“Once there was another Sun and another Moon; a different Sun and a different Moon from the ones we see now. Sol was the name of that Sun and Mani was the name of that Moon. But always behind Sol and Mani wolves went, a wolf behind each. The wolves caught on them at last and they devoured Sol and Mani. And then the world was in darkness and cold.
In those times the Gods lived, Odin and Thor, Hödur and Baldur, Tyr and Heimdall, Vidar and Vali, as well as Loki, the doer of good and the doer of evil. And the beautiful Goddesses were living then, Frigga, Freya, Nanna, Iduna, and Sif. But in the days when the Sun and Moon were destroyed the Gods were destroyed too—all the Gods except Baldur who had died before that time, Vidar and Vali, the sons of Odin, and Modi and Magni, the sons of Thor.
At that time, too, there were men and women in the world. But before the Sun and the Moon were devoured and before the Gods were destroyed, terrible things happened in the world. Snow fell on the four corners of the earth and kept on falling for three seasons. Winds came and blew everything away. And the people of the world who had lived on in spite of the snow and the cold and the winds fought each other, brother killing brother, until all the people were destroyed.
Also there was another earth at that time, an earth green and beautiful. But the terrible winds that blew leveled down forests and hills and dwellings. Then fire came and burnt the earth. There was darkness, for the Sun and the Moon were devoured. The Gods had met with their doom. And the time in which all these things happened was called Ragnarök, the Twilight of the Gods.
Then a new Sun and a new Moon appeared and went traveling through the heavens; they were more lovely than Sol and Mani, and no wolves followed behind them in chase. The earth became green and beautiful again, and in a deep forest that the fire had not burnt a woman and a man wakened up. They had been hidden there by Odin and left to sleep during Ragnarök, the Twilight of the Gods.
Lif was the woman’s name, and Lifthrasir was the man’s. They moved through the world, and their children and their children’s children made people for the new earth. And of the Gods were left Vidar and Vali, the sons of Odin, and Modi and Magni, the sons of Thor; on the new earth Vidar and Vali found tablets that the older Gods had written on and had left there for them, tablets telling of all that had happened before Ragnarök, the Twilight of the Gods.
And the people who lived after Ragnarök, the Twilight of the Gods, were not troubled, as the people in the older days were troubled, by the terrible beings who had brought destruction upon the world and upon men and women, and who from the beginning had waged war upon the Gods.”
Padraic Colum (deceased) described the Beginning as The Twilight Of The Gods in the opening chapter to The Book of Northern Myths.
Myths of creation, the forces of disorder, chaos and Ragnarok
In the beliefs of the Norse and ancient Egypt, divine behavior was believed to govern all nature. Except for the few deities who disrupted the divine order. In Egyptian mythology, the gods’ actions maintained maat and created and sustained all living things. They did this work using a force the Egyptians called heka, a term usually translated as “magic”. Heka was a fundamental power that the creator god used to form the world and the gods themselves. The gods’ actions in the present are described and praised in hymns and funerary texts.
In contrast, mythology mainly concerns the gods’ actions during a vaguely imagined past in which the gods were present on earth and interacted directly with humans. The events of this past time set the pattern for the events of the present. Periodic occurrences were tied to events in the mythic past; the succession of each new pharaoh, for instance, reenacted Horus’ accession to the throne of his father Osiris. Myths are metaphors for the gods’ actions, which humans cannot fully understand.
They contain seemingly contradictory ideas, each expressing a particular perspective on divine events. The contradictions in myth are part of the Egyptians’ many-faceted approach to religious belief—what Henri Frankfort called a “multiplicity of approaches” to understanding the gods.
The first divine act is the creation of the cosmos, described in several creation myths. They focus on different gods, each of which may act as creator deities.
The eight gods of the Ogdoad, who represent the chaos that precedes creation, give birth to the sun god, who establishes order in the newly formed world; Ptah, who embodies thought and creativity, gives form to all things by envisioning and naming them; Atum produces all things as emanations of himself; and Amun, according to the myths promoted by his priesthood, preceded and created the other creator gods.
These and other versions of the events of creation were not seen as contradictory. Each gives a different perspective on the complex process by which the organized universe and its many deities emerged from undifferentiated chaos.
The period following creation, in which a series of gods rule as kings over the divine society, is the setting for most myths. The gods struggle against the forces of chaos and among each other before withdrawing from the human world and installing the historical kings of Egypt to rule in their place.
maat and duat
A recurring theme in these myths is the effort of the gods to maintain maat against the forces of disorder. They fight vicious battles with the forces of chaos at the start of creation. Ra and Apep, battling each other each night, continue this struggle into the present.
Another prominent theme is the gods’ death and revival. The clearest instance where a god dies is the myth of Osiris’ murder, in which that god is resurrected as ruler of the Duat. The sun god is also said to grow old during his daily journey across the sky, sink into the Duat at night, and emerge as a young child at dawn. In the process he comes into contact with the rejuvenating water of primordial chaos.
Funerary texts that depict Ra’s journey through the Duat also show the corpses of gods who are enlivened along with him. Instead of being changelessly immortal, the gods periodically died and were reborn by repeating the events of creation, thus renewing the whole world.
But it was always possible for this cycle to be disrupted and for chaos to return.
Some poorly understood Egyptian texts even suggest that this calamity is destined to happen—that the creator god will one day dissolve the order of the world, leaving only himself and Osiris amid the primordial waters of chaos.
And herein lies a parallel with Ragnarok:
In Norse mythology, Ragnarök is a series of future events, including a great battle foretold to ultimately result in the death of a number of major figures (including the gods Odin, Thor, Týr, Freyr, Heimdallr, and Loki), the occurrence of various natural disasters, and the subsequent submersion of the world in water.