End of Time

I don’t know if this belongs here or in Great Debates, but here goes–a rather vocal chunk of the Christian contingent seems to be getting ready for Act II when 2000 comes (I know it’s not really the millemium, but I’m trying to keep it simple). I got curious about whether other cultures (myths? religions?) have end-of-the-world stories, and with the obvious exception of the Norse, I’m having trouble finding any. The Hindus and the Aztecs seem to have a sort of cosmic recycling program going, but does anyone know of any other stories, links, etc. of any other cultures as pessimistic as ours? You can’t be too careful-what if the Pope woke up tomorrow morning to find Yggdrasil sprouted in the plaza and the Fenris wolf prowling the halls?
–Alan Q

I don’t know if this is true or not, but I was told that old Norse paganism believed that there would be a final battle between good and evil. The difference was that they believed that evil would win.

“I had a feeling that in Hell there would be mushrooms.” -The Secret of Monkey Island

I’m going by vague recollections here, so bear with me.

Ragnarok: Evil doesn’t exactly “win” the final battle in Norse mythology. All the evil folks (giants, mostly, but also including the Fenris Wolf, the Midgard Serpent, and probably Loki) die. All but a handful of the good folks (the “gods” and their helpers) die, including most if not all of the major ones like Odin, Thor, etc. The few that are left start a new race of gods and presumably a new world.

One of the preColumbian civilizations in the new world (I’m thinking Mayan, but I might be wrong) had a calendar that said the end of the fifth (IIRC) cycle is coming up in a few years, and the world is going to be destroyed. As the term “fifth cycle” implies, this has supposedly happened before; the main difference is that the fifth cycle is supposed to be the last one. I’m not sure what happens afterward in this particular mythos.

I can’t recall any specific theories about the end of the world from Greek, Roman, or Egyptian mythology.

The line “I am become Shiva, Destroyer of Worlds” (or is it Siva? Are they just two different spellings of the same name?) implies to me that Hinduism has some kind of end-of-the-world theory (a title like “destroyer of worlds” is pretty pointless if you don’t actually do that eventually).

The Aztecs used to laugh at a guy who stood out in the street screaming about how the world was coming to an end.

Now look what happened to them!

Yer pal,

Check out “Empires of Time” by Anthony Aveni for discussions of how different cultures have viewed and used time. Fascinating book.

You have me confused. Am I supposed to just be worrying about the end of the WORLD. . .

. . . . . . . . .or the end of TIME?

Ray (da da dadadada da)

. .o
. o o

. . o
. .o o
o_o_o So maybe they’re really canonballs.

My understanding (gleaned from several different sources) is that most pagan cultures view (or viewed) the world as cyclical – the great wheel turns and turns and turns – and so don’t have a concept of the End. The notion of time being linear rather than circular is largely a product of Judeo-Christian thought, although there are some exceptions (such as the Norse.)

Hinduism believes in ever large cycles in nature. So there will one day be a complete destruction of the cosmos, followed by a re-birth. Sort of like the big-bang/big-crunch theory.

Time-flies adore an arrow. But then, I guess you can have a circular arrow:
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