In December 2010, I had the opportunity to travel to Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula and, among other things, learn about the significance of the December 21, 2012 date to the Maya. For example, were there any actual predictions about 2012? Did the Maya predict that the world would end? Did they predict doom and gloom? Did they predict anything at all?
HOW THE MAYA FIGURED TIME
First, the Maya did not number each year as is our modern custom. Rather, they counted time by the number of days that have elapsed since a day that corresponds to our August 11, 3114 B.C. The historical significance of that date is unclear, but is generally thought to correspond to a mythical date of creation.
I went to the Mayan sites under the guidance of Miguel Angel Vergara Calleros, PhD. Vergara is the author of numerous books on the Maya. He was the director of cultural services at Chichen Itza for several years and is one of the foremost authorities on the archaelogical site of Chichen Itza. Additionally, he studied with a Mayan shaman for 17 years, and now continues to share in classes and seminars about Mayan spirituality.
But I wasn’t going to learn about 2012 in a vacuum. I was going to spend nearly two weeks immersed in Maya culture, learning significant aspects of their beliefs, spirituality, and monumental architecture. I would learn about 2012 in the proper context.
I arrived in Merida by airplane in early December, ready for a week of travel to pyramids, caves and cenotes.
We began by visiting Mayapan, the last place where Kukulkan was known to reside. Kukulkan, aka Quetzalcoatl, was referred to as the Mayan Christ, a visitor who came from afar, who uplifted the people, and created Mystery Schools whose ancient universal teachings are still preserved in stone.
We visited Izamal, where the top of a major pyramid had been leveled to create a large cathedral in the colonial days. There, on the large sprawling plaza of the cathedral, Pope John Paul II came in 1993 to ask forgiveness of the native people for the atrocities committed by the Spanish and the Church. Ten thousand native people showed up to see the Pope and hear his plea for forgiveness.
Later in the day, we had lunch at Mani, where in 1562 the zealous Bishop Diego de Landa ordered the burning and destruction of Mayan codices and artifacts. Even though de Landa didn’t understand what the artifacts meant, he was convinced that they were contrary to the teaching of the church.
“This destruction was akin to the burning of the library of Alexandria in the ancient world,” said Vergara. Interestingly, as an afterthought, de Landa thought there might be something of value in the Mayan writings. He saved 4 codices from destruction, and began to write down everything he could recalled in his famous document, “Relacion de Cosas de Yucatan” (“History of the Things of Yucatan”). It is because of de Landa’s writings that much of the Maya writings have been translated and understood.
One night, Vergara and author Richard Jelusich talked about the Mayan calendar. Like our own modern calendar, the Maya had different divisions of time which they kept track of.
The majority of scholars agree on how to correlate our calendar with the Mayan calendar, so the end of the current Long Count is generally agreed to be December 21, 2012, though there are other proposed dates as well.
The divisions of time that they kept track of were the following:
One day, which is referred to as a “kin”;
20 days, called a “uinal” – roughly a month;
18 uinals or 360 days, called a “tun” – roughly a year;
20 tuns or 7,200 days, called a “katun”—19.7 years;
20 katuns or 144,000 days, called a “baktun” – 394.26 years.
Thus, a calendar glyph would be represented by 5 symbols, and a number to indicate how many days in each of the periods have elapsed since August 11, 3114 B.C.
The “Long Count” of the Maya calendar is the time it takes for 13 baktuns, counting from August 11, 3114 B.C. This Long Count is a period of 5,125.36 years, and that cycle ends on December 21, 2012. However, the following day does not begin the 14th baktun, but rather, the count from 1 to 13 begins again. One Long Count ends, another begins.
There are no “predictions” — except one — that specifically refers to December 21, 2012. And there is nothing in the recorded records predicting doom and gloom. In fact, there is hardly any mention about 2012 at all. Only one stele mentions it.
Vergara points out that “(The 2012 date) is found recorded in stone in Stele No.6, discovered in Tortuguero, Tabasco and in a fragment found in the Olmec-Maya city of Comocalco, Tabasco. What is the stele telling us?
What is going to happen on this date? The stele tells us that we are going to conclude a period of time, an era, a sun, a final cycle, and then initiate a new one. Once the 13 Baktuns end on the 23 of December 2012, Bolon-Yokte-Ku [also spelled “Bolon-Yookte’ K’uh”], the god of the 9 pillars, will descend from the heavens.”
OK, the god of the 9 pillars will descend from the heavens. What does that mean? Is this an actual “prophecy”?
The Tortuguero monument 6 is the only known specific date reference to 2012. In his “The 2012 Story” book, author John Jenkins refers to the work of epigrapher David Stuart who offered his translation of this reference to the end of the 13th Baktun. The inscription actually reads that “something [the something is effaced and untranslatable] will occur…. It will be the descent (?) of the Nine Support God(s) to the (?).”
Stuart continues: “This is it. The term following uht-oom is the main puzzle, and largely effaced. The ‘descent’ reference is highly tentative, too. Frankly, the Tortuguero passage, buried in lots of other data, hasn’t been a huge deal to most of us because it is damaged and very, very ambiguous…. Even if the glyphs there were clear and legible, no Mayanist I know honestly believes that the Classic Maya foresaw something that might actually come true in our day and age.”
Vergara also points out there are dates that go way beyond 2012. In the Temple of the Inscriptions in Palenque, Chiapas, there is a date of 4,772 A.D. He asks, if the Maya believed that “the world would end” at the end of their Long Count, why would they have projected dates so far into the future?
Vergara acknowledges that lots of folks are simply making things up to sell books and fill seminars. “The Maya would have celebrated such a cycle ending, just like everyone today celebrates the New Year.”
Of course, lots of folks have come up with an abundance of details which draw significance to the 2012 date, though very few of those details were written about by the Maya. These are merely inferences, fact and fancy, trying to correlate the end of one Long Count with some catastrophic event.
Plus, it is worth noting that all calendars, regardless how sophisticated and “advanced,” are man-made constructs for allowing us to track time and the natural cycles of our world and universe.
Richard Jelusich points out that the one astronomical event tied to 2012 — the plane of our solar system crossing through the center of the plane of the Milky Way galaxy — has been occurring from 1980 through 2017. “2012 is a process, not an event,” he says. During my time in the Yucatan, both Vergara and Jelusich downplayed any extraordinary significance of the December 21, 2012 date.
2012 was described as a point where one cycle in the abstraction of a calendar ends, and another begins. In this sense, the value of 2012 is entirely up to us. Whether or not we gain, or evolve, is entirely a function of our own physical, mental, and spiritual work and preparedness. There is nothing inherently “good” or “bad” about the December 21, 2012 date.
We learned that the secret to 2012 is everywhere. In fact, there is no secret at all. 2012 is everything and nothing. It is the ending of the 13 baktuns of the Long Count as another Long Count begins. It is a time, therefore, of increased awareness and internet connections that allows us to be instantly connected. It is a time of potential, and like any other such time, it is entirely up to us to fit ourselves to be ready for such opportunities.
Nyerges is the author of numerous books on self-reliance and survival. He also leads regular outdoor field trips. He can be reached at www.ChristopherNyerges.com, or Box 41834, Eagle Rock, CA 90041