WASHINGTON -- Cultures throughout the world have prophesied the end of days.
Less than two years ago in December 2012, the world was doomed to death and destruction according to the Mayan calendar. Thankfully we survived that particular fate, but now the Norse pantheon is trying to kill us all.
Ragnarok, the Viking apocalypse, could bring down the fury of the gods Feb. 22. A warning sounded in York, England Nov. 14 signaling there were just 100 days until the end of the world.
The complicated legend goes like this: The Norse god Heimdallr, described as "the whitest of the gods," will blow an ancient horn named Gjallerhorn heralding the countdown to Ragnarok.
"It's hard to say when these myths started," says Yale University Prof. Andrew Winroth.
"They were only written down in the 13th century. [Vikings] didn't really have a literate culture that wrote down those things."
What we do know survived in a series of poems called the Eddas, which were compiled in the 13th century from earlier sources and oral tradition. But Christianity had already spread into Northern Europe by then, and it's impossible to say how much influence the new religion had on the old gods, Winroth says.
One thing is clear.
"There is a lot of misfortune in the future," he says. "But the Vikings didn't really have a sense of sin" like the Christians.
"The greatest problem is that we know nothing about [these stories]," he adds.
According to Norse mythology, Ragnarok starts with a series of consecutive winters. Wars will erupt throughout Earth, pitting friends and family against each other. All morality will fall by the wayside, and the great wolf Skoll will devour the sun while his brother, Hati, will eat the moon. The stars will vanish from the sky and Earth will plunge into darkness.
The ground and sea will shake violently as mountains crumble and the giant wolf Fenrir will be loosened upon the world. He will kill the mighty Odin and, one by one, all the Norse gods will fall to their enemies.
After their deaths, Earth will sink into the sea and a new world will arise filled with golden palaces and a Utopian future. So there is hope after all.
If we do manage to survive, tune in to the season two premiere of History Channel's "Vikings" Feb. 27. Watch a preview below:
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