It's high time we started thinking about printing some end-of- the-world T-shirts

"The transformation of humankind is upon us, and there is nothing more urgent for humanity, I would most strongly suggest, than to listen to the message that is set before you here. It is impossible to overstate that urgency. The Earth and all the life she supports are in the process of changes of an incomprehensible magnitude. Nothing and no one will be the same again." (David Icke, looking ahead to the millennium.)

Or on the other hand:

"The site at Greenwich will provide an exhibition which will be the time and the place when Britain shows the world what we can achieve. It can embrace the whole nation in a shared vision. This could become a milestone in our national history." (Virginia Bottomley, looking ahead to the millennium.)

Two paths: which the way?

The fundamental difficulty with current attempts to mark the bi-millennium is that the date itself marks nothing. It is not an anniversary. It is not a milestone in any history. It is a blank punctuation point.

Jesus Christ, for example, is uninvolved. His birth is generally reckoned to be 4BC, which means, oddly enough, that its 2000th anniversary falls this very year, though I don't think anyone is making much of that. As for AD1, it is almost a historical void. Check the records and you will find no event worth major commemoration that year.

We have only a calendar, based on the supposed birth of Jesus, established five centuries later by a Scythian monk called Dionysius Exiguus. He is, in a way, one of the most decisive figures in world history - though it's hard to say just what his achievement was. He picked a date, and it caught on. But he might have picked another and it would have made no difference.

The planned celebrations, though, don't even anniversarise that founding date - as certain pedants have protested. Since Exiguus's calendar starts with year one, its 2000th anniversary occurs in 2001. Choosing the year 2000 reflects only the charm of large, round numbers. The millennium, as proposed, signifies nothing whatsoever to anyone involved. Naturally people start getting desperate, and try to make it - of all things - a celebration of nationhood. We clearly need help.

We must turn to Icke, and those like Icke. There's only one group of people to whom the millennium signifies something definite and momentous: millennarians. Among occultists, astrologers and seers, the date is of extraordinary importance. These people have the "shared vision" that the rest of us lack. They alone have anything to say about it. They, not the Millennium Commission, should be running the show.

It is their beliefs, in fact, that are secretly setting the whole agenda. Behind every public speaker who mouths the phrase "as the millennium approaches", as if something meaningful were about to occur, there lurks a body of ancient esoteric knowledge (widely available in bookshops).

Centuries before the current preparations, the year 2000 has been singled out. You can do it in several ways. There is a venerable notion that the world was created in 4000 BC, and that it would only last 7,000 years; deduct the thousand-year period during which, Revelations says, Christ will come to reign on Earth before the Last Judgement - the Millennium, properly so called - and you arrive at 2000 as the time when things start happening.

Or take the astrological concept of the Great Year, an enormous timespan lasting some 28,000 years, subdivided into Great Months, each about 2,000 years long. One of these began around the year one, and another begins roughly now: this is the dawning of the age of Aquarius. More menacingly, the turn of the Great Year is the subject of Yeats's poem "The Second Coming". Measurements of the Great Pyramid produce similar conclusions. On none of these points has the Millennium Commission made so much as a murmur.

Millennial prophecy is divided on whether it's armageddon or perpetual peace that's just round the corner; often both, but armageddon takes priority. Nostradamus is usually obscure, but on one date he is very precise: "In the year 1999 and seven months / The Great King of Terror will come from the sky." Other things that may be imminently expected, say seers, include the tilting of the earth's axis through 90 degrees, earthquakes everywhere, and the resurfacing of Atlantis.

Admittedly, there is not much that the Millennium Commission can do about any of this. But they will at least be needing some sort of mascot for the occasion. They can turn to Yeats: "And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?"

Surely one can imagine "Ruffy" becoming a popular emblem, something on the lines of Barcelona's "Cobi" or Italia 90's "Dribbly" - T-shirts, banners, holograms, finger-puppets - always instantly recognisable from his insouciant slouch. On the other hand, if Nostradamus knew his business, we may be spared the bother.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Life and Style
fashionHealth concerns and 'pornified' perceptions have made women more conscious at the beach
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Rock band Led Zeppelin in the early 1970s
musicLed Zeppelin to release alternative Stairway To Heaven after 43 years
News
media
Sport
Ojo Onaolapo celebrates winning the bronze medal
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmHe was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
Sport
Van Gaal said that his challenge in taking over Bobby Robson's Barcelona team in 1993 has been easier than the task of resurrecting the current United side
footballA colourful discussion on tactics, the merits of the English footballer and rebuilding Manchester United
Life and Style
Sainsbury's could roll the lorries out across its whole fleet if they are successful
tech
Travel
The shipping news: a typical Snoozebox construction
travelSpending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Arts and Entertainment
'Old Fashioned' will be a different kind of love story to '50 Shades'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Tracey Emin's 'My Bed' is returning to the Tate more than 15 years after it first caused shockwaves at the gallery
artTracey Emin's bed returns to the Tate after record sale
Arts and Entertainment
Smart mover: Peter Bazalgette
filmHow live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences
Environment
Neil Young performing at Hyde Park, London, earlier this month
environment
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Account Manager, London

    £18000 - £22000 per annum, Benefits: Excellent Uncapped Commission Structure: ...

    Sales Executive, London

    £18000 - £22000 per annum: Charter Selection: This exciting entertainment comp...

    Retail Business Analyst

    £300 - £350 per day + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Ecommerce/Retail/E...

    Project Coordinator

    Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: The Organisation: The Green Recrui...

    Day In a Page

    Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

    Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
    Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
    How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

    How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

    Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
    Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

    Pop-up hotels filling a niche

    Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
    Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

    Feather dust-up

    A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
    Boris Johnson's war on diesel

    Boris Johnson's war on diesel

    11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
    5 best waterproof cameras

    Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

    Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
    Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

    Louis van Gaal interview

    Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
    Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

    Will Gore: Outside Edge

    The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
    The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

    The air strikes were tragically real

    The children were playing in the street with toy guns
    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

    Britain as others see us

    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
    How did our legends really begin?

    How did our legends really begin?

    Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
    Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz