Thursday, December 20, 2012

December 21, 2012! Doomsday?

Does the Maya Calendar Really predict the end of the world for December 21, 2012

Predicted Ruler after the 13th baktun

The doomsday prediction is supposedly based upon the Mayan Calendar which supposedly predicted the end of the world.  Well, in truth, the calendar doesn't predict an end of the world, just an end to one of the many cycles inherent in the Mayan calendar system.  The Mayan Calendar was the product of sophisticated observation of the earth and the heavens.  Today, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration represents this function for us.   After receiving a deluge of questions, they have responded with, “Just as the calendar you have on your kitchen wall does not cease to exist after December 31, the Mayan calendar does not cease to exist on December 21, 2012. This date is the end of the Mayan long-count period but then -- just as your calendar begins again on January 1 -- another long-count period begins for the Mayan calendar.”

So what is significant about the “Long Count?”  Early on, in fact before the Maya, the people of that region noticed that some things repeat over a period of time.  They saw that the sun regularly rises and sets every day.  They noticed that the phases of the moon repeated after 29 days.  They figured out that from a woman’s first missed period until birth was 260 days.  They watched as the sun rises and sets progressively further north or south each day until after 365 days, it starts over and repeats its journey.    Armed with these basics, they started tracking everything believing that if they watched it long enough, it would eventually start again.  So, if you know the cycles, then you can predict the future of that cycle – when it will end and when it will begin again.  The system became so sophisticated that they could predict what a baby would grow up to be based on the day it was born.

I like to think of the Mayan Calendar as a machine with many gears.  For instance, there are the basic two gears that are called the Tzolkin, or the Calendar Round.  Gear one has 13 cogs and gear two has 20.  Let’s say you align cog 0 on the smaller gear to cog 0 on the larger gear.  Each cog represents one day.  These cogs would re-align after 260 days.  Then they added another gear with 365 cogs that would track a 52-year cycle, and that combination is called the Haab.

In the Calendar Round, the cogs on gear one were numbers and the cogs on gear two were names.   Not unlike our astrology, each name had characteristics that enabled interpreters to make predictions.  If the year began with 10 Ahua, for example, it meant “scanty are the rains … misery”.
In addition to these gear systems, an independent calendar called the “Long Count” was used to count the days since, well, the beginning of time.  The starting date for the Long Count is August 11, 3114 BCE in the Gregorian calendar or 6 September in the Julian calendar(-3113 astronomical).   For this calendar, the Mayans used a “positional” system similar to our number system.  The first position of our number represents the number of “1’s”; the same with the Long Count.  The second position in our system represents the number of “10’s”; it is the number of “20’s” for the Maya.  So, would be year 25.  Numbers were similar to our Roman Numerals, with dots and bars.  A dot is 1 and a bar represented 5.
The Long Count was particularly well suited to use on monuments.  Significant periods or episodes were documented by the Maya with the erection of a Stela monument.  The monumental inscriptions would not only include the 5 digits of the Long Count, but would also include the two tzolkin characters followed by the two haab characters.  The monument pictured to the right is from the east side of stela C, Quirigua with the date of 13 baktuns, 0 katuns, 0 tuns, 0 uinals, 0 kins, 4 Ahau 8 Cumku.
So what does all this have to do with December 21, 2012?  It is simply the day that the Maya Long Count calendar will go to the next baktun, Long Count This date doesn’t even complete the baktun series when the Long Count rolls over to piktun 1 at Long Count, October 13, 4772.

I do find the numerical symbology elegant.  The Mayan Long count equates to 12-21-12 on our calendar, which is our Winter Solstice (first day of winter).

-- Courtney Miller

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