Icelandic Superstitions: The Northern Lights - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Icelandic Superstitions: The Northern Lights

Icelandic Superstitions: The Northern Lights

Published May 21, 2019

Andie Fontaine
Photos by
Art Bicnick

Every culture everywhere has superstitions, and Iceland is no exception. There are numerous superstitions in this country; some connected to the hidden people, others far more recent.

As could probably be expected, there are also superstitions regarding the northern lights. The earliest people to see the northern lights, long before the nature of charged solar particles and Earth’s magnetic field were discovered, ascribed all kinds of explanations to them. Their eerie, otherworldly glow also inspired a fair share of superstition, and these existed amongst Icelanders, as they have for all Arctic peoples.

One Icelandic superstition about the northern lights has it that when the auroras display a lot of movement and flash different colours, one can expect stormy weather soon; conversely, relatively still northern lights forecast calm weather. Another weather portent is that northern lights appearing later in the year than usual is a sign that snowfall will soon arrive.

Not all Icelandic superstitions about the auroras are connected to weather, though. For example, red northern lights are an ill omen, heralding a time of conflict. The most bizarre superstition of all has it that if a pregnant woman looks at the northern lights, her child will be born with shifty eyes, or will be cross-eyed.

Like many superstitions, a lot of these are difficult, at best, to measure, and to our knowledge no one has researched connections between the northern lights and the weather that follows. It is probably safe to say that watching the northern lights is safe for everyone—including pregnant people.

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