Ragnarok - Apocalypse in Norse myth

The Story of Ragnarok, The Ancient Norse Apocalypse


In Norse mythology, Ragnarok is a series of apocalyptic events that will define the end of the world, where giants of frost and fire will band together to fight against the gods in a final battle that will ultimately destroy the planet, submerging it under water. According to the legend, the world will resurface, the surviving gods will meet, and the world will be repopulated by two human survivors.

 Brothers will fight and kill each other, sisters' children will defile kinship. It is harsh in the world, whoredom rife —an axe age, a sword age —shields are riven— a wind age, a wolf age— before the world goes headlong. No man will have mercy on another.
Dronke (1997:19)

Ragnarok. ( Seahorsevector /Adobe Stock)

Loki’s Role in Ragnarok

Norse mythology is divided in two major groups of gods – the Aesir and the Vanir.  The Giants came before them and lived in in Jötunheimr, one of the nine worlds of Norse cosmology. They were banished there by the Aesir, who refused them entry to their world, Asgard. In the ancient Norse stories, the Giants frequently interact with the Aesir and the Vanir, but they are usually in opposition or in competition with them.

The god Loki was the son of a Giant and was known as a trickster god with the ability to shapeshift. His role in Norse mythology is unique and controversial since he appears to both help the gods and hinder them. He was permitted to live with the Aesir in Asgard. Loki fathered many offspring, including an eight legged horse ( Sleipnir) used by Odin, a dragon, and the wolf Fenrir - who plays a significant role in the apocalyptic Ragnarok (Ragnarök).

According to the story, Loki tricked the blind god of winter, Hod (Hoor), an action that resulted in the death of the god Baldr , son of goddess Frigg and god Odin. Because of this, he was punished and cast into a cliff where he was to remain bound to a rock until Ragnarok, the end of the world. This bears similarities to the punishment of Prometheus in ancient Greek mythology, who was bound to a rock for giving the ability to make fire to humanity.

Loki Punished - J D Penrose. ( Archivist /Adobe Stock) F or his mischief, Loki is hounded by the gods and bound to a rock where a serpent drips painful venom upon him. There he lies till Ragnarok.

Signs of the Apocalypse

Like the Christian apocalypse, Ragnarok sets out a series of signs that will ultimately define the end of times. The first sign is the Fimbulvetr, a long and continuous cold winter with constant snow that will last for a year. A red rooster called Fjalar will warn the Giants that Ragnarok has begun. A second rooster will warn all the dead that Ragnarok has begun. Finally, a third red rooster called Gullinkambi, a rooster that lives in Valhalla, a majestic hall located in Asgard, will warn all the gods about the beginning of the end.

The god Heimdallr will use his trumpet to play a specific tone that will be heard in Valhalla, and this will bring the dead back to life and they will march to the realm called Vigrid (the place of battles), where the final battle will take place. The seas will be torn and the World Serpent, a serpent so large that it surrounds the earth and grasps its own tail, will raise itself from the depths of the oceans to join the battle. The gods Baldr and Hod will also return from the dead to fight in this final battle.

A scene from Ragnarök, the final battle between Odin and Fenrir and Freyr and Surtr. ( Public Domain )

A Battle to End it All?

Loki and his horde, as well as the frost Giants, will sail to Vigrid in order to battle against the Aesir on a ship made of the nails of dead men, like a ghost ship. All monsters and giants, like the flame giant Surtr, Hel’s dog Carm, the wolf Fenrir (Fenris), and the leader of the giants, Hrym, will create a powerful army against the gods.

The result of the war will be that Thor and Odin and most of the gods will die and the dragons will release fire that will destroy all life on Earth.

But this is not the end. Things will start again with a new race; a new world will arise from the depths of the seas. The first two mortals will be called Lif (woman) and Lifthrasir (man) and they will repopulate Earth.

