Apocalypse of the Week 12: Thrust In Thy Sharp Sickle

Tribulation.  The Rapture.  The Second Coming.  For many, these terms are synonymous with the end of the world.  Indeed, the terms “apocalypse” and “Armageddon” both entered the public consciousness because of their appearances in the Bible, and have since become synonymous with the more general term “eschaton.”  But what’s actually involved in the Christian vision of the end of the world?  One could be forgiven for forgetting that the original story bears little resemblance to the modern-day, politics-themed reimagining lampooned in a previous installment.  Rather, here be dragons.  And enough gruesome torture to make Mortal Kombat cutscenes feel like Sesame Street.

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Apocalypse of the Week 12: Thrust In Thy Sharp Sickle
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Apocalypse of the Week 11: This Magic Skull Goes All the Way to…Zero

The giant earth crocodile with mouths at all of her joints.

Giant ape-men with backward feet and hanging intestines that waylay travelers.

The plumed serpent of the sun, wind, and mercy, who raped his human-shaped sister while divinely hammered and still got to keep the “mercy” portfolio, and is also the planet Venus for some reason.

Feeding the sun with the beating hearts of thousands of sacrifices.

And you thought Revelation was sick.

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Apocalypse of the Week 11: This Magic Skull Goes All the Way to…Zero

Apocalypse of the Week 10: Unspecified Event at Unknown Time with Voluptuous Edith

Of all the figures to get famous making predictions about the future, none stands taller than Michel de Nostredame, better known as Nostradamus.  This French (no relationship to Claude “Raël” Vorilhon, probably) almanac writer, medical assistant, and amateur astronomer wrote 1,013 prophetic verses that have not ceased, in the 450+ years since his death, to inspire credulous grandfalloons to align events to them after they’ve happened.
One would expect prophecies to be useful before things happen, but whatever.  If one has read Nostradamus’s incoherent ramblings, one knows that getting useful information out of them is kind of like squeezing apple juice out of oranges.  It’s just not in there, and one is liable to burn out one’s eyes and start laughing at oneself if one tries.
Here’s one chosen at random, since the 1,013 verses are presented in no particular order and were meant to be 1200 before some publisher errors cut out most of the last two sets:

Amongst several transported to the isles, 
One to be born with two teeth in his mouth 
They will die of famine the trees stripped, 
For them a new King issues a new edict. 
(Century 2, Quatrain 7)

Which isles?  There are thousands.  Which king?  It’d have to be one who still has decree power, which does narrow it down.  Which edict?  This king will, presumably, make more than one.  More importantly, Nostradamus obeyed the One Rule of Pretending to Know the Future: don’t tell people when.

So maybe the next Sheikh of Bahrain, facing a famine in one of the world’s wealthiest archipelagos for some reason, will issue an edict that all non-synthetic pants are to be confiscated for food?  Perhaps the Sultan of Brunei will drive his also fabulously wealthy people to starvation by replacing his agriculture ministry with a new body devoted to pinning even more medals on his uniform?  Will the Tongans finally descend into theocracy and proceed to starve within a few years on their tropical, nigh-unfarmable paradise?  Which is it, Michel?  Which is it?

Except, of course, when he totally did put in a time reference:

The year 1999, seventh month,
From the sky will come a great King of Terror:
To bring back to life the great King of the Mongols,
Before and after Mars to reign by good luck.
(Century 10, Quatrain 72)

This verse is the standard one trotted out to “prove” that Nostradamus was able to predict the future, since John. F. Kennedy, Jr. was on a plane that crashed in July 1999.  Also, a space shuttle exploded in August 1999, which is close to September 1999, which might be what “seventh month” means if Nostradamus’s guiding stars are using the old Roman calendar.  Either way, Zombie Genghis Khan didn’t rise from his grave and lead a renewed Golden Horde to kneeling before the Red Planet, which is apparently also a king now, so I’m not sure what all the fuss is about.

But what does this have to do with the end of the world?

Well, after learning of the significance of 21 December 2012 to the Maya, some enterprising conspiracy loons decided to poke through the quatrains and found this:

Sun twentieth of Taurus the earth will tremble very mightily,
It will ruin the great theater filled:
To darken and trouble air, sky and land,
Then the infidel will call upon God and saints.
(Century 9, Quatrain 83)

Also this:
For the pleasure of the voluptuous edict,
One will mix poison in the faith:
Venus will be in a course so virtuous
As to becloud the whole quality of the Sun.
(Century 5, Quatrain 72)

Apparently keeping in mind that the quatrains are in no particular order, these hooligans turned that mess of random phrases into an apocalypse of earthquakes (“earth will tremble”) apparently slated for later in the same year that Venus transited (“as to becloud”) the sun, a rare and amazing astronomical event that took place earlier this year.  And then turned “later that same year” into 21 December 2012.  Even though nothing whatsoever links the two quatrains and they are based ultimately on the ramblings of a 16th-century amateur astrologer and an equally spurious eschaton from a culture that fell from its prime around that time.

I, for one, am more interested in this Voluptuous Edith…oh.  Edict.  Allow me to compose myself.  Apparently, in Nostradamus World, edicts can be voluptuous and are pleased by “mixing poison in the faith,” whatever the heck that means, and also a few cheap shots at non-Christians counts as predicting the future.  Maybe Michel got a little stoned on Revelation before he wrote those two.

