Comets through the ages have always brought with them a sense of mystery, foreboding awe and sometimes downright terror. Can these icy mudballs actually affect events on Earth. Are they signs from heaven of impending doom? Hindu scripture says “yes,” but adds that comets are not always considered harbingers of calamity.

Vedic seers indicate that the placement in the sky of these phenomena when they are first visible to the naked eye should be carefully considered. A comet first appearing in the East signifies the rising of some eminent law-giver; in the midheaven, of some eminent king; but in the West, expect serious trouble. Rishi Varahamihira writes in Brihat Samhita that sages before him studied the character of 1,000 different comets. As of 1995 modern-day scientists had identified only 878 comets that pass near the Earth. Of these, 184 return less than every 200 years. It is astounding to ponder that our sages of yore knew of more of these comets simply through their highly developed spiritual sight than today’s scientists with all of their technology.

The Brihat Samhita describes comets in general as signs of great changes coming to the world, though each individual comet is said to have its unique omen and result. Some forebode danger from fire. Those with crooked tails which appear in the South portend pestilence to the population. There are 22 described as round like a mirror without a tail, appearing in the North-east, that are children of the Earth and threaten with famine. There are three benefic comets that originated from the Moon which appear in the North and bestow an abundance of food.

Varahamihira, describing one comet, says, “The single comet possessing three tails and three colors is named Brahmananda and is the son of Brahma (perhaps a larger comet). It can appear in any part of the sky, and when it does the world will end.” Don’t laugh. In March of 1615 a fiery comet with three tails appeared over Sri Lankan skies filling the whole country with fear and dismay. A Portuguese historian related it was “followed by an outbreak of illness which affected both man and beast. Fish died in such numbers that their putrefying carcasses polluted the air. Then on April 14 the entire city of Colombo was razed to the ground by a severe earthquake. Great fissures opened in the surface of the ground, emitting sulfurous fumes. Fire added to the horrors of that terrible night.” For those Sri Lankans, the world as they knew it did end.

Sages further elaborate that a particular country and the people therein will experience some imbalance when a comet disturbs a constellation that relates to the national or personal horoscope. For example, on April 25, 1910, Halley’s Comet was seen by the naked eye at the 28th degree of Pisces, within three degrees of the first point of Aries, the ruling sign of England. Eleven days later King Edward VII died. Not long after, Portugal, ruled by Pisces, experienced a revolution and the dethronement of their king.

The soon-to-arrive iceball from heaven, Hale-Bopp, first appeared (over the USA) last October, dimly visible to the naked eye in the western sky–a portent of trouble–near the end of the constellation of Scorpio. Even more inauspicious, it had three tails–a portent, the augurs tell, of destruction.