Thursday 26 May 2011

St. Elmo’s Fire…

I have been living under a misapprehension for years that St. Elmo’s fire was another name for the Northern Lights. It is in fact the name given to an electrical weather phenomenon similar to ball lighting.

To look at, St. Elmo’s fire are balls often of a blue or violet hue centred on an object. They appear spherical and can glow like fire. Occasionally a hissing or crackling sound can be heard, not unlike plasma balls.

There are many recorded incidences of St. Elmo’s Fire dating back to ancient Greece and the phenomenon has been frequently alluded to in literature, to create suspense and mystery, to signal divine intervention and omens, and on occasion to spark romance.

The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe capitalises on literature’s hidden meanings of St. Elmo’s fire: “This light, lady […] has appeared to-night as you see it, on the point of my lance ever since I have been on watch”.

And here was me thinking it was just an innocent ball of lightning.

Elloise Hopkins.

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