(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘Ragnarok

“Oh the places you’ll go”*…

The amazing life of “Gudrid the Far-Traveled” has, Frank Jacobs argues, been unjustly overshadowed by her in-laws, Erik the Red and Leif Erikson…

She’s been called “the greatest female explorer of all time,” and the “best-traveled woman of the Middle Ages.” Just after the year 1000 AD, she gave birth to the first European baby in North America. And she concluded her global odyssey with a pilgrimage on foot to Rome. Yet few today can name this extraordinary Viking lady, even if they have heard of Erik the Red and Leif Erikson, her father- and brother-in-law…

An extraordinary story: “The Viking woman who sailed to America and walked to Rome,” from @VeryStrangeMaps in @bigthink.

* Dr. Seuss


As we tag along, we might recall that this date in 2014 was purportedly the date of the final battle in Ragnarök, a series of events (many natural disasters) culminating in a catastrophic battle and the end of the world-as-we-know-it: giants and demons approach from all points of the compass and attack the gods (Odin, Thor, Týr, Freyr, Heimdall, Loki, et al.), who meet them and face death like heroes. At the conflict’s end, the sun darkens, the stars vanish, and the earth sinks into the sea. (Happily, afterward, the earth rises again, the innocent Balder returns from the dead, and leads hosts of the just to a life in a hall roofed with gold.)

In the event, of course, the world did not end that day. The prediction had been promoted by the Jorvik Viking Centre in York, England, intended to draw attention to an event that the institution was to hold on that date. In an obvious lift from the 2012 Mayan Prophecy frenzy, the Centre attributed the claim to a “Viking Calendar,” though no such calendar is known to have existed. Authentic scholars were predictably (and understandably) irked, though as philologist Joseph Hopkins noted, the media response was an example of a broad revival of interest in the Viking Age and ancient Germanic topics.

(Historians believe that Gudrid did in fact exist and did make the journeys discussed above.)

Thorwald’s Cross, on the grounds of Kirk Andreas, Isle of Man. It is believed to depict Odin, with a raven or eagle at his shoulder, being consumed by Fenrir at Ragnarök (source)

Written by (Roughly) Daily

February 22, 2023 at 1:00 am

“Sure, everything is ending, but not yet”*…


Front cover to the 15th edition of Caesar’s Column (1891)

Ignatius Donnelly migrated from Pennsylvania to Minnesota in 1858 in search of an agrarian dream (and a land promoter’s fortune).  Frustrated on both of those fronts, he picked up his pen.

Twenty years of personal frustration turned his thoughts toward catastrophe. Reporting on the Dakota War of 1862, in which Sioux tribes struck back at encroaching settlers in western Minnesota, he had seemed to revel in the horrors of war. For a St Paul newspaper he described refugees from the town of New Ulm: “There were mothers there who wept over children slaughtered before their eyes, strong men . . . who had escaped into the grass with the death shrieks of parents, brothers, and sisters, ringing in their ears.”

Those death shrieks were just the start for a writer who came to specialize in cataclysms that could rend entire cities, ravage entire civilizations, or destroy entire continents. As his ambitions and plans repeatedly fell short — his agrarian golden age failed to materialize — he took up his pen to explore increasingly extreme visions of apocalypse. First came “factual” accounts of two very different prehistoric disasters — Atlantis (1882), followed by Ragnarok: The Age of Fire and Gravel (1883) — and then, seven years later, Caesar’s Column: A Story of the Twentieth Century (1890), a futuristic novel that major publishers rejected as dangerously revolutionary…

The remarkable story of a man who transmuted his personal disappointments into (very successful) epic apocalyptic fiction: “Master of Disaster, Ignatius Donnelly.”

* “Jules,” in Jennifer Egan’s  A Visit from the Goon Squad


As we brace for the worst, we might recall that it was on this date in 1970 that Earl Kemp added 500 photos (“the sort of photographs the commission examined”) to the official report of the President’s Commission on Obscenity and Pornography and (re-)published it as The Illustrated Presidential Report of the Commission on Obscenity and Pornography.

The Commission’s work, which had been initiated under president Johnson, was rejected by President Nixon.  Kemp (and his publisher William Hamling) were arrested for “pandering to prurience” and convicted of “conspiracy to mail obscene material.”



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