Apocalympics 2012 – Mayan “Prophecy”
The Maya of ancient Mexico had very advanced concepts of mathematics, astronomy and Time. They kept track of solar and lunar years, eclipses and the cycles of visible planets. To carry out their calendric and astronomical calculations they developed a sophisticated mathematical system where units are written with dots and bars are used to represent five units. They also developed a vigesimal (20 base) positioning system, similar to the decimal positioning system we use today.
The Maya’s sacred book, the Popol Vuh, explains the creation of the Universe – with all the usual gods and goddesses, a Plumed Serpent and a Flood. According to their beliefs, Creation happened after Tepeu, the Sky God, and Gukumatz, the Plumed Serpent (or plain old Snake God, depending on which interpretation you follow) decided that they needed to be worshipped. Why is it that these all-powerful beings are always so insecure? Anyway, it took the Maya Creation Gods several attempts to create Human Beings who would worship them (a bit like God’s first attempt at creating Woman). First, they created animals who didn’t worship them, so they banished them to the forest. Next, they created Man out of mud, but soon they just washed away (there’s a lesson for you, Yaweh). Next, they created Man out of wood, but they were pretty rubbish at ‘worshipping’ so the Gods got angry and Flooded the place to get rid of them. Finally, Worshipful Man was made out of Maize.
The Maya used several calendars simultaneously – one was 13 days long, another was 20 days long, they had one which covered 260 days and another covering 365 days. They even had calendars covering much longer periods of Time. One of these called the ‘Long Count’, and is a continuous record of days from the ‘Zero date’ beginning of the Worshipful Man- which according to the Maya’s detailed calendars happened at Long Count 0.0.0.0.0. This date is thought to correspond to August 12th or 13th, 3114 BCE in the Gregorian calendar. According to the Maya, the current Long Count will finish on 126.96.36.199.0 or on the 21st or 23rd of December 2012 CE.
Some people – whacky New Agers and many people who should know better – have taken this to mean that the world will end. The fact that the end of the Mayan Long count ends on or near the Winter Solstice adds much more significance to people who seem to think there’s some kind of ‘supernatural magic’ in the revolution of the Earth around the Sun.
What I can’t understand is why people think the Maya had more of an ability to see into the future than any one else. The Unarians thought aliens would invade Earth in 2001. Didn’t happen. The Concerned Christians cult believed an earthquake would wipe Denver off the map in 1998. Didn’t happen. The Third Reich was supposed to have lasted 1,000 years. Didn’t happen…
Or why not believe the Lord’s Witnesses who believe the world will end on the 21st of March this year? (update: didn’t happen) Some guy named Harold Camping has written a book which clearly states that the Bible predicts the end of the world to be in 2011 (update: didn’t happen). Why not believe him? Why not believe that the end of the world will happen sometime between the first of March and the first of April THIS YEAR, when the world’s population reaches 6.66 billion??! (update:… you get the idea)
When it’s pointed out to believers in Mayan prophecy that they sound ‘whacky’ they will often say, ‘It won’t be the end of the whole world, just a monumental change!’ I’d say that there have have been all kinds of monumental changes recently – the discovery of penecillin was pretty world changing. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was pretty monumental. The Moon landings were one small step off our planet for the very first time. I’d say that changed things pretty significantly. Hell, even Live Aid changed the way we think about the less fortunate in the world.
Between the end of the Mayan civilization and now there have been HUNDREDS of massively monumental changes- wars, disasters, famines which have wiped out millions upon millions of people… still the world goes on and those events purely become our history. Nothing more, nothing less.
Why would the Mayan calendar have any more significance than this graphic from the Long Now Foundation?
Do you think in just under 8,000 years from now some people will find this and predict the “end of the world” in the year 12,000 CE because of the “mysteries of the Long Now chart”? Think scholars will talk about how the Long Now believed the beginning of Our Time was 8,000 BCE and that the world would end after 20,000 years? Why wouldn’t they? It states that pretty clearly, doesn’t it?
I’m afraid that anyone who believes there is any deep significance in Mayan Prophecy is quite clearly incapable of finding joy and wonder in the real world and instead insists on creating stories which are based on fear, negativity, insecurity and self-loathing. Seriously, you can’t predict the end of the world *and* love Yourself, Humanity and the Universe, can you?
(Note: I must thank Adrian Pegg for inspiring the title of this post. :)
Here is my husband talking about this whilst filming his new documentary on Time.
**Update** 1 May 2009
I am closing comments on this post now. I am 4 weeks away from having my baby and I really can’t be bothered deleting any more of the idiocy that people are posting in the comments. I’ve no time for dumb people right now. Sorry. Find somewhere else to spread your silly thoughts. Thanks!