Allow me to close with another random quatrain:

“Meysnier, Manthi” and the third one that will come, 
Plague and new affront, to tourble the enclosure: 
The fury will bite in Aix and the places thereabout, 
Then those of Marseilles will want to double their evil. 
(Century 11, Quatrain 91)

Remind me to be in Marseilles when the world ends.  A two-for-one special on extra-sinful Voluptuous Ediths is not something to be missed.  Especially when the tourbling starts.
Apocalypse of the Week 10: Unspecified Event at Unknown Time with Voluptuous Edith

Apocalypse of the Week 9: Romania Will Rise Again

It’s easy to forget about Romania.  For many North Americans, it’s just another former Communist country in Eastern Europe, and most of what they know about it actually applies to the various countries around it more accurately.  For starters, Romanian is a Romance rather than a Slavic language, so the Romanian people have a lot more in common with Western Europe than most North Americans realize.  Also like Western Europe, Romania’s history is marked by the unification of a number of separate principalities that shared a language, and by a split engineered by the Soviet Union (which created the Republic of Moldova).
What an alarming number of Westerners are apparently certain of when it comes to Romania is that it will bring forth the Antichrist and from there, the end of the world as we know it.
Apocalypse of the Week 9: Romania Will Rise Again

Apocalypse of the Week 8: Your Mother Smelt of Subroutines

Those of us born in the 1980s came of age in an interesting time, as the Communist governments of eastern and central Europe fell, one country turned into 15 and somehow stayed the largest in the world, and computers learned how to handle four-digit years.

And you’d better believe it was a big deal.

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Apocalypse of the Week 8: Your Mother Smelt of Subroutines

Apocalypse of the Week 7: Wolves and Snakes and Eyjafjallajökull, Oh My!

Some end times scenarios are important not because of their modern adherents, but because of their pop-culture relevance.  With the Norse mythos’s return to people’s minds via the Thor and Avengers movies of recent memory, and the sheer cinematic splendor of the Nordic eschaton, let us examine how the pagans of Scandinavia imagined the world would end: Ragnarok.

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Apocalypse of the Week 7: Wolves and Snakes and Eyjafjallajökull, Oh My!

Apocalypse of the Week 6: The Surf Shop at the End of the World

When I was in high school, my favorite history teacher would occasionally joke that his efforts to educate the students of South Florida would be for naught, as at some point a tsunami would wipe out the east coast of North America.  He also insisted that a similar event would demolish the west coast, leading him to toy with the idea of retiring somewhere in the Alps.  The idea of tectonic activity causing a cataclysmic wave sometime in the geologic future had enough prima facie plausibility that I didn’t think about it any further.
Now I have, and as it turns out, it’s bollocks.

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Apocalypse of the Week 6: The Surf Shop at the End of the World

Apocalypse of the Week 5: Death by Comet Farts

This eschaton is a bit different than the previous ones, in that it has more in common with the recent anti-vaccine malarkey than it does with the religious apocalypse scenarios I’ve explored previously.
In the late 1800s, astronomers performing spectral analysis on comet tails revealed that the tail of Haley’s comet contains hydrogen cyanide.  Since the Earth periodically passes through the tail of Haley’s comet, and would next do so in 1910, newspapers did the responsible thing and claimed that the world would soon be drenched in deadly cyanide gas.  The story soon grew into a full-on end-of-the-world panic, with a run on anti-cyanide pills (often fraudulent) that Carl Sagan famously took on his show “Cosmos.”
Since then, a few things have happened.

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Apocalypse of the Week 5: Death by Comet Farts

Apocalypse of the Week 4: Hot, Sticky Justice

Veterans of the atheosphere might recognize Zoroastrianism as the ancient Persian religion whose Mithraic component is the best-attested antecedent for many Christian traditions, such as celebrating the birth of Jesus on 25 December.  What I didn’t know is that Zoroastrianism is a living religion, with active fire temples singing the praises of the god Ahura Mazda and a world membership of over 200,000, a surprising fraction of which live in Canada.  I can only imagine how they feel about freethinkers using their history as one of many disproofs of Christianity.  My guess?  Weirdly flattered.

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Apocalypse of the Week 4: Hot, Sticky Justice

Apocalypse of the Week 3: Waiting Room Battle Royale

The Raëlians are close to my heart.  One of their subsidiaries, the biotech company Clonaid, announced in 2002 within spitting distance of my hometown that they were growing an army of human clones and were picking out an island off the coast of Brazil to finish their project.  Naturally, the clones never materialized, nor did any way to verify that they were not blowing smoke up people’s nether orifices, but this stunt kept genetics at the forefront of people’s minds for another decade and kept my neck of the woods in the news, so I can’t complain too loudly.  It certainly doesn’t hurt that the Raëlians are mostly in the news lately for their occasional parades of topless women (in protest of laws that criminalize female but not male toplessness) and advocacy of comprehensive sex education.
For those who don’t know, the Raëlians are a UFO cult founded by former French car magazine writer and teen pop star Claude Vorilhon in 1973.  He founded the cult after an encounter in a volcanic crater with a flying saucer, which convinced him to rename himself “Raël, messenger of the Elohim.”  This encounter totally did not involve enough LSD to convince a sperm whale it could fly, no really.

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Apocalypse of the Week 3: Waiting Room Battle Royale