Apocalypses aren't fun. That said, some apocalypses are better than others. This article isn't about those fun, easy-going apocalypses. No, no, no... These apocalypses are positively horrible.
Enjoy and pray for the Rapture.
Hindu’s are on the lookout for Kalki, the final incarnation of Vishnu who is described as riding a white horse and wielding a flaming sword. He brings about the apocalypse, but not in the standard sense of the destruction of the world - he’s more of a revolutionary character, changing the world for the better.
See, according to Hindu tradition we’re living in the Kali Yuga period, which is far from ideal. It’s the worst period to be living in, in fact, and it only gets worse from here. It is an era of religious, moral, and social degeneration, and the world falls with it; there will be an abundance of natural calamities, dishonesty will prevail over honesty, war will tear the land apart, the average lifespan will shorten to less than 23 years… it’s not pretty.
During Kali Yuga;
Social status depends not upon your accomplishments, but in the ownership of property; wealth is now the source of virtue; passion and luxure are the sole bonds between spouses; falsity and lying are the conditions of success in life; sexuality is the sole source of human enjoyment; religion, a superficial and empty ritual, is confused with spirituality.
Then Kalki appears and forms a pious army, and together they will purge the world of evil. Those left behind will be pure of soul and will slowly rebuild. Then comes the good part: Satya Yuga, a kind of golden age where every man and woman will live for 4000 years and everything you make will turn out perfect - thinking about replacing those wobbly shelves on the bedroom wall? Wait until Satya Yuga, then they’ll turn out perfect.
It’s important to remember the cyclic nature inherent in Hinduism, and that Satya Yuga is just the beginning of yet another cycle that will end in the coming of Kalki. It must be exhausting business, driving the evil from the world every four million years.
Buddhist eschatology shares many similarities with the Hindu - namely that a figure is born who will save the world from complete ruin, and teach mankind how to be moral again. In the case of Buddhism this figure is Buddha Maitreya, who will be born in a period of heavy unrest - where violence, sexual depravity general weakness, poverty, lust and greed have taken over society as we know it.
Maitreya does all the lovely stuff and brings us back from the brink of spiritual destruction, but all we really want to know is how big the explosions are. The ‘Sermon of the Seven Suns’ describes how in the end times seven suns will rise into the sky - each destroying aspects of the earth until we’ve all gone.
There will come a season, O monks, when after hundreds of thousands of years, rains will cease. All seedlings, all vegetation, all plants, grasses and trees will dry up and cease to be...There comes another season after a great lapse of time when a second sun will appear. Now all brooks and ponds will dry up, vanish, cease to be.
Aňguttara-Nikăya, VII, 6.2 Pali Canon
Each sun dries up more and more of the land, the fifth sun dries the oceans, and then the final suns bake the earth progressively more until the whole land becomes a ball of flame.
Information concerning the degeneration of mankind before the coming of Maitreya is somewhat scarce, but sources argue that much like in Hinduism the average lifespan will shorten dramatically - to 10 years.
The Aztecs easily have one the most interesting legends surrounding the end of the world, that of the ‘Five Suns’. Their end-time is deeply ingrained with actions taken in the present - see, the Aztecs believed that the current sun was the fifth sun, and that to ensure its continued existence the sun must be nourished by sacrifices.
So, why sun number five? The first sun was Tezcatlipoca, who shone over a fresh planet of giants. Quetzalcoatl grew envious of his brother Tezcatlipoca, which ended in Quetzalcoatl knocking Tezcatlipoca from the sky. The world darkened when he fell, and in a fit of rage Tezcatlipoca killed all the giants with jaguars.
Smaller humans were created, and Quetzalcoatl became the new sun. Many many years passed and the humans began to ignore the gods. Tezcatlipoca raged again (seriously, get this guy a muzzle) and turned all the humans into monkeys which deeply upset Quetzalcoatl. Quetzalcoatl actually quite liked the god-ignorant humans, so like his brother he threw a strop and blew all the monkeys off the earth with a giant hurricane.
Tlaloc became the third sun, and he did a pretty good job until Tezcatlipoca stole his wife, Xochiquetzal (you’re beginning to see how much of a problem Tezcatlipoca was). Tlaloc became upset and began to sleep in and not turn up for work on time, so a massive drought set in on Earth. The people prayed for rain continuously, and on one particularly bad day he granted them their wish - but with fire. He made it rain fire, and the world burned to ashes. Lovely.
The fourth sun was Chalchiuhtlicue, newly wedded to Tlaloc. Chalchiuhtlicue was sweet towards the people, and kind in her duties - then Tezcatlipoca the ass showed up and insulted her. She took the insult personally and started crying blood. This crying continued for over fifty years, and her tears flooded the planet and drowned everyone.
All this bloodshed angered Quetzalcoatl, so he took centre-stage again and rebirthed his humans from the underworld. Huitzilopochtli took the sun throne as the important sun number five, but he has problems with the stars. Brothers of Huitzilopochtli, the Tzitzimitl (stars) grew jealous of Huitzilopochtli’s position in the sky, and brilliant yellow light - so every night they push back against him - to try and take the sun throne and claim it to their own. The Aztecs feed Huitzilopochtli with human sacrifices, so that he goes into the night-time battle at full strength - but they also offer sacrifices to the idiot Tezcatlipoca for fear of his wrath, and they offer their own blood to Quetzalcoatl as a thank you for bringing them back to life.
No list would be complete without Ragnarok.
Detailed in the Prose Edda and Poetic Edda, Ragnarok is the end-time scenario of the Norse people - though much like other eschatologies, there is the potential for new life after all life has been purged from the earth.
It begins with fimbulvetr; a three season long winter that suffocates summer and prevents the growth of any kind of crop. Violent conflicts break out between tribes, nations and countries, leading to mass war and bloodshed. Who isn’t killed either starves, or freezes. This is how humanity meets its end.
Except, a man and a woman survive the winter. Lif and Lifprasir watch from the safety of a sacred wood as the winter passes. They settle down high in the branches of the tallest tree in the forest, so as to get a great view of the battling gods - but then, the light goes out. The sun and the moon are swallowed by wolves (the sons of Fenrir). The stars disappear. The ground begins to shake with such ferocity that trees are torn from the earth, and mountains slide into the sea.
The movement shakes Fenrir (a vicious wolf) free of his binds, Jormungandr (a sea serpent) is launched onto the land from the sea and Naglfar (a ship made from nails and hair of the deceased) is freed from its mooring, and sets sail across the stormy seas.
Things escalate quickly. The sky breaks in two, and the sons of the fire realm will march down through the chasm - Sutr in front of the others, wielding his blade of fire. His army joins the dark forces of Fenrir, Jormungandr, Loki and Hyrm (captain of the Naglfar) at Vigrior, a vast plane on which the gods will battle to decide the fate of the Earth.
Heimdallr summons Odin, Thor, Freyr and the rest of the Æsir with a blow on his horn. The conflict begins, and many are slain on the battlefield. In the final moments of the battle, Sutr unleashes flames that envelop the whole earth, burning everything to cinders.
But all is not lost. There is some hope. Earth will rise from the oceans once more, and Lif and Lifprasir have survived to begin the long process of repopulating the earth. Ragnarok is easily the most exciting conclusion to an apocalypse in eschatology…
Article by Hayden Westfield-Bell