Wednesday, February 19, 2014

It's Ragnarok this Saturday! Try not to worry too much

The Jorvik Viking Festival in York, England is billing this Saturday as Ragnarok, the Norse-version of the apocalypse. They calculate that February 22nd will be the date when the Norse gods - Odin, Thor, Loki et al.- fight an epic battle that will leave the world destroyed.

The festival organizers are apparently not too serious about the events. The York Press reports that during the day they will be hosting combat training sessions for the younger kids, and the "finale will see about 300 warriors gather in Dean’s Park for a march through the city from 1.30pm, before massing at the Eye of York at 6.45pm for the climactic battle."

NPR has sent this radio report back on what to expect:

If you are still worried, check out Judith Jesch's article on the University of Nottingham's website, where she talks about the meaning of Ragnarok, which may be more peaceful than is seen in popular imagination.  By looking at the meaning of the term ragnarok, the events foretold can be seen more as a  ‘renewal of the divine powers’.

Jesch adds:

If this meaning goes back to the pre-Christian period, as seems likely, then it sheds a whole new light on those gloomy old Vikings. Their mythology envisaged Ragnarok as a cleansing process, through which the gods could be reborn. This more positive view of Ragnarok would also have suited their Christian descendants (Iceland was converted around the year 1000 AD), who could interpret the renewal as being a rebirth into a whole new dispensation with a whole new kind of divine power. This attractive solution not only revises our understanding of the Viking world-view, but also explains how the story could successfully be reinterpreted by Christians, such as the newly-converted Vikings who in the tenth century erected a cross (depicted here) with scenes from both Ragnarok and Christian myth at Gosforth, in Cumbria.

Enjoy the day!