top of page

Aurora Borealis and the Unity Dance of May 10th, 2024

Friday, I posted some photos on Instagram celebrating the impending Unity Dance that I participated in this past weekend, and here’s how it began:

We came out of the Sweat Lodge after sunset Friday, and after filling our bellies with water for the weekend of fasting to come, were waiting in the Arbor for the chief to start the indigenous-style Dancing. Suddenly someone saw a red pillar of light, then someone said "northern lights", so I jumped up from where I was lying under the arbor roof: we were out in the country with rather dark skies, with a full 360 degree view (minus trees). Sure enough, there  was an obvious, wide streak of red shooting up from the eastern horizon, with a swath of green adjacent that did not extend as far. There were thinner white streaks that extended past the zenith. Those only lasted 5 or 10 seconds sometimes but were the brightest. The East had a subdued, ethereal blue of some color whose name I know not, and which remained steady throughout. We began the Dance shortly after the light show began, and danced for maybe an hour, while, on whole, the lights gradually shifted west, passing the  lowering crescent Moon. At some point, the white light appeared to rise steadily from the South, and remained there for dozens of minutes. The white streaks at mid and high altitudes painted themselves in various directions, and their shapes varied. When I thought the aurora borealis was done, after gradually diminishing, another bright white streak would appear high above for a few seconds. This happened several times. The whole thing was finished around the time the Moon set, just as the opening Dance concluded for the night.

It really felt like a special occurrence, perfectly aligned with the sacrament, blessing the difficult weekend of dancing to come, an auspicious sign from the heavens. It is things like this that make astronomy/astrology one of humanity’s greatest hobbies, crafts, and sciences.

Friday's event was the first extreme geomagnetic storm since 2003.

An aurora this vast and strong results from a Coronal Mass Ejection, or CME, which is a large expulsion of plasma and magnetic field from the sun's atmosphere — the corona (  It’s fitting that, just a month prior, many of us were able to witness the corona itself during the total solar eclipse. Just imagine a piece of that popping off and flying through space towards earth. This is different from solar flares, which are bursts of electromagnetic radiation (light), from the sun’s surface, that travel at the speed of light, reaching Earth in 8 minutes. (Although flares can cause CMEs). Auroras are caused by these charged particles (mostly free electrons and protons) interacting with the upper atmosphere.

CMEs travel much slower than flares, taking many hours, or even over a day, to arrive here. The reason the May 10th auroras were so powerful is that since CMEs travel at different speeds, multiple eruptions arrived at Earth simultaneously, a perfect storm the kind of storm that blesses us with grace. Many of the dancers, including myself, last weekend expressed that this year it seemed gentler. No doubt this was partially due to the benign temperatures and partial clouds. But as an astrologer I take signs from the heavens personally, (understanding the subjective nature of it all…), and therefore credit the wonderful weekend shared by the dancers, in part, to the perfectly-timed Aurora Borealis.

As best I can tell, the northern lights began for us at the Unity Dance grounds at about 10:20 pm, shortly before one of our Elders took this photo at the top of this post, at 10:25 pm.

Here’s the astrology chart:

An adventurous Sag rising, with Persephone and Pallas, define a boyish-feminine character (femme-boi?). As the ~hour of Dancing passed, Persephone rose proper, highlighting the themes of lost childhood — something we can regain with arduous spiritual activity. Pallas is the master weaver, knitting our Dance as each Dancer threads their own spirit needle, from their part of the arbor, to the tree at the center, and back again, over and over, mixing energies and strengthening the web. Very notable is the waxing crescent Moon leaving Gemini and entering Cancer. When a planet crosses a cusp, it is like a wardrobe change — Luna changed her airy cape out for a crab shell — as the Dancers settled into the arbor for the weekend, completely protected from the world for a couple of days. In fact, if you had to leave the arbor at any point, for example to use the bathroom, you were required to wear a white sheet over your head and body to protect you from the world, and then were saged thoroughly upon re-entry into the arbor. Normally, I dislike anything that wreaks of  paranoia; however, a sacred ceremony is different. In this kind of activity, protection is wonderful and special. There is, as always, a thousand things we could say about this chart, but I’ll leave it at that, except to say the Sagittarius is a mutable fire sign, which is fitting for the shifting light show we received from an escaped piece of the Sun.

As someone who works with the skies professionally, both in teaching astronomy and as an astrologer, this was a momentous event — my first northern lights. If you didn’t get to see them, I hope that someday you do. There is an app that gives alerts about potential aurora, called “Aurora” that I just downloaded, since I now would like to see every event that I can. Perhaps we’ll get to see the next one together, though separately, just as the Dancers weave their web.

Noah Frere, your astronomologer

31 views0 comments


bottom of page