Saturday, 23 May 2015

Foxy Folklore of the Northern Lights!

I've sketched a couple of fertility-related characters - a sheela na gig birthing a tree, and a green man dancing, and I want to combine them in a big painting with other supporting characters. Meanwhile, I've also discovered some beautiful folklores around the phenomenon of the northern lights. Having lived in Norway for nearly four years, I am yet to catch a glimpse of the emerald inferno in the sky (except for a few little shimmery puffs!) - so I'm getting impatient and will just have to ignite some of my own with paint! From I found these lovely tales (fox tails??):

  • Finland - the Finnish name for aurora borealis (the northern lights) is 'revontulet', which translates as 'fox fires'. How beautiful is that... The translation in itself just sparks the imagination into a foxy frenzy! The name derives from an ancient Finnish myth which suggested the lights were caused by a magical fox sweeping his tail across the snow so it flew into the sky. states there are variations on this theme - one where an arctic fox runs far in the north and his fur touches the mountains, causing sparks to leap into the sky. Another says the moonlight reflects off the snowflakes the fox has swept into the sky. Such beautiful imagery - just begging to be painted, and have songs written about!
  • Other cultures have ideas of the lights being departed spirits, departed spirits playing football with a walrus skull, departed walrus spirits playing football with a human skull... great fires lit by gods, battling warriors, dancing maids... 
  • Some have reported hearing a whistling, crackling noise accompanying the aurora. I love the idea of the lights being musical! It reminds me of the idea of 'the music of the spheres' - the philosophical concept that the movement of celestial bodies could be translated as a kind of music. The following is a quote from Ernest W. Hawkes' book, The Labrador Eskimo:

The whistling crackling noise which sometimes accompanies the
aurora is the voices of (departed) 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”.

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