With December 21st 2012, just round the corner, dooms day predictors are bound to get louder and hysterical about the inevitable destruction of our civilization. This however is not an isolated case. Way back in the year 999 CE as the first millennium was drawing to a close, a similar dooms day scenario was painted. Though the church did not encouraged this delusion many during that period left their homes and thronged to Jerusalem with the hope that in the holy land they could ward of the imminent calamity. Many of them travelled eastwards, praying and singing with the lurking fear of an imminent thunderstorm or meteor shower. Though nothing happened, the phenomenon of dooms day predictions had been with us since ancient times.
Most predictions centered on either astronomical events or geological activity. Some of the most common astronomical events that trigger mass hysteria are like eclipses or the appearances of comets. Eclipses for example have always been viewed as inauspicious indications of imminent danger in various cultures. For example, in one of Alexander the Great’s major battle, a solar eclipse spread panic amongst his troops. But a confident Alexander interpreted it as a sign of the doom for his enemies. The result was he won the battle and earned the admiration of his soldiers.
Apart from eclipses, another astronomical phenomenon which triggers mass hysteria is the conjunction of the planets. Very often certain planetary combinations are interpreted as indications of disasters. For example in the year 1186 CE there was a conjunction of five planets, this according to a person by a name John of Toledo predicted that as the conjunction of planets would take place under the sign of Libra, and the world would be struck by severe storms and earthquakes. This rumor spread far and wide and the archbishop of Canterbury proclaimed that fasting and praying should be done by all the faithful. In distant Constantinople, the emperor got so carried away by this rumor that he had his palace windows boarded in order to prevent the lashing storm. In Germany people huddled themselves in caves and cellars to escape the ravages of the earthquake.
A more stranger dooms day rumor spread during the early 60’s. A person by name Dr.Robert S Richardson who worked in Mount Wilson Observatory California in 1965 had speculated that ‘A change of a few degrees at the position of a descending node of Icarus’s orbit (a little asteroid about a mile wide)’ the point at which the asteroid crosses the plane of the earth’s orbit from North to South would make it possible for Icarus and the Earth to be at the same place in space at the same time”. He was only speculating about a remote possibility of Icarus hitting the earth probably on 15th June 1968. But this triggered widespread rumors, so much so that the SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE in 1968 reported ‘A planet is about to hit the earth the rumors say: a heavenly body of huge proportions and mysterious origin is passing close to earth—so close that the coasts of the continent will sink, the lost island of Atlantis will rise and all California will be inundated by a tidal wave rivaling the flood’. The rumors became so exaggerated that a false story began to circulate that the Vatican observatory had also confirmed it. Though this was vehemently denied by them, worldwide it created great panic. June 15th dawned, but no such thing happened.
Atlantis which was speculated to re-emerge from the depths of the ocean was earlier predicted by a mystic healer called Edgar Cayce during the 1930’s and 1940’s. He made these predictions while he went into a trance like sleep when he was diagnosing his patient’s illness. During these sessions he would mumble about non medical things. One topic which invariably cropped up was the re emergence of Atlantis. In his ramblings, he would say in a very incoherent manner ‘…in Atlantis in the period of the first upheavals and destruction that came to the land and must in the next generation come to other land.’ He would also continue saying ‘Boseidia will be among the first portions of Atlantis to rise again. Expect it in 68 and 69 not so far way’. Though this may sound ridiculous, many of Casey’s followers interpreted this as the rising of the lost continent of Atlantis. This was compounded by the statement of amateur archaeologists who called themselves Marine Archaeological Society Research Society (MARS) about spotting the remains of an ancient temple in the Greater Bahama Bank, a shallow area off the island of Bimini.
Doomsday scenarios had always been around, because deep down in our sub-conscious mind lurks the perennial fear of annihilation and collective extinction.