Ragnarok: the Norse Apocalypse
Axe-time, sword-time, shields are sundered, Wind-time, wolf-time, ere the world falls. The Poetic Edda
Ragnarok – the ‘Doom of the Gods’ – is the Vikings’ legend of how the world will end in fire and ice.
The cataclysm originates in the early days of the world with the murder of Balder, the beautiful and beloved god of light, by Loki. In punishment, Loki is bound in a cave until the end of time.
Ragnarok is preceded by several years of war and sexual immorality, in which fathers kill sons, mothers seduce their children and brothers bed with sisters. Then comes three years of Fimbul-winter: an unnatural and harsh winter unbroken by summer.
Ragnarok proper begins with the destruction of the sun, moon and stars, which are devoured by giant wolves. Loki breaks free of his bonds, and the dead return from the Underworld and from Valhalla. Tidal waves sweep across the land as the great serpent Jormungand rises from the sea. Jormungand and the great wolf Fenrir begin to destroy the earth.
The giants, led by Loki, declare war on the gods. The giants destroy the rainbow bridge, Bifrost, which leads to the gods’ home in Asgard.
The gods and giants meet on the field of Vigrid. The World Tree, Yggdrasil, shakes as battle commences. All the gods – including Odin, Thor and Loki – are killed, along with Fenrir and Jormungand. Then the fire-giant Surt uses his flaming sword to destroy every living thing on earth; the only survivors are a man and a woman, Lif and Lifthrasir, who take shelter inside the World Tree. Finally floods overwhelm the land, and the earth sinks into the sea.
After the destruction, a new world rises out of the ocean. It is a paradise, beautiful and fertile. A new sun and moon appear in the sky. Balder returns, with his brother and other benevolent gods. Lif and Lifthrasir have children, and a new human race is born. Gods and men live peacefully together in halls of gold, and a new Golden Age begins.
– “Baldur’s Death” by Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg (1817)
– “The Wolves Pursuing Sol [the Sun] and Mani [the Moon]” by J. C. Dollman (1909)
– “The Battle Against Fenrir” by Arthur Rackham (1867-1939)
– “Lif and Lifthrasir” by Lorenz Frølich (1895)
Runes are the letters of the runic alphabets, which were used to write several Germanic languages before the adoption of the Latin alphabet. They may also have been used for the purposes of magic or divination.
Today runes are used as a means of fortune-telling. Each rune will be carved onto an individual stone, piece of wood or plastic. All the runes are placed in a bag, and then a few – typically three – are picked out at random. The fortune-teller then makes a prediction or answers a question based on the meanings of the runes selected.
The alphabet most commonly used is the Scandinavian Elder Furthark.
– The Elder Furthark alphabet
– Algiz, worn as a pendant