The Northern Circle: The Place Where You go to Listen



“The Place Where You Go to Listen” is a quiet relaxing room in the Natural History of Alaska Museum. It features the “sound” and lights are projected on the wall, of the current aurora borealis. There are plenty of native groups that feature different myths.

Some stories feature spirits in the sky. Some of these spirits are visiting from beyond are either long passed elders or deceased children. Others feature dead animals that are kicking around human skulls in the sky because of one reason or another depending on which culture the story comes from.

Other stories are centered around the idea of the Northern Lights being evil or omens. There are some cultures that consider it an ill omen when the lights are in the sky, and even act quietly and say that people will contract illness or death if they disrespect the lights. Another consideration is that the lights are an omen of war; the spirits of their fallen enemies supposedly are coming back to haunt them and encourage their fellow man.

My favorite are the fire stories. There is one group whose creator god reclused to the north of the North after it was finished and lights a fire to show his people that he remembers them. Another fire story is the story of the strong dwarf-like characters that live in the North that light fires to cook and scare off others. My favorite story is from Finland. Their North Lights are called revontalet which translates loosely to “fox fires”. The basis of the story is that a magic fox swept it’s tail across the snow and when it flug the snow into the sky it became the fire in the sky.

All of these routes interest me, but so far I’ve only found summaries of the stories but not actual written tales. I’m hoping to spend time in the Rasmuson Library Alaska section and possibly find recorded oral traditions.


4 thoughts on “The Northern Circle: The Place Where You go to Listen

  1. I think that it is interesting that the Northern Lights are usually portrayed as a bad omen. Have you found any stories where they are portrayed as a more guiding figure?


    • My favorite stories where the Northern Lights is treated as a good figure are within the fire portion of the blog post. Both the fix from Finland and the semi-universal creator/dwarf in the north story feature good figure using the lights as a sign.


  2. I really enjoy reading stories and tales about the Northern Lights. I think my favorite movie having to do with the Northern Lights is Brother Bear how the Northern lights are who tell those of their spirit animal and how they accept people into their world when they die but they turn into their spirit animal and sometimes are able guide their siblings with problems they are having. Some of my favorite memories in Alaska have to do with the Northern Lights. On Christmas Eve a couple years ago my brothers and I got some new sleds so we went sledding around 11 at night. We had to stop for a bit and catch our breath. I looked at the ground and was wondering why it was so bright because the moon was not out at that time and when I lift my head and look at the sky I was mesmerized. The Northern Lights were awake, dancing across the sky and you could hear them singing as well. It was an incredible sight to see.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That is such a cool story! Thank you for sharing. The northern lights were one of the reasons I decided to stay in Alaska for college. Obviously not at the top of the list, but it was decidedly a pro to have something in the dead of winter that I knew I could look up and make me happy.


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