|The Northern Lights, Churchill, Manitoba|
With Churchill situated on the edge of what’s known as the Auroral Oval, a grandstand view of the Aurora Borealis is ensured. Named for the Roman Goddess of Dawn and the Roman God of the north wind, the Northern Lights are a phenomenon of the northern polar region; its mystical rainbow of colours, caused by solar particles impacting the earth’s upper atmosphere, stretches for thousands of miles across the night sky.
From above, astronauts on space missions have an uncanny view of their brilliance. Like a luminous halo, the lights hover up to 2,000 miles above the earth’s magnetic poles.
Throughout centuries the northern lights have inspired wonder and often fear in native people. As with most mystical happenings, legends abound. The Point Barrow Eskimos were so intimidated by the weird appearance and disappearance of the lights that they thought of them as evil. Labrador Eskimos believe that the lights originate with torches used for guiding the dead to the Spirit World. Others have called the phenomenon ‘an omen of war’. Some say it is the dance of human or animal spirits. And yet others – the Mandan native people of North Dakota – say the lights are from the fires of medicine men boiling their enemies in pots. The Lakota Sioux have a more gentle explanation. The dancing lights, they say, are children of the future playing in the sky as they wait to be born.
Tours: Frontiers North Adventures, Winnipeg 800-663-9832, http://www.frontiersnorth.com/
Photo copyright Frontiers North Adventures
Posted by Anne Gordon on Sunday, 19th December, 2010