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north lights inuksuk

“Aurora borealis” and “Aurora australis”, the magical dancing lights seen above the magnetic poles of the northern and southern hemispheres, are actually collisions between charged particles from the sun that enter the earth’s atmosphere. The Canadian northern lights, “Aurora borealis”, can be best seen in the northwestern parts of Canada, specially the Yukon, Nunavut, and Northwest territories. Although the Aurora Borealis is always present at the northern pole, we can’t always see them because of daylight hours getting in the way during the summer months at such extreme latitudes. Therefore the best time to try and see this beautiful phenomenon is anytime between late August to early April when the  hours of darkness are longer. Good periods to see the lights are between late September and late March; statistically there are more Aurora display in proximity of the two equinoxes, that is around late September and late March. 

“Aurora borealis” (or the northern lights), are named after the Roman goddess of dawn, Aurora, and the Greek name for the north wind, Boreas, by Pierre Gassendi in 1621. In ancient Roman mythology, Aurora is the goddess of the dawn, renewing herself every morning to fly across the sky, announcing the arrival of the sun. Aurora Borealis displays appear in many colours although pale green and pink are the most common. Shades of red, yellow, green, blue, and violet have also been reported. The lights appear in many forms from patches or scattered clouds of light to streamers, arcs, rippling curtains or shooting rays that light up the sky with an eerie glow.

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norther nlights myths

 

Many cultures have myths and legends about the Auroras: In Roman myths, Aurora was the goddess of the dawn. In medieval times, the occurrences of auroral displays were seen as harbingers of war or famine. The Maori of New Zealand shared a belief with many northern people of Europe and North America that the lights were reflections from torches or campfires. The Menominee Indians of Wisconsin believed that the lights indicated the location of manabai'wok (giants) who were the spirits of great hunters and fishermen. The Eskimos who lived on the lower Yukon River  believed that the lights were the spirits of the animals they hunted: the seals, salmon, deer and beluga whales. The east Greenland Eskimos thought that the northern lights were the spirits of children who died at birth: the dancing of the children round and round caused the continually moving streamers and draperies of the aurora. Other aboriginal peoples believed that the lights were the spirits of their people.

 

One story regarding the Northern lights  is reported by the explorer Ernest W. Hawkes in his book, The Labrador Eskimo:

 

The ends of the land and sea are bounded by an immense abyss,

 over which a narrow and dangerous pathway leads to the heavenly regions. 

The sky is a great dome of hard material arched over the Earth. 

There is a hole in it through which the spirits pass to the true heavens. 

Only the spirits of those who have died a voluntary or violent death, and the Raven, have been over this pathway. 

The spirits who live there light torches to guide the feet of new arrivals. 

This is the light of the aurora.

 They can be seen there feasting and playing football with a walrus skull.

The whistling crackling noise which sometimes accompanies the aurora is the voices of these spirits trying to communicate with the people of the Earth. 

They should always be answered in a whispering voice. 

Youths dance to the aurora. 

The heavenly spirits are called selamiut, "sky-dwellers," those who live in the sky.

 

 

Resources: 

http://www.northernlightscentre.ca/northernlights.html

http://www.aboriginaladventurescanada.com/aurora.html

http://www.natalia-robba.com/myblog/travel/the-aurora-borealis-the-northern-lights-everything-you-need-to-know/

http://www.naturetoursyukon.com/travel-yukon-alaska/northern-lights-aurora-borealis-yukon

http://www.polarbearsinternational.org/media/images/northern-lights-art 

http://ronwassink.blogspot.ca/2012/09/the-northern-lights-of-rankin-inlet.html

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