There is little doubt in the minds of the world’s indigenous elders that present-day events are the fulfilment of their ancestor’s prophecies for the end of time. Although many of the details for such prophecies have been shrouded in secrecy to preserve their integrity, those who have held them sacred are now openly sharing them with the world. Sensing that now is ‘the time,’ they believe that people of all nations and beliefs can benefit from the wisdom of the past. While the specifics of how we may recognize the significance of the early 21st century vary from tradition to tradition and from telling, common themes weave the different prophecies into a consistent story. Those of the Hopi of America’s Desert Southwest offer a beautiful example.
The Four Worlds of the Past
In words that are simple and direct, the Hopi recount a story that many people today prefer to think of as a metaphor for the past rather than a factual history. Maybe it is easier to think of the following prophecy in that way. If the story is true, it tells of a past that is just too frightening and too painful for many to accept.
It’s the story of Earth, and human history on it, punctuated with times when the unthinkable has happened: the planet changed so quickly and drastically that life as it was known before the change forever disappeared. In his landmark book Meditations with the Hopi (1986), scholar Robert Boissiere illustrates the clarity and simplicity of the Hopi worldview. Following are brief excerpts from a longer narrative he gathered while living among the Hopi for years, having been accepted as family.
On the destruction of the first world:
The remnants of the first people moved in with the ant people to be safe when Sotuknang [the sky God] destroyed Tokpela, the first world, with fire.
On the destruction of the second world:
[Then] some became greedy! – though life was plentiful. Greed made them fight one another…. So Taiowa [the Creator] said to Sotuknang, ‘Destroy this second world!’ …The [second] world froze solid from pole to pole, and in its imbalance, the world stopped spinning for a while.
On the destruction of the third world:
In this [third] world, humankind grew and grew, spreading everywhere…. Some became so powerful, they waged war on the others, annihilating them with their machines… Then Sotuknang destroyed the third world. A great flood covered the Earth; it rained for a full moon.
These excerpts describe three vast cycles of time, three previous worlds that existed before the fourth one of today. Each of the preceding worlds concluded with a great cataclysm: the first with earthquakes and the sinking of continents, the second with the earth covered in ice, the third with a great flood. The prophecy says that the fourth world will end in our lifetime and that we will soon be living in the fifth.
Although the words are nonscientific, the Hopi description of the events that ended
According to the Hopi, the same cycles of time and nature that have heralded such changes in the past are now bringing the present world to an end as the next begins. What makes the Hopi worldview so important going forward is its accuracy regarding the past. The key here is that the Hopi knew of these cycles long before modern researchers could confirm them scientifically. If such indigenous knowledge of cycles is so accurate for the past, then what does that mean for their predictions of what’s to come in the future?