Ragnarok: Not the End of the World


So the media is reporting that Ragnarok, the Viking apocalypse, is due to happen today. Another day, another culturally appropriated doomsday scenario.

It’s important to note that the people who announced this to the media, the Jorvik Viking Centre in the UK, are totes kidding. Unlike the 2012 Mayan apocalypse which fell on a legitimate date on the Mayan calendar (although the date may not be accurate, and on top of that, the Mayans never predicted an apocalypse) Ragnarok has no set date but is determined through prophetic events, much like the Christian apocalypse. And the date that the Viking Centre has predicted for Ragnarok just so happens to fall in the middle of their annual Jorvik Viking Festival.

The prediction has been a massively successful gimmick in promoting the festival (even if it’ll only work once) but for anyone who is either shivering in anticipation of the possibility of a real doomsday, or shaking their heads in dismay about what some idiots believe, you can all breathe a sigh of relief. Nobody actually believes that the world is going to end today, least of all the Viking Centre themselves.

The justification that they’ve put forward for interpreting prophecy is fairly amusing: The prophecy that “boundaries that exist shall crumble” is clearly a reference to the internet age, and the vast winter that will wash over humanity coincides with a decrease in sunspot activity and slightly milder weather, which is probably a little disappointing in terms of what the Vikings were actually expecting the eternal winter to look like.

As for the final sign, that Jormungand, an immense, God-devouring serpent would rise from the ocean and enslave the world… well, apparently some fish washed ashore in California last month and experts think they beached themselves because they were scared of something. I think the original Viking prophets would probably have waited for better evidence than this before they went to the trouble of sounding the doomsday trumpet, but these days they have a schedule to keep to – if the world doesn’t end in the next few days, it’s going to miss the boat on a bunch of cosplayers walking around Britain listening to heavy metal music, so any sign has to be taken into account. Though it should be noted that these people are totally going to miss out on the Game of Thrones season premiere.

Luckily the announcement of the Norse apocalypse has resulted in bemusement rather than hysteria like the Mayan apocalypse. Which is in a way kind of disappointing. The Mayan one was supposed to end with a magnetic pole reversal and/or some kind of mass spiritual enlightenment, whereas Ragnarok involves a massive war between the old gods Odin and Thor and a giant wolf and an even bigger snake, and there are dwarves and stuff, so it’s basically the Battle for Helm’s Deep. I know which one I’d prefer.