Sunday, November 24, 2013
The Pilot Newspaper: Opinion
Oh, dear. It looks like the world’s ending again. This time, it’s the Vikings who are telling us that the End of All Things is right around the corner. February, actually.
You may remember last year when the end was nigh, according to some scholars, if by “scholars” you mean “crackpots, grifters, and people desperate for some sort of headline.” The terminal date was supposed to be Dec. 21, 2012, because, according to these “experts,” the “Long Count” Mayan calendar ended on that date.
Now, it might have occurred to some people that maybe this was because some ancient Mayan calendar maker looked up from his carving and calculations and said, “Wait a minute. The market for calendars that go 2100 years into the future is probably a pretty small one. Enough’s enough,” after which he quit the calendar business, found a nice Mayan girl and settled down to a life of quiet farming, raising children, and cutting the living hearts out of virgins.
But that explanation wasn’t nearly as fun as predicting that the Earth was going to collide with a mysterious rogue planet, or that a massive solar flare was going to wipe us all out, or that an alignment of the planets was going to cause earthquakes and devastation on a massive scale.
As we all know (at least I hope we all do), 2012 came and went with the usual crop of fires, floods, earthquakes and other disasters, but the world in general didn’t end on Dec. 21. We all woke up on Dec. 22, sighed, and went back to work, just as we did back in 2000, when the Y2K bug failed to spell the end of civilization.
Now, however, a group called the Jorvik Viking Center in York, England, assures us that their reading of Viking poetry and prophecy indicates that Ragnarok, the final battle, will begin on Feb. 22, 2014. To announce this, on Nov. 15, the JVC had a fellow stand on a rooftop and blow the “Horn of Heimdall,” which starts the countdown until the end begins.
As end-of-the-world stories go, the Viking Apocalypse of Ragnarok is a doozy. Winter will cover the Earth for three years. The enormous Midgard Serpent, which has grown in size and malice over the years until it encircles the entire world, will uncoil itself, spew poison over lands and seas, and create tidal waves with its thrashing.
Hel, the Queen of the Underworld, will arrive with an army of undead, sailing in a ship made of the fingernails of dead men. (How such a vessel would be remotely seaworthy, especially with a continent-sized snake flailing around and roiling up the water, is not explained.)
Odin, Father and King of the Gods, will die fighting the wolf Fenrir, who’s still cranky because Odin had some Dwarves chain him up in the backyard. Odin’s son Vidar will avenge his father by ripping Fenrir apart with his bare hands. Fenrir’s children will eat the sun and the moon. Thor will die fighting the aforementioned Midgard Serpent.
To make a long and bloody story short, everybody in the Norse pantheon will kill everyone else, and the Fire Giants will burn Asgard, home of the gods, to the ground. Meanwhile, here on Earth, one prophecy foretells: “Brothers will fight and kill each other. Sisters’ children will defile kinship … an ax age, a sword age. Shields are riven. A wind age, a wolf age, before the world goes headlong. No man will have mercy on another.”
All in all, it’ll be pretty insane, although likely not as chaotic as a barbecue at Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s house.
All will not be lost, however. Two humans will survive, a man and a woman, huddled in the gargantuan roots of the World Tree Yggdrasil. They’ll come forth into a new dawn and … well, you can guess the rest.
Scary stuff. It’s important to remember, however, that our records of Viking songs, stories and poetry come to us from various sources, some of them contradictory to others, and all of them composed by people who were raging drunk a lot of the time.
It’s also important to remember that Feb. 22, 2014, is the last day of the Jorvik Viking Center’s annual Viking Festival.
So I’m thinking that, once again, predictions of the coming doom are more promotional gimmick than prophecy.