Was Ragnarök Real?
Before the Ragnarök:
Skoll is the name of the wolf
Who follows the shining priest
Into the desolate forest,
And the other is Hati,
Who chases the bright bride of the sky.
What if I told you Ragnarök might have been based on a series of real events? Would you laugh? Would you stop reading? You might regret making that choice.
Let’s say it upfront: Marvel comics is not the creators of characters like Thor or Loki. They are not responsible for Ragnarök. Their lore is ancient. If you raised your hand and said the Vikings created them, you’d be mistaken again. Norse Mythology, as it is known, pre-dates the Vikings. And as an aside, if you think "Viking" is a race of people, you’d be mistaken again. "Viking" is an occupation like fishing or farming in Scandinavia. The Viking era is the period following the Germanic Iron Age from around the year 793 to 1066. If you watched the History Channel’s Vikings, the attack on the island of Lindisfarne was in 793. Some might argue the Viking era began before this.
Let’s look at what gods like Thor and Loki and the Vikings actually are. Behind all the modern myth is a myth that is rich, complicated, sometimes contradictory, and often missing critical information. Not all tales about these and many other Norse gods and goddesses have survived to present times. The fact Marvel includes them in blockbuster movies indicates that Thor, Loki, and their companions are important now as they were for the Vikings.
For the Scandinavians, the tales of the Nine Worlds and Yggdrasil and the Ragnarök would have been oral traditions handed down generation to generation. They did not have handy movies, comic, or even books on the lore. Nothing was written down. The Norse Mythology we reference today are a collection of poems, stories, and sagas. Lots of sagas. The primary information are two sources called the Poetic Edda and the Prose Edda. As with much oral tradition in any other culture, the stories were written later by people who did not directly witness the events. They were born after the events. As a result, what we read can be fragmented—information gets lost or changed over time. Snorri Sturluson is thought to have written the Prose Edda around 1220, well after the Viking Era. Sturluson was an Icelandic historian, poet, and politician. He was also a renowned Christian. With no disrespect to the Christian faith, this point begs two questions. Why would he write in such detail about gods and myths that contradict his Christian faith? And, how much of his Christian faith influenced how he wrote of the Norse gods? These questions we cannot answer.
Nor can we answer fully if Ragnarök was real. (Wait, what? It was a great movie but….) One archaeologist believes that historical and environmental events could have contributed to the foundation to the story. Neil Price, who specializes in the study of Viking Age-Scandinavia and the archaeology of shamanism and is currently a professor in the Department of Archaeology and Ancient History at Uppsala University, Sweden, has a theory. No one is laughing at this theory, and it could make absolute sense.
Because Norse Mythology is rooted in oral tradition, and because ancient Scandinavian peoples attributed partly, but not entirely, forces of nature with gods, goddesses, and other creatures like trolls, fairies, and giants, and so many more, an historical event could evolve over time—likely centuries—and with much repetition. What if a world event triggered the story of Ragnarök? What would this event be?
In Norse mythology, Fimbulvetr commonly spelled as Fimbulwinter, is the immediate prelude to the events of Ragnarök. It means "great winter.” This could well refer to the extreme weather events of 535 –536, which resulted in a notable drop in temperature across northern Europe.
This may or may not have been caused by volcanic eruptions around the same time. Volcanologists have researched such events. It is believed there were two substantial volcanic eruptions in the years 536 and 539 - 540. One of these may have been in the tropics. The second was at Lake Ilopango in what is now known as El Salvador. This explosion was so vast that the entire volcano collapsed and in today’s world contains the capital city of that country. This is one of the greatest volcano events, even if it is less known as Pompeii, but consider Pompeii as I continue. Such an explosion as this could have 87 cubic kilometers of ejecta which would have significantly impacted global weather. Consider, too, the projected idea of what would happen if Yellowstone erupted. The national park exists atop a supervolcano. It is believed that such an event could impact all of North America and further.
(For further reading on Price's accounting, see his book, Children of Ash and Elm.)
It is not impossible to think that a volcano eruption of that size could impact weather as far away as Scandinavia. Looking back to the quote at the beginning of this blog, this references events leading up to Ragnarök when the wolves Skoll and Hati pursue Sol and Mani, the sun and moon, through the sky in hopes of devouring them. At Ragnarök the downfall of the cosmos, they catch their prey as the sky and earth darken and collapse. Could these stories be based on when the sky was covered with a “veil” of ejecta from a volcano?
Following these world events, the time is referred to as the Migration Period. With cooler temperatures and darkened skies (winters with no summer, as the mythology goes), many people were forced to relocate to find food. Crops would not grow in many areas due to lack of sunlight. Parts of Scandinavia, specifically Norway, already had limited farm land. For these people it could have felt like the end of the world.
By the time of the Vikings, the volcano eruption and climate change were events were more than two centuries in the past. It is conjecture with supporting historical facts to assume that these events could have inspired the tales. It does lend a possible natural cause to a supernatural story. We can only wonder.
That said, Norse Mythology has inspired many authors. The best known would be J. R. R. Tolkien and his Middle Earth (Midgard) full of creatures that jump right out of the myth. He is not alone in his inspiration. Here is a timeline which would include the proposed volcanic eruptions for Jamie Poole. Additionally, the biography of Columba, the Irish warrior-monk has been added as he also influenced the story, and I have made every attempt to add historical accuracy for his life events as they overlap with Jamie and Eliyana.
Year 536: Unnamed tropical volcano explosion.
Year 565: Columba, Irish warrior-monk, witnessed the first documented encounter with the Loch Ness Monster. (Resurrection of the Druidess)
Years 565 – 566: Eliyana journeyed to meet Columba then traveled forward in Time to meet Jamie Poole. (Resurrection of the Druidess)
Year 553: The events in Time by Einstein (publish date October 2021) with references to a future Ragnarök.
Year 566: Eliyana returns back in Time to save her people. (Resurrection of the Druidess)
Year 567: The Isle of Larupus, Eliyana’s home, is destroyed by a volcanic eruption. (Destiny of the Departed)
There are many volcanic eruptions already in the Jamie Poole lore. These I have listed from the past. There are also volcanic eruptions in modern day such as Mount Redoubt, which Bruce is aware will happen on July 12. This coincides with the discovery of Lumen (Tome of Tubal-Cain). There is another in Norway (Time by Einstein). There may be more.
If you are interested in the Jamie Poole series, I’ve provided links to published books. Time by Einstein will be out 31 October 2021.
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