The end of the world is nigh: A brief history of Armageddon

It seems hard to believe that this may be my final ever blog, at least if you are one of the millions of people who are caught up in the Mayan calendar hysteria gripping parts of the world.  According to the Mesoamerican Long Count Calendar,the 21st December 2012 is the year 5125 which is the end date of this calendar system.  This has led to many people believing the end of the world is about to arrive based on incomplete data of a civilisation that largely vanished centuries ago.  Less dramatic interpretations of this date say this simply herald s a dawn of a new era whilst for me it is simply the long waited start of a Christmas holiday.

The end of the world

Mayan prophecy of 2012 truth or fiction?

The Maya were an amazing civilisation in Central America but they also enthusiastically took part in human sacrifice and yet there is no rush to follow that side of their culture.  If the foresightedness was such a  strong point then they have some explanation to do of why they forgot to mention the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors who truly did heralds the end of their world. Panicking about December 21st to me seems like buying a perfume marketed by a musician.  If I want to listen to music then I may indeed play Beyonce but I shouldn’t buy her perfume for anyone.  Nor would I want to listen to music by Estee Lauder and if faced my Paris Hilton then I would probably drink her perfume to escape the music and if the skies look ominous on December 20th then I may just do that as a measure of last resort.

Apparently in some parts of the world others are not so convinced.  In Russia areas of the country are suffering from a shortage of candles as people stock up ready for the end of the world.  In China survival kits are flying off the shelves, the end of the world in 2012 scenario is particularly strong in parts of China due to the blockbuster film 2012 which showed the Chinese Navy build futuristic Noahs Ark type vessels which saved a tiny number of humans as everyone else succumbed to the Mayan prophecy.  In the USA sales of bomb-shelters in some parts have risen dramatically whilst in the French Pyrenees  people are flocking to a particular mountain which is said to be the sole area of safety between now and Christmas.   There are at least 2 points that make this interesting; the first being that each of these countries obviously have their own end of the world fears and ways of dealing with doomsday when perhaps a mixture of all of these goods may be needed to get close to surviving Armageddon.   Call me old fashioned though but to me the end of the world means just that.  I like my Armageddons to be nothing less than the complete destruction of the world and everything in it, candles, food, bomb-shelters and mountains.

You might wonder why I am taking this threat of impending doom with a touch of salt.  Well  no lesser authority than The Vatican have announced that the end of the world may be nigh but not quite yet.  Now I may not follow the precise faith of The Holy See  but if there is anyone who should know about the end of the world then The Vatican should be one of the more reliable sources rather than listening to panicked villagers or dodgy conversions of Mayan texts which even modern day descendants of the Maya who wrote them say have been hugely misinterpreted.

Well to be quite frank, in my short time on this planet I have seen more than my fair share of doomsday scenarios come and go.  Against all the odds I slept through the millennium, or at least as best as I could through the fireworks in the back garden of the house next door.  There have been 16 or 17 doomsday predictions that have come and gone since the Millennium and surprise surprise, you probably have only heard of one or two of them if only for the disappointment and embarrassment of those who had sold all their belongings in anticipation of their meeting their maker.  Surprisingly the end of the world has rarely been more popular but despite this our species has muddled its way through Armageddon for thousands of years.

Romans believed that the end of the world would occur in 634 BC due to a myth that 12 eagles had told Romulus a mystical number that was tied to the age of the city of Rome before its demise.  A shame, I had always wanted to go there on holiday.  Every one and their dog believed the Christian world would end on 1,000AD.  Much of Europe thought the end of the world was night during the dreadful spread of The Black Death, a little more understandable than what we face now as swathes of people died under mysterious and seeimingly unstoppable cirumstances.   In the Middle-East The Mongol hordes were widely believed to be the harbinger of the end of the world with the Mongol warriors being known as The Devils Horsemen.

Bring out your dead

The Black Death entered England at Weymouth Port… An end of the world scenario with a bit of umph behind it.

Throughout the last centuries the end of the world has been predicted both by newly formed churches such as The Seventh Day Adventists and the Methodists but also by scientists, inventors and crackpots.  The residents of New England thought the end of the world was night in 1780 when the sky turned dark but as New England is still on the map it was quickly realised the end of the world was simply dense cloud combined with fog and a forest fire.  A retired sailor by the name of Richard Brothers predicted the end of the world in 1793 and spent the end of his days in an Insane Asylum.    The popular 15th Century Yorkshire prophet Mother Shipton was said to have predicted the end of the world in 1881 in a book published in the 1860’s.  This particular prediction was found to be a hoax just for written for the book but such was the high esteem Mother Shipton was held in that many still expected the end of the world to come.   Most recently José Luis de Jesús predicted that the world’s governments and economies would fail on June 30th 2012 and that on this day he and his followers would undergo a transformation that would allow them to fly and walk through walls.  If this happened, I would expect to have seen it on some tacky celebrity docudrama by now.

The end is nigh?

Traditional ideas and imagery of Armageddon are highly influenced by this New Testament book.

Millenia ago it was possible that single cataclysmic events could wipe out mankind or at least make a very serious dent in our progress but there are now so many of us all over the planet and even off it that it is hard to imagine a truly doomsday scenario except for those written in established religious texts.  The Nestorians of ancient Iran has solidified their texts Armageddon before the Jewish tradition which in turn influenced the Christian and Muslim beliefs.  Most of the major religions from Buddhism and Hinduism through to the Judeao-Christian Muslim traditions give us warnings as to what we might expect at the end of the world.  All have minor signs that something is amiss such as the Islamic belief that inanimate objects may start talking Christians have the awful descriptions in Revelations to think over but all of these have the eventual positive outcomes of redemption and a Kingdom of God where all those deserving will live in an eternal happy and blessed state which is nothing like the current Mayan panic.    More scientific minds are of the opinion that the true end of the world will be in hundreds of millions of years time when the Sun dies and expands swallowing the Earth and everything else into a fiery demise.

Perhaps the final word on these end of the world scenarios should belong to one of my favourites, The Prophet Hen of Leeds whose reputation seems to be as good anyone in this field.  The Prophet Hen of Leeds, England, in 1806 started laying eggs with the message “Jesus is coming” inscribed in the eggshells, this was later found to be a hoax done by the hens owner who wrote the message in acid on the eggshell before re-inserting it into the hen.

Enjoy your doomsday wherever you are, besides it can’t be any worse than what we have at the moment.  If it can be pushed back until after my Christmas break then I would be a very happy man indeed but don’t bother sending me any Paris Hilton perfume as if I am still around to open it on Christmas the chances are I won’t need to drink it.

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About Stephen Liddell

I am a writer and traveller with a penchant for history and getting off the beaten track. With several books to my name including a #1 seller, I also write environmental, travel and history articles for magazines as well as freelance work. Recently I've appeared on BBC Radio and Bloomberg TV and am waiting on the filming of a ghost story on British TV. I run my own private UK tours company (Ye Olde England Tours) with small, private and totally customisable guided tours run by myself!
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One Response to The end of the world is nigh: A brief history of Armageddon

  1. Pingback: Happy Back To The Future Day! | Stephen Liddell

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