You can watch the video about this subject in here: [Ragnarök Video]
Let’s start with the most obvious question: What is Ragnarök? If we want to have a shallow idea of what it is, well, it’s simply the end of the world as we know it. But of course I’m not here to give you a simple explanation.
For some people Ragnarök already happened, if we understand that after this chaotic event, a Golden Age will begin, an age of peace and compassion, the rebirth of the earth and a new prosperous world. More or less 10.000 years ago the Ice Age finally came to an end, and we progressively stopped being hunters and gatherers and began to tame the land through agriculture and pastoralism. Controlling the earth and flora and the domestication of the fauna, was a great step to the so called progress of civilization, and our dominion over the earth is leading to its destruction and the extinction of many species. In the long run, this is Ragnarök, a battle of more than 10.000 years. Humanity versus nature, and we are actually winning and accelerating our doom, but intelligent as we are, we are finding better solutions to reduce the stain upon the earth that we left, so in other words we are now progressivity walking towards a Golden Age.
This is just one perspective of what Ragnarök might be if we take a look at our nowadays reality.
Due to the popularity of Norse mythology and the history of the Viking Age, today in the movies, television, literature and games, many people who until then did not know the myths, or knew little about it, became more interested in the subject. So before I jump to something a little bit more complex, I’ll first try to give you a simple and straightforward comprehension of what Ragnarök is.
First things first, Ragnarök is a myth of Nordic origins, created by the peoples of medieval Scandinavia. It might be a myth with older origins, but as it reach us today, the whole concept seems much more medieval than prehistoric. In the middle Ages, between the V and XI centuries, between the Vendel Period (V-VIII) and the Viking Era (VIII-XI), the Norse mythology took shape and was developed into the perspective we have on the written sources. The Medieval interpretation of Ragnarök refers to future events in an unspecified period of time, in which catastrophic events will occur that will profoundly change the world as we know it. All stories must have an end, but just like in every mythological account and also religious interpretations, Ragnarök isn’t the end of time, rather it’s an event with a purpose, a period of change.
We must not forget that the written sources we have to read about Ragnarök, were sources written in medieval Iceland during the thirteenth century, a period in Iceland’s history already greatly influenced by Christianity, and the entire idea of Ragnarök seems a lot like the “End of Times” Prophecy as it is written in the Bible. So let’s take a look into some similarities:
Before Ragnarök actually happens, there will be a great winter that will last three years. In here we can see the Icelandic perspective of things. A great portion of mythological accounts are shaped by the geographical realities people live in. So a world of Ice and frost is a harsh reality for Scandinavian peoples, especially during medieval times. Iceland itself all around is filled with glaciers and volcanic activity, so fire and ice is the perfect combination for the end of times in an Icelandic perspective.
But after this long winter, humanity shall rise up and fight each other, great and terrible wars, in the Bible that’s what happens before the end of days – War on a large scale (Matthew 24:7; Revelation 6:4.). If you study military medieval history, you know that the greatest fear of war during medieval times wasn’t the war itself but famine which led to an increasing of crime (Famine: Matthew 24:7; Revelation 6:5, 6.; Increase of crime: Matthew 24:12.) Before Ragnarök the survivors of the great wars will only have morning dew to feed on (Vafþrúðnismál). During this time the Prose Edda speaks of incest as one of the things that will occur, “siblings do incest”, and also in the Völuspá speaks of the sons between brothers and sisters that will stain kinship, as we also have in the Bible during the “end of days” – “Breakdown of the family, with people who have “no natural affection”” (2 Timothy 3:2, 3.). Then we have great earthquakes also in the Bible (Luke 21:11.) and in the Prose Edda as I will quote: “The whole surface of the earth and the mountains will tremble so that the trees will be uprooted from the ground, mountains will crash down”. In the Völupá a fear will quake all when Heimdall blows the great horn Ghallarhorn, and Yggdrasil itself shakes. We also have this reference to earthquakes in the Poetic Edda. I could go on with more similarities between the Bible’s “End of Days” Prophecy and the Norse Ragnarök, like that part when the dead will walk the earth again as it says in the Bible, and during Ragnarök the great ship Naglfar will come, built with the nails of the dead, and possibly bringing the dead along, because the dead from the realm of Hel will also be in great activity during these catastrophic events. And as I’ve said, mankind in its process of civilization and the attempted to control the earth is destroying the earth itself, it’s a point which isn’t referred in the Nordic sources but it’s referred in the Bible – The ruining of the earth by mankind (Revelation 11:18.).
All this to tell you that the perspective we have of Ragnarök was greatly influenced by Christianity, when the old pagan world started to be forgotten and a new spiritual reality was being formed, adopted by the pagans, and in most cases forced by the social, political and economic circumstances of Medieval Europe.
We humans are prone to see patterns in everything, but I must tell you, even if there are clear influences of another religion into pagan mythological accounts, we must take into account that this is a tale that was around before Christianity and even before the written word. In Christianity mythology the world will be destroyed once and for all and historical time is abolished. But in the tale of Ragnarok we see a very different message. The accounts of the destruction of the world in the Old Norse primary sources are immediately followed by accounts of its re-creation. There is no end of the linear history. What Ragnarok describes is a cyclical end of the world, after which follows a new creation, which will in turn be followed by another Ragnarok, and this will keep happening forever. This specific point makes all the difference between the two religious realities. Christianity that does not accept reality and there must be an end and it’s all over, and the Norse paganism that accepts reality and that life will go on no matter what, but there always must exist a balance, order and chaos, creation and destruction, life and death.