Deep inside the Arctic Circle lies not only the homeland of a rather plump man who adorns a red suit and impressive white beard around this time of year, but also one of nature's most beautiful phenomenons – the aurora borealis, or Northern Lights.
The magical display, caused by particles from the sun reacting with the atmosphere above the North Pole, illuminates the sky with stunning curtains of colour dancing over the frozen landscape.
But just as magical as the light show itself is the mythology that surrounds the event. Even the name 'aurora borealis' is steeped in legend: Aurora, the Roman goddess of dawn was said to fly across the sky every morning to announce the arrival of the sun, and Boreas is the Greek name for the north wind.
The indigenous people of the North (the Sami) have a legend which believes that the aurorae are the trapped spirits of women who passed away before they had children, their fate being to dance in the blackness of the night until the end of time. Whilst certain tribes saw the lights as spirits of enemies killed in battle coming back to haunt them, others saw them as the spirits of children yet to be born. In Scandinavia, fisherman believed the cause was sunlight reflecting off schools of fish, whilst foxes made of fire, flicking their flaming tails in Lapland was the cause according to Finnish folklore.
So, over time, tales of folklore and legend have been associated with this natural wonder, being both feared and celebrated in equal measure across the land. The few stories cited here, and many more for that matter, can be read about in greater depth at these sources: