Everything about this story irritates me. Actual, ancient Vikings didn’t think the world was going to end this weekend. That’s a complete misrepresentation of, oh, everything. I can’t even imagine why an actual Viking would sit around predicting the end of the world. It just misunderstands everything about an Old Norse, pagan, worldview to think that this would even be a concern of theirs. The point was that even the gods die, but that things have a pattern. I mean, not to put too fine a point on it, but, in the Poetic Edda, the story of the end of the world is told in the past tense.
And, yes, there are many interesting reasons why this might be–the volva is merely saying what she saw in her vision and her vision is now over. Or that fate is set, so it’s completely knowable. Or, and my favorite, it’s an indication that time doesn’t work for the gods like it works for us. Balder is dead and has not yet died. Everyone knows how Balder will die and he is already dining with Hel. The gods fear Ragnarok and Ragnarok has already played out.
But old Norse folks had a very pragmatic view of death. Like, you might as well just do the shit that needs to be done because, if it’s your time to go, nothing you can do will forestall it and, if it’s not, nothing you can do will bring it on. But it’s also clear that no one thought you could know for sure how long a life you’d been granted. So, if you shouldn’t sit around worrying about when you’re going to die, why the fuck should you sit around worrying about when the world is going to end?
Also, apocalypse fantasies are for religions where there’s either pressure because of already occurring calamity–Why are we all dying from this strange rash? Oh, I predict the whole world is ending.–or because, fuck you, you’ll see I’m right when the world ends, you fuckers. Modern heathens aren’t under any more stress from already occurring calamity than the rest of our societies and Norse-ish paganisms aren’t exclusive. I can like Odin and believe that your love of Jesus is genuine and sincere. Just because Jesus isn’t the dude for me doesn’t mean I don’t think he’s real. And, I don’t give a shit if you think Odin is real. I’m not convinced Odin is real in the way people believe Jesus is real. And, of course, Odin wasn’t ever a person. And, even if you do think that Odin is as real as Jesus in the exact way Jesus is real, what polytheist is going to stand around going, “Well, these gods exist, but you’re delusional about those gods, so clean up your act, and worship like us, or you’ll be sorry!!!!” So, there’s no promise of final vindication in Ragnarok.
Not to mention that it’s hard for me to understand why/if the Norse would have thought that Ragnarok would have ended our actual world or if it was some kind of mystic metaphor. I mean, these are people who traveled extensively. They knew there wasn’t a serpent around the edges of this physical world. Yes, Midgard is our realm, but it’s also a mythic place. I’m not convinced that things that happen there have a 1 to 1 correlation with things that happen here.
But worse yet, this all appears to have started as a bit of a lark–as a way to advertise a cool event. And rather than take it as a kind of joking way to advertise a cool event, we’ve now got this nonsense, where news outlets are passing it off as an actual Viking belief.