Throughout human history comets have been regarded as
auguries of disasters such as famine, plague, or war. The most
recent outbreak of widespread concern that a comet might portend
disaster occurred in 1973 when the comet Kohoutek was
announced. For the first time in more than a generation, there
arose the possibility that a bright comet, plainly visible with the
naked eye, would be seen by the majority of people. A variety
of speculations on the spiritual and prophetic implications of
the comet were made, but the comet did not prove to be as
spectacular as hoped, and none of the predicted changes signaled
by its appearance occurred. No such speculation seems
to have occurred at the time of the return of Halley’s Comet in
In the past century comets have also figured in speculations
about the history of the earth. In Ragnarok the Age of Fire and
Gravel (1883), Ignatius Donnelly assembled legends and religious
beliefs tending to show that the earth was affected by a
collision with a comet that created the Pleistocene Ice Age. In
the 1950s, Immanuel Velikovsky connected the theme of a
comet disaster with biblical prophecy in his book Worlds in Collision.
Donnelly, Ignatius. Ragnarok The Age of Fire and Gravel. New
York Harper’s, 1883. Reprinted as The Destruction of Atlantis
Ragnarok. Blauvelt, N.Y. Rudolf Steiner Publications, 1971.
Melton, J. Gordon. ‘‘Comet Kouhotek Fizzle of the Century.’’
Fate 27, no. 5 (May 1974) 58–64.
Velikovsky, Immanuel. Worlds in Collision. Garden City,
N.Y. Doubleday, 1950.