Skip to main content

Find out more about the current wildfire and wildfire-related concerns in the NWT.

Home Story Legends of the Aurora

Legends of the Aurora

Whatever you do, don’t whistle at the Aurora.

When he was just a child, growing up on the vast and virtually untouched Mackenzie Delta in the NWT, Gerry Kisoun’s parents warned him not to play with the swirling lights overhead. And especially don’t whistle at them. Otherwise the lights would swoop down, cut off your head and play football with it.

“We remembered that as small children and into our teenage years,” says Kisoun, who is a guide with Tundra North  Tours and an Elder of Inuvialuit and Gwich’in descent. “The Aurora would just be bouncing around. We’d whistle and it would start to come down and we’d run home.”

Above they swirl like magical ribbons of colour from another world. A tapestry of purples, greens and reds shimmering across the dark sky — the spectacular Northern Lights. Looking up at these electric giants is like staring into a dream. It’s easy to see stories, even whole worlds in their vibrant dance. Indigenous peoples have been inspired by this cosmic play for thousands of years.

The Dene of the NWT place the origins of the Aurora in a fire built by the world’s creator. It’s believed they remain in the sky as a reminder that the creator is still watching over us. Cree legends say the Aurora are the spirits of the dead who remain in the sky, trying to communicate with their loved ones here on Earth. Inuvialuit legends, like those Kisoun grew up hearing, also say the lights are the shades of those once living, playing soccer with a walrus skull — or a human head.

Some say the spirit you see dancing in the Aurora is someone you’ve lost. A close family member or friend who’s passed on. Joe Bailey, a lifelong Northerner and operator of North Star Adventures, says they’re sending a message back to Earth.

“I’m OK up here now. No need to be sad. Enjoy your life, do good and one day we are going to see each other again.”

He remembers standing under the Aurora with one traveller from the United States, telling her this legend he grew up hearing.

“She just started crying because she was supposed to make the trip with her best friend who passed away from breast cancer,” recalls Bailey. “She said, ‘Joe, that’s exactly what I felt.’”

Scientifically speaking, the Aurora Borealis are electronically-charged particles that flare up in colour when they hit the Earth’s atmosphere. But that scientific definition is lacking in the majesty. Born in solar storms from the heart of the sun, Aurora explode towards Earth at a speed of up to three million kilometres per hour. They bounce across the skies, dancing in an incandescent display of dynamic hues.

In the Northwest Territories, the Aurora are visible for up to 240 nights per year. That’s nearly every single night of the late summer, autumn, winter and early spring. Why so frequent here? Because the Northwest Territories enjoys crystal-clear skies, ultra-low humidity and is perfectly situated beneath the band of maximal Auroral activity — what astronomers call the Auroral Oval.

It’s what brings travellers from all over the world to see these Northern Lights. Gerry Kisoun remembers one Australian couple he toured around the Delta a few years ago. Despite the minus-40 degree weather, they couldn’t get enough of the lightshow overhead. The couple laid down in the snow for half an hour just to watch the Aurora skipping and jumping.

“We’ll warm up tomorrow,” they told him. That’s the real magic of the Aurora.

As a teenager travelling across the Delta with his dog team, Kisoun would often see the lights. It was just something they grew up with, he says. But that didn’t mean they ever became commonplace. Even today, when he looks up, he feels something spiritual. Something true.

“I just think, it’s a good day to be alive.”

Inspired by the magic of the Aurora? Learn more about the best seasons to visit, the cultural importance of the Aurora, and available Northern Lights hunting tours. There is always another unforgettable experience to have under the best Northern Lights in the world.

Being the home of the best Northern Lights in the world is a pretty big claim, but we’ve got the facts to prove it. Before you come to see for yourself, read these 7 reasons why the NWT has the world’s best Aurora.

DISCOVER A MOMENT THAT LASTS A LIFETIME. Aylmer Lake Lodge is located in Rocknest Bay, which is on the Barren......

Our professional tour guides will take you on amazing Aurora viewing tours, city tours, ice road tours and much more.......

Tundra North Travel is an Inuit company based in Inuvik, Northwest Territories that was established with the dream of being......

Your Dene Connection in Yellowknife. B. Dene Adventures is a Traditional Dene Culture Camp business which teaches the Dene way......

Best Northern Road Trip! Now you can drive all the way to the Arctic ocean linking Canada from coast to......

Offering four-hour Aurora tours including the ice road and City of Yellowknife. Pick-up and drop-off available. Small groups. Service in......

With over 30 years of living in Yellowknife, we offer a variety of tourism experiences for our guests. We are......

Book an adventure with us at Trail Blazer Tours for an unforgettable experience! Your adventure with us will create lasting......

If are looking for a spectacular weekend retreat nestled in the serenity of the Mackenzie Mountains at Ten Stone Mountain Lodge. North-Wright......

100% Indigenous owned!  We are the world’s first Aurora Hunting tour company, we know Aurora. Learn about Aurora, why Yellowknife is the......

Join us on an Aurora hunting adventure. Our skilled tour guides know all the best places around Yellowknife to capture......

Come shop and experience the true beauty of Canadian diamonds. We feature and sell a variety of loose diamonds, mined, cut, and polished all here in the Northwest Territories. ...

Arctic Tours Canada is a Yellowknife based tour operating company that offer Aurora Hunting and Viewing tours, Yellowknife sightseeing tours,......

We are a local Aboriginal tour company based in Yellowknife, the capital of the Northwest Territories, Canada. Our focus is on......

“Like No Other Place On Earth” We are the only fly-in lodge located a 50 minute float plane flight from......

We offer winter clothing rentals. Our winter clothing will keep you warm and comfortable for your outdoor fun – ask us......

Northern and Remote Wilderness Adventures Ltd. (NARWAL) is a small, friendly, majority Aboriginal owned and operated family business. Our reputation......

Peterson’s Point Lake Lodge provides you access to known waters teeming with monster lake trout. Their current record is a......

Aurora Village – A Class of Its Own Aurora Village is a unique Aurora-viewing facility situated 25 minutes from downtown......

We operate a fully equipped luxury coach and offer City Tours, Aurora Tours and tours to the Nahanni National Park Reserve......

Come experience world-class Aurora Borealis viewing in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada. We are the only guides in the Northwest Territories......

Join us for an unforgettable experience on the mighty Mackenzie River. Day trips are available for a full or half......

Create your own story. We offer a variety of services to make your Sahtu adventure a reality! We offer everything from......

Raven Tours is a tour operator in Yellowknife, NT, Canada. We offer Aurora Viewing, Snowshoeing, and Hiking Tours. We hope to......

Our goal is to provide unique customized services for high-end customers. We excel at making personalized tours. You can see......

World class dogsled tours! We are one of the largest professional sled dog kennels in Canada. Over 150 happy, healthy......

Great Slave Lake Tours offers winter and summer trips on Great Slave Lake, the ninth biggest lake in the world......

Welcoming and friendly with a rustic charm and all modern conveniences, Grey Goose Lodge immediately catches your eye as you......

Yellowknife Online produces Yellowknife specific articles and content for visitors, residents, and newcomers. Yellowknife Online has recently transferred that knowledge......

Aurora photography tours for groups of 25 or less, available in English, Mandarin and Cantonese. Our tours offer specialized knowledge......

Providing culturally based tours of Tuktoyaktuk with an opportunity to dip your toes in the Arctic Ocean! Ask us about......

Summer and winter packages on the Taltson River. Drive out by snowmobile from Fort Resolution or fly out from Fort......

We offer: Nature and wildlife viewing Snowmobile tours Fishing tours Boat tours Polar bear and muskox hunts. Contact us for......