain at the top of my bucket list. I am not alone in this desire either, as thousands of travelers flock to Nordic Europe to gaze in awe of the Northern Lights. Imagine a clear arctic sky bursting into streaming flames of green, pink, and purple. For many years, I have been fascinated with this celestial phenomenon and one day I will go see it.

The Aurora Borealis can be as elusive as it is breath-taking. From the research that I have done, there are better times of the year and locations to take in this natural wonder. As with any nighttime sky viewing, light pollution is a big deterrent to seeing a vibrant and vivid light show. The further away that one can get from any major light sources – cities – the more enjoyable they will expect the viewing experience to be.

In my imagination, a very active one, I can picture myself deep in an arctic forest, fighting the cold on a night lit only by the glare of the moon on freshly-powdered snow. My watch nears midnight, as the best time to view the light spectacular is between 9 PM – 1 AM, when the sky begins to glow. It softly begins to morph from a deep, pristine black to an orb of green. This green spreads across the sky with purple and pink, as the perfect mixture of light and gas springs forth nature’s greatest light show.

I am very intrigued by the legend and myth surrounding the folklore of the lights. The way that man often interprets and tries to make sense of the things unknown. For as many various groups that observe an unexplainable phenomenon, there will probably be that many stories offering an explanation. So, I looked into a bit of the history of they ancient legends and this is what I found.

When the vikings were exploring and conquering the regions of modern day Finland, Norway, and Sweden, these Northern Lights were probably frightening to a pre-scientific and superstitious mind. In Finnish, the name for the aurora borealis is “Revontulet”, which literally translated means “Fox Fires.” The name comes from an ancient Finnish myth, a beast fable, in which the lights were caused by a magical fox sweeping his tail across the snow spraying it up into the sky. In Norwegian folklore, the lights were the spirits of old maids dancing in the sky and waving — in Scotland, which had an influx of Viking settlers, the lights are sometimes called “the merry dancers.”

Perhaps the loveliest of the beliefs comes from the Algonquin Indians. They believed that Nanahbozho the Creator, after he finished creating the earth, travelled to the far north, where he still builds great fires which reflect southward, to remind those he created of his lasting love.

The science behind the lights is even more fascinating, as modern science now allows us to know the lights origins.

I hope that my excitement for seeing the Aurora Borealis has given you some information and inspiration to also see this wonder first-hand. Maybe I will see you on a dark arctic sky with those beaming green streaks high over our heads!