The ethereal shimmering lights of the aurora borealis have captivated the imagination of humans living in the northern latitudes for eons. The medieval Norse thought that the northern lights were a vast bridge of fire, built by their Gods, spanning to heaven. The nomadic tribal members of the Cree First Nation, living on the great plains of Manitoba, thought the northern lights were the spirits of their dead who were trying to communicate with them. In fact, their word for the northern lights was “Wawastew” (phonetically spelled) which roughly translates as the “dance of the spirits.”
The Spirits of Ancestors
Almost all First Nations who came in contact with the northern lights vied them as sacred. The various tribes that shared the Algonquian family language viewed the aurora as some sort of spirits, but the details varied between tribes. In most cases, they were viewed as the spirits of family members or of their ancestors. However, in some cases, these spirits were viewed as Gods or as evil or as evil spirits that might cast harm unless they were revered. Some ancient peoples thought the northern lights were fire torches that lighted the way to the heavens. The ancient people of Estonia thought the lights were horse-drawn carriages transporting people to the afterlife for a celestial wedding.
The spirituality and belief systems associated with the aurora borealis has become closely tied to a movement called the Rainbow Prophecy. This is a coalition of members from related tribes that are responsible for retaining the knowledge of the old spiritual rituals, customs, and beliefs. The idea is that there will come a time when the planet has become so scorched, and society has become so deteriorated, that this ancient spiritual knowledge will be needed to restore our planet. The Rainbow Prophecy stresses love, wisdom, harmony, and balance.
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If you ask a modern scientist, “What are the northern lights,” you’ll probably get a rather technical answer that goes something like this. The northern lights are electrically charged gaseous particles that have traveled from the sun and interact with the Earth’s atmosphere. The colors displayed on any particular night will largely depend on the type of gas and how high in the atmosphere the particles are interacting. The most common colors are yellowish-green and orangy pink but every color in the rainbow is possible, “Rainbow fog” or “rainbow mist” might be a good description.
For most people, the science behind the aurora is not what’s most important. When you see a full aurora borealis display for the first time, it is a mesmerizing experience. For many, it is life-altering. You’ll feel like the heavens have opened up and the deepest mysteries of the universe are about to be revealed. It is not uncommon for people to be so moved at the spectacular sight; they can’t possibly take their eyes off it even if they try. They just stand there frozen, starring up, completely awe-struck, with their mouth gaping. It’s truly so stunning that no mortal words can adequately describe it!
Best Places to Visit Northern Lights
Many people feel an instant spiritual connection to the northern lights. If you are seeking spiritual enlightenment, planning a trip to experience the aurora borealis, up close and personal, is a good avenue by which to accomplish this. Of course, the northern lights are a major tourist draw in the best geographic regions to view them. Iceland, for example, is famous for their dazzling aurora displays against their volcanic landscape. One of the most pleasurable ways to view the northern lights is from an Icelandic hot spring, heated by geothermal activity from deep within the Earth. The island nation of Iceland itself is part of the volcanic mid-Atlantic Ridge, most of which is submerged. The volcanic activity of Iceland may also awaken your spiritual psyche. The more north your Icelandic visit, the better chance you’ll have of seeing a spectacular aurora borealis show. Akureyri and the Westfjords are recommended options.
Another popular place to view the northern lights is Norway. The majestic Norwegian fjords and the quaint fishing villages that dot the landscape provide the perfect backdrop with which to view the aurora borealis. Again, try to stay as far north as possible to increase your chance of a really good show. The towns of Tromsø and Alta will give you the best chance but Bodø and the Lofoten Islands are also popular for aurora borealis viewing. Just keep in mind that a trip to Norway tends to be more expensive than a trip to Iceland. If you want to explore other options, the countries of Finland, Sweden, and Greenland are also popular international destinations to experience the northern lights.
If you live in the United States, one of the most convenient, reliable, and least expensive places to see the northern lights is Fairbanks Alaska. You can easily get a domestic flight to the Anchorage International Airport with a connecting flight to the Fairbanks International Airport from almost anywhere in the United States. You won’t need a passport and you won’t need to go through customs. Many lodges near Fairbanks offer tours of the northern lights, including aurora borealis tours by plane or by dog sled. If you’re allergic to cold weather, some lodges offer heated indoor viewing areas with strategically placed large viewing windows and comfortable reclining chairs. There are also places with natural outdoor hot springs so you can stay steamy warm and toasty while you’re taking in the cosmic sky.
If you want to escape the light pollution of Fairbanks entirely, you could take a side trip to Denali National Park, southwest of Fairbanks. This national treasure is named after the tallest mountain in North America and offers six million acres of serene natural beauty. You can rent a car and drive from Fairbanks to Denali National Park. There is one long road that traverses the park and you can stop in at the visitor’s center to get your bearings. Keep in mind, however, that this is a true wilderness area and it’s home to grizzly bears, black bears, brown bears, wolves, coyotes, and many other predators. If you do not feel comfortable on your own in this type of environment, there are many group tours with a local guide available.
The more remote the place you find to view the northern lights, the more you’ll experience them like the ancient peoples of the world experienced them. Viewing them in a completely dark and natural landscape, without the glow of artificial city lights, will give you a better connection to the mystic spiritual experience that our ancestors felt. Open your mind and you may be pleasantly surprised by the spiritual awakening you experience. You may even feel a connection to the spirits of your ancestors or find an angel to communicate with. Regardless, you will be treated to the greatest light show on Earth!