The gods Vali and Vidar, as well as the sons of Thor and Hoenir, who survive the battle, will go to Idavoll, which will not be destroyed in Ragnarok. The gods Baldr and Hoder will be returned to life and a new era will begin.

"Baldur" (1901) by Johannes Gehrts. Baldr stands clasping a hand full of plant matter against a downward-tipped spear. In his other hand is a sun-shaped shield. ( Public Domain )

What Does the Norse Apocalypse Tell Us?

The apocalyptic story of Ragnarok shows the battle between gods - with severe consequences for both humans and the gods. The humans are the ‘collateral damage’ in this war, much like in Hindu mythology. This distinguishes Ragnarok from the Christian apocalypse, in which humans are punished for not being loyal and faithful to God.

Mankind has been fascinated with the ‘end of times’ since as long as history has been recorded. In Christianity, it is the ‘Judgment Day’ described in the Book of Revelations; in Judaism, it is the Acharit hayamim; in Aztec mythology, it is the Legend of the Five Suns ; and in Hindu mythology, it is the Story of Avatars and the Man on the Horse.

Most of these myths maintain that when the world as we know it ends, a new incarnation of the world will be created. Are these myths and legends simply a metaphor for the cyclic nature of change seen in the rotations of day and night, the seasons, and the chains of life and death? Were they possibly based on real events in the ancient past? Or maybe they are meant to be a warning that humanity meet its end in the not so distant future?

Top Image: Ragnarok is a key event in Norse myth. Source: YouTube Screenshot

By John Black


Andonov, V. (2014) ‘The Punishment of Loki.’ World Tales. Available at:

Bellows, H. A. (trans.) (1936) The Poetic Edda. Available at:

Dhwty (2018) ‘Heimdall, Watchman of the Gods, Will Sound the Horn as Ragnarok Approaches.’ Ancient Origins. Available at:

McCoy, Daniel. 2016. Ragnarök. Available at:

Parkes, V. (2017) ‘Epic Battle Equals Doom or Twilight for Norse Gods? Ragnarök: The Real Message in the Myth.’ Ancient Origins. Available at:

Skjalden (2011) ‘Ragnarok – The End of the World.’ Nordic Culture. Available at:

Strom, C. (2018) ‘Denizens of Valhalla and the Transient Afterlife of Norse Myth.’ Ancient Origins. Available at:

Winters, R. (2018) ‘Where is Vanaheimr, Land of the Norse Nature Gods?’ Ancient Origins. Available at:


And fire shall rain from the sky
poison that will take skin and flash away
At least thir of the world shall die
many more fading with each passing day
Enjoy your little gadgets, your technology
but it's the ancient teaching that you need to thrive
For sooner than you know, sooner than you think
that will be important for you to survive
I don't want my words to scare anyone
so take what I say with a grain of salt
you can heed this advice, and store it away
or you can just discardit while finding fault
Honey is the Gold that will not expire
stored food and cannings as done in old ways
For the darkness that shall come after the fire
will last much more, then a couple of days
Soon the pain will intensify
this blessed Earth in labor will go
A new Earth shall then be reborn
surviving the labor is what we need to know
During the darkness there won't be much left
grains, greenery, dairy or meat
When it comes to food, we must learn the difference
eat to live, not live to eat

