‘Stare at her but don’t whistle’: Arctic myths and legends about aurora borealis

Norhtern Light Chase_Northern Norway Travel

While science has nowadays revealed the truth behind the Northern Lights, this dazzling natural light show was not always interpreted in the same way by Arctic’s northernmost inhabitants. Numerous myths, riddles and legends were created as explanations for the many mysteries of Aurora. These stories have been passed down through generations and remain part of the rich culture here in Northern Norway!

Aurora Myths and Legends from Northern Norway

Across Scandinavia, the Vikings thought that the lights were the spears, armor and helmets of the brave warrior women known as the Valkyries. They usually rode on horseback, leading fallen soldiers to their final resting place at Valhalla. 

The Sami indigenous peoples of Northern Norway believed that the lights in the sky were the souls of the dead and that they had magical effects. Sami shaman drums often had symbols that depicted these lights. When the Aurora blazed in the sky reindeer herders had to be silent and careful and stay inside, while the children were told to quiet down. It was believed that you should not whistle when the northern lights were high, lest they swoop to earth and carry you up to the infinite sky!


Myths and Legends from the Circumpolar North

Every culture has its own unique folklore around the Northern Lights, its own ways to interpret this strange and captivating phenomenon.


  • Inuit believed that the Northern Lights were spirits of dead playing a game of “ball” with a walrus skull. The Inuit of Nunivak Island in the Bering Sea flipped its take on this story believing that Aurora was a walrus spirit playing with a human skull.
  • The Inuit of Greenland thought that the lights were dancing spirits of children who had passed away at birth.
  • For Wisconsin’s Fox Native Americans, the Aurora gave them a sense of foreboding -representing their slain enemies coming for revenge.
  • When they witnessed the lights, the Inupiat of Alaska believed that the lights were the spirits of the wild animals they had recently hunted, namely beluga whales, seals, salmon and deer.
  • In Finland, a magical fox was thought to have created the Aurora, running across the Arctic landscape. The fox sweeps its tail across the snow sending a trail of sparks up into pine forests and light up the night sky. Because of this myth, the Finns still call the Northern Lights “revontulet”, which literally means “fox fires”!

Make up your own Arctic Story with Northern Norway Travel

The spiritual vibes of Arctic mythology are alive and well in Northern Norway, embracing us as we take guide you through one of our tours. Join us for an unforgettable adventure under the luminescent Arctic sky, and be the star in your own Aurora story in the heart of a wild polar landscape. The fire will be kept burning, hot drinks and reindeer hides will keep you warm, and the green dancing lady will spark your imagination. And as we warned you, stare at her but…do not whistle!