Beliefs on indigenous people

The Makah Indians believed that the northern lights were fires lit by dwarfs. In contrast, the Mandan Indians saw the northern lights as fires on which the great shamans and soldiers from the northern lands were slowly cooking their dead enemies in huge pots.

The Menomini Indians believed that a benevolent giant was catching fish in the northern sea, using a fire. On the coast of the Pacific Ocean, in Siberia, and in Russian and Finnish Lapland, there is a belief that the northern lights are associated with violent death in battle, which is continuing in the sky.

The Chuvas tribe had a god named Suratan-Tura, which also meant the northern lights. This god helped women to give birth. The northern lights were especially a sign of giving birth to a son. However, the northern lights regarded as gods is not a very
common feature among different cultures.

The spirits of the Scots were waging continuous war, which was both visible and audible as the occurrence of "Fir chlis" (northern lights). In Scandinavia, the Vikings had a rich collection of legends, some associated with the beautiful goddess Freja. The goddess riding on horseback was seen by mortals as the glow of the northern lights.

Written for Virtual Finland by Esa Turunen Ph.D., Jyrki Manninen Ph.D. and Professor Tauno Turunen

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