I find it interesting to think that so many ancient cultures that were far seer did predict the cycle of life and also did predict the end. No the cycle doesn't fascinate me because it would be safe to say every beginning has it's end,no, what fascinate me is that all this ancient cultures predicted the end so close to each other, so alike. I mean who is to say that one predictit now and the other in 100 years, but no that is not the case past 2-3 years we had the Ancient Egyptian Calendar ending, The Chinese calendar, the Mayan Calendar, The Hopi, Vikings trumpet was played in february etc. I mean think about it this was supposedly predicted 5000 years ago ( if not more than 5000 ) and all this great cultures, this smart ancient beings all predicted the end within a 5 years give or take. 5-10 years are not a big deal when we consider how far in the past were they who predicted. 5-10 years for 5000 years or more are more like months really. Add to it the precise prophecies from famous Hopi prophecy to Priest, Nuns, Oracles, plain everyday people like Nostradamus, mother Shpiton, Edgar Cyce etc, things they predicted that will lead to the end are pretty damn unbelivable and happening already. Out of nowhere on the age that people that have special abilities are rare and keep that in a secret because the world would ridicule them, yet past 2-3 years we have people across the planet having visions, dreams fortelling the end.We also have Bible prophecy that has to do with astronomy coming tru, Relevation 12.1 will happen step by step in the sky on September 23d 2017, yet Muslim schoolars are also predicting the end based on Qur'an to be about 2020. Unbelivable. This is what holds me from believeing ancient alien theory, I honestly do believe that our ancestor were way way more developed techonologically and spiritualy than we are ( there are plenty of proves all over the world of a technology used in the past ) and this was the reason main streem didn't tell people the truth, first they wouldn't be that special if we knew that our ancestors knew more than our scientist today, but most important how can you tell millions of people look our ancestors were very highly futuristic commparing to us, they were better developed and had better technology, but they died and everything was wipped from the face of the earth ( because was covered with new land and mountains ) so people what we are saying is every so offten the earth goes through a regenerating faseand that is when 99.99% of people die, so yeah you are all going to die soon. There have been more artifact destroyed then shown to us because they didn't feet the mainstream.

This 'myth' is an expression of cultural astronomy that references the seasons of the precession of the equinoxes. Similar variations of it are found in the oral traditions of most ancient cultures. Everything in existence follows the same pattern: birth, aging, sickness, dying, and death, repeat, eternally.

All things have cycles, and and civilization not excluded.

Tsurugi's picture

Huh. I immediately thought of the earth's magnetic field, and wondered if that's what it was talking about. The ring of fire doesn't encompass the globe.

If the Ouroboros, the world serpent biting his own tail, is really an ancient symbol for the earth's magnetic field...well....that leads to some interesting possibilities, I think, quite aside from Ragnarok and the apocalypse/cataclysm mythology.

I also thought I should point out that Loki has more than just Prometheus as a possible cultural mythological counterpart. There is the strange story in the book of Enoch, of Shemyaza, the leader of the group of Watchers who make a pact to descend to earth, find some hot chicks to be their wives, and raise families. In doing so, they impart much "forbidden knowledge" to humans, teaching all kinds of foundational technologies, skills, and trades. According to the text, this really makes God(or gods, the Elohim) mad, and Shemyaza is imprisoned beneath a great desert, sealed inside an immense stone construct deep within the earth, to remain there until called forth in the "final battle".
Supposedly their was an ancient ritual that took place once a year in the mesopotamian area, during the course of which a goat was sent out into the desert as food for the imprisoned god, to placate him and keep him from destroying the surrounding environs while mad with hunger. I guess gods can survive on only one goat per year. Barely.
Anyway, that is supposedly where the term "scapegoat" originated.

As someone else mentioned, the similarities across the myths is too much to ignore. I have considered the idea that they are all separately generated but based on the same events, and though it isn't completely outside the realm of possibility, I don't think that is likely. Two people both witnessing the same event will tell two stories that differ much more than these myths do, because people notice different things, and their personal recount will take wildly differing tracks. These myths don't really do that. It seems more like they are all copies the same original story, but distorted or changed from the original by millenia of immersion in different cultures.

Besides...even if humans from around the world in the distant past all wrote structurally similar descriptions of events after an immense cataclysmic destruction of their world, how would they all get the same future prediction as well?? If it merely said "It will happen again, it is written in the stars" or something similar, that would be one thing....but they give details, about who will be there and what takes place and why, and who will survive and who will perish! There are differences across the mythologies regarding the details, but the similarities overwhelm them. There must be a single source.


Next article