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Spectator Sport

Spectator Sport

Some say the shimmering Northern Lights dance through the sky. The Inuit say they play ball.
By Tim Edwards
Mar 15
From the March 2016 Issue

In most places, you’ll see the Inuktitut term aqsarniit defined as Northern Lights—but that’s just what it refers to, not a translation of the term itself.

Aqsarniit roughly translates to “soccer trails” though strictly speaking, the root aqsaq means “play ball.” 

The Inuit used to play a game that resembled soccer, kicking around balls made of stuffed caribou hide. As legend goes, the souls of the dead played it too, chasing a frozen, chattering walrus head through the sky, leaving trails of light in their wake: The Northern Lights.