2012 Mayan Prophecies

Who You Gonna Call?

The 2012 Mayan prophecies tell us that on December 23, 2012 the world is coming to an end, or, at least, that's what a lot of folks are saying.

There's just one problem: this is not what the prophecies say.

In fact, the Mayan calendar extends far into the future, much farther, quadrillions of years farther, than 2012. That's longer than the projected life of the sun, the known age of the universe itself or even the continuing popularity of Burberry plaid.

The Mayan Calendar

The Mayan calendrical system was complex. It consisted of a series of three interlocking counting schemes: two cyclical calendars each with a set number of days, and a third linear calendar called "the long count."

The first cycle was a series of of twenty day months. This in turn was combined with a second, sacred calendar, of 260 days in an interlocking system which would repeat in precise 52 year cycles. This 52 year cycle is known as "the calendar round." It is perhaps curious that in the calendar round the years themselves are not numbered; dates are formed by combining two sequences of numbers and names in a permutation that completes in exactly 52 years. As 52 years was longer than the lifespan of most ancient Maya, numbering the years themselves was seen as perhaps unnecessary.

The third system, known as the baktun was used for counting years. Wikipedia defines the baktun as containing "144,000 days, equivalent to 394.25 tropical years." (source) We are currently in the 13th baktun, which is due to wrap up on the Winter Solstice, 2012.

This is the supposed date for the New Millennium or Apocalypse depending on which 2012 Mayan prophesies salesman you listen to.

Astronomy and Supersition

The Mayans are justly famous for their astronomical observations. The yearly calendar that resulted from their meticulous observations is, in fact, more accurate than our own. This scientific accomplishment does not mean, however, that they were free from superstition.

Far from it. The Mayan religion, for example, involves a pantheon of gods and monsters, and required constant human sacrifice to provide the sun with the nourishment it needed to rise each day.

Another common superstition involved recurring periods of bad luck on the completion of certain calendar rounds. One of these was a yearly event. The Mayans divided each year into equal periods equivalent to our "months," with twenty days each. This left five days "left over" at the end of the year, a period referred to as "Wayeb" which was considered very unlucky.

2012 Mayan Prophecies: Interpreting the Inscriptions

Contemporary prophets of doom/new millennium are predicting that the end of the 13th baktun will be a time of cosmic change. But is this something that the Mayans themselves believed in? Apparently not then and certainly not today. There are two inscriptions which refer to this date. The text is fragmentary and the translation unclear, and while the 13th baktun is mentioned, scholars disagree about its significance. (source)

So what is all the hype about?

It may be that those who look into the beliefs of the Maya have applied the ancient superstition about the 5 unlucky days at the end of the year to fears about the end of the baktun. Perhaps the reasoning goes as follows: if there's an unlucky period at the end of 360 days, then the period following 144,000 days must be a time for high anxiety indeed.

Or perhaps, it's nothing more than what one movie critic (whose name I'm sorry I can't remember) called: "end of the world fun for you and me." The fad surrounding the 2012 Mayan prophesies has spawned an entire industry of TV specials, movies, books and seminars. It's a gift that keeps on giving.

Personally, I'd rather listen to noted supernaturalists Venkman, Stanz, Spengler and Zeddemore:

Dr. Peter Venkman: This city is headed for a disaster of biblical proportions.

Mayor: What do you mean, "biblical"?

Dr Ray Stantz: What he means is Old Testament, Mr. Mayor, real wrath of God type stuff.

Dr. Peter Venkman: Exactly.

Dr Ray Stantz: Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies! Rivers and seas boiling!

Dr. Egon Spengler: Forty years of darkness! Earthquakes, volcanoes...

Winston Zeddemore: The dead rising from the grave!

Dr. Peter Venkman: Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together... mass hysteria!

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