Monday, November 5, 2012

What the Maya Officially Believe About 2012

I've already mentioned a number of times on this blog that actual Mayans think the whole "2012 apocalypse" being promulgated by the New Age community is ridiculous and has nothing to do with their beliefs. Now there's finally an official announcement to that effect.

Maya alliance spokesman Felipe Gomez has issued a statement to the media explaining how his people interpret the new calendar cycle that begins on December 21 of this year. The statement was issued in response to Westerners attempting to turn a profit off these far-out doomsday predictions in the form of books, films, songs, and even an expensive "doomsday" bike tour.

Doomsday and catastrophic predictions related to the Mayan calendar, which hits a symbolic turning point on Dec. 21, 2012, aren't new. They already permeate pop culture through films, songs and hundreds of books. But as the new year approaches, interest has spiked. A Reuters survey in May found that one in 10 people believe that the Mayan calendar could signify the end of the world in 2012, and 15 percent of people believe the world will end in their lifetime. Web sites and message boards promoting the "Mayan doomsday" date have proliferated, and at least one company is selling $5,300 tickets for a 28-day "La Ruta Maya" bike tour that will begin in Costa Rica and end on Dec. 21 in Belize.

Gomez said the Dec. 21 "doomsday" is actually the beginning of a new time cycle on the Mayan calendar and "means there will be big changes on the personal, family and community level, so that there is harmony and balance between mankind and nature," according to the AFP.

Gomez's told the AFP that his group is organizing what it sees as more respectful and sacred events to mark the turn of the new Mayan calendar in five cities. He suggested that the government instead support these gatherings, the AFP reported.

Now doesn't that make a lot more sense than "The calendar is running out! We're ALL GOING TO DIE!!!"? Here's some advice for New Agers looking for cultural material to appropriate - try to make sure that culture it belongs to doesn't still exist. Mayans are a substantial minority in both Belize and Guatamala and many still practice their traditional religion, which includes the use and interpretation of the dreaded doomsday calendar. And if that culture does exists, ask its members what their symbols mean before you make a fool of yourself.

I suppose that's a lot to ask, really. When the European calendar hit the millenium a bunch of people went over-the-top about another apocalypse that never happened. That's exactly what this is - only in the Maya calendar this "millenium" cycle, called a baktun, is 144,000 days or approximately 394 years rather than a thousand. The date does have religious significance, but as an occasion for celebration and reflection rather than panic.

Technorati Digg This Stumble Stumble


Imago said...

Yes, this sort of reminds me of the ASE conference, where the fellow who presented his paper on Gustav Adolph Schoener on “‘The Flood’ of 1524: The First Mass-media Event in European History. It's in Volume IX here:

I personally believe that the original idea proposed by Terrance and Dennis McKenna was modeled on an extreme spike of novelty - off the range of Dennis' computer modelling, if I remember it correctly. It's good to hear someone presenting a positive, uplifting outcome rather than more doom and gloom.

Scott Stenwick said...

I'll say. The idea of extreme novelty is a lot more fun. So what do you think? Is it really going to happen in another month and a half? If so, what will it look like?

Apocalyptic ideas certainly have a long history, as your example of the 1524 "flood" demonstrates. I'll never understand the appeal of hoping for the end of the world - except, maybe, for rapture believers who actually think they'll be taken up into heaven before the really bad stuff starts happening. But really, from a Christian perspective how is that any different than dying, aside from being less messy?

I suppose an obsession with world-ending disasters might be a way of coping if your life is really bad. Even so I have a hard time seeing how navigating any sort of post-apocalyptic landscape is going to be an improvement. There's a lot we take for granted about having a developed civilization that I think most of those folks would start missing about five minutes after whatever cataclysm they're convinced is coming finally strikes.

Unknown said...

It’s easy to believe that the Mayans predicted the end of the world because they were able to make a complex calendar system without technology. This got a lot of people coming up with different theories as to why the Mayan calendar stopped at December 21, 2012. For me, on the other hand, calendars are merely a representation of time and cannot predict any events in the future.

Emmaline Pham

Scott Stenwick said...

That might make sense if the calendar were simply an artifact of a lost culture, but what I find so strange about the apocalypse claims is that the Maya religion is still practiced by some of the seven million or so Mayans who live in Central America and southern Mexico today.

There are existing lines of Daykeepers - the traditional keepers of the calendar - that have endured since before the Spanish conquest. None of them assert that the end of the current calendar cycle predicts any sort of apocalypse - it simply is not part of their beliefs. However, certain New Agers who are not Mayan at all keep trying to insist that it is.