A brief mention in the 1966 book, The Maya, by Yale University anthropologist Michael Coe, is allegedly responsible for the plethora of end-of-the-world prophesies associated with December 21, 2012. Coe wrote that in the Mayan Long Count calendar: “There is a suggestion … that Armageddon would overtake the degenerate peoples of the world and all creation on the final day of the thirteenth (baktun). Thus … our present universe … (would) be annihilated on December 23, 2012, when the Great Cycle of the Long Count reaches completion.”
But Coe’s initial interpretation is now widely disputed, which makes sense since more and more information about the Mayan civilization has been learned by scholars since Coe wrote those words over four decades ago.
What is true is that the ancient Mayans had a great talent for astronomy, and their studies of the sky allowed them to develop an intricate understanding of time. Their Long Count calendar begins in 3,114 BC, marking time in roughly 394-year periods known as Baktuns. The Mayan sacred number was 13 and the 13th Baktun ends around December 21, 2012, which is the end of a 5,125-year era. The Mayans believed the end of the cycle merely signalled the beginning of another cycle — not a world-wide cataclysm.
The only ancient monument that references the end-date 13 Baktun is Tortuguero Monument 6, which claims a god will “descend” on that date, marking the beginning of a new cycle and a good reason to hold a party.
“For the ancient Maya,” according to Sandra Noble, the executive director of the Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies, Inc. in Crystal River, Florida, “it is a huge celebration to make it to the end of a whole cycle.”
She said that using the Mayan calendar to propagate a doomsday scenario, resulting from some cosmic shift, is “a complete fabrication and a chance for a lot of people to cash in.”
On December 21, 2012, the sun will align with the centre of the Milky Way — as it does roughly every 26,000 years — but scholars doubt the ancient Mayans associated any great meaning to this cosmic alignment.
For that matter, the world didn’t end 26,000 years ago, although an Ice Age covered much of the northern portions of the continents of North America, Europe and Asia in massive three-kilometre-thick glaciers. The Ice Age was not the end of the world, and animals and mankind thrived in the shadow of the ice sheets. Actually, some of the great Stone Age technological and artistic innovations arose during the last Ice Age. It was these innovations which allowed humans to spread into the North American continent approximately 13,500 years ago.
From time immemorial there have been predictions of doom, which have caused panic among the masses. On the last day of the year 999, the old St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome was thronged with trembling and weeping worshippers awaiting the end of the world. Many were convinced that Armageddon would come at the stroke of midnight, drawing this conclusion due to the millennium as well as so-called signs and omens in the sky. Those who were able to flocked to Jerusalem so that they could die in the Holy City, while others gave away all their worldly possessions to ease their entry into the next world.
“Every phenomenon of nature filled them with alarm,” wrote Raoul Glaber, a contemporary monk and author of Tales. “A thunderous storm sent them all upon their knees in mid-march (to Jerusalem). It was the opinion that thunder was the voice of God announcing the Day of Judgment.”
Of course, the end didn’t come. The only thing arising from the panic was deep-seated embarrassment, although some still predicted the end was near, as has been the case for centuries, but none of the predictions of doom has come to fruition.
The world has always had its share of doomsday predictors, who for whatever reason decide the signs about them reveal some cosmic plot to destroy the Earth and its inhabitants. Every war, famine and natural disaster is a sign that the end is drawing nigh.
“Neo-Nostradamians, Paracelsians, Cagliostroans, Sacerians, Pyramidians, followers of Edgar Cayce the Sleeping Prophet, and of other sooth- or gloomsayers predict the end of the world variously as a result of cosmic cataclysm, the assault of extraterrestrials, a sudden shift in the earth’s axis of it spinning out of orbit,” wrote Richard Erdoes in 1000 AD: A World on the Brink of Apocalypse, a book that was published just prior to the start of AD 2000, which was also considered the time when the world would end.
The reality is that the doomsayers are perpetuating nothing more than a monstrous and elaborate hoax. It would be amusing, if it weren’t so cruel. Too many people take these so-called predictions to heart and develop a severe case of depression or other mental neurosis.
The alleged Y2K crisis scared the daylights out of quite a few people, with the doomsayers predicting ICBMs launching on their own and airplanes falling out of the sky.
December 21, 2012, is no more significant than November 21, 2012, or January 21, 2012. Some important event could occur on these days that will affect the temporal world — let’s hope it’s peace in the Middle East?
It’s also extremely suspect to make such a prognostication based upon a timeframe developed by a long-vanished civilization such as the Maya.
It’s a shame that so-called history channels have propagated the myth by running TV programs which use the musings of Nostradamus and tidbits of Mayan lore to ask: “Is 2012 the year the cosmic clock finally winds down to zero days, zero hope?” The Internet is also responsible for giving a forum to the doomsayers, who also spread the myth of the “end of days” in 2012.
Apolinario Chile Pixtun, a Mayan elder, said he is tired of being bombarded with frantic questions about the Mayan calendar supposedly “running out” on December 21, 2012. It’s not the end of the world, he added. “I came back from England last year and, man, they had me fed up with this stuff.”
While the Mayan civilization that created the calendar disappeared around AD 900, the Mayan people have not. Once their ancient civilization collapsed, the Mayan people abandoned their magnificent cities and scattered into the countryside. As a result, most of them have no knowledge whatsoever about the Long Count calendar.
Don’t be afraid. The world will not suffer an earth-ending cataclysm on December 21. Instead, another day on the calendar will simply pass. There is also the inconvenience for doomsday promoters that the Maya calendar references dates
after December 21, 2012.