Traverse City Record-Eagle


Midwinter Mayan Madness?

Cathy Stripe LesterThe following blog was written when the movie “2012″ came out in 2009. However, as Dec. 21, 2012, is upon us, it seemed irresistible to take another bite of the apple:

I understand some people are getting a mite worried about the world ending on Dec. 21, 2012, when according to the Mayan Calendar, it’ll be destroyed, and a new world put in place.

This could be good news for those who think the world is going to Hell in a handbasket.

Big government? Gone. Taxes? Who we gonna pay ‘em to?

Wars? Not enough people to fight ‘em.

Health care? Support your local Shaman.

The list goes on. Talk-show hosts? You mean they have a real existence? As people? Away from the TV screen? Oh.

Stockbrokers and bankers? All their gazillions are going to be in a Swiss Bank Vault and they’re going to be scrambling for roots and berries like the rest of us. When they’re competing with their former lackeys over a patch in Central Park to plant beans on, some of the lackeys are going to remember their brother had his home foreclosed … Plus the lackeys are going to have a lot more real-world experience getting their hands dirty.

Liberal vs. Conservative philosophy? Irrelevant. Without a government, who needs theories? Theories can only grow prominent when our society gets so swollen and complex that we are in a sense removed from the real consequences of our theorizing. In a remade world, with a handful of survivors and no infrastructure, people will have to go for what works, not what “ought to work” when filtered through seventy-‘leven layers of bureaucracy.

Anyone looking forward to the dawn of a cleaned-up world will of course have to ensure that they are among the handful of survivors, not the ones the mountains collapse on top of. But that’s a detail.

The real problem is the reason why the world is going to end. It is, of course, predicted by the Mayan Calendar. Now the Maya were geniuses at numbers. They used a base 20, rather than base 10 as we do, or base 12 as the Mesopotamians did. They came up with the concept of Zero before anyone in the Old World, and certainly before the Arabs introduced it to Europe.

The Maya were obsessed with time, and they had a passion for cycles. They used multiple calendars which intermeshed with each other. The Tzolkin, or ritual calendar, had 20 months of 13 days each, or 260 days. The Haab, or solar calendar, had 18 months of 20 days each plus 5 extra days, equaling 365 days. When the 1st day of the 1st month of each calendar coincided, which they did every 52 years, that was considered the start of another “Calendar Round.”

It was a religious occasion of great importance: on “New-Calendar-Round Eve” a captive would be drugged, his chest split open and a fire lit directly on his beating heart, to ensure the world would continue for the next 52 years.

On top of those two calendars, there was the “Long Count,” which was r-e-a-l-l-y long, consisting of multiples of 20-year cycles. A Ka’tun is 19.7 of our years (20 of their years, but they left out leap years), a B’ak’tun is 20 Ka’tuns, or 394.3 of our years, and the Long Count Calendar is 20 B’ak’tuns, or around 7, 886 years.

I trust that’s clear to everyone.

So far it’s just juggling numbers. However, when the first days of the first years of all those lovely enmeshed cycles clicked into place at the same time, the Maya believed such a wonderful coincidence of the numbers just had to be significant somehow. And what they considered significant was, of course, a product of their religion. Remember, they loved repeating cycles.

So, how many readers of the Record-Eagle believe that the True Lord of the Earth is Chaak, the rain god?

That when we die our souls go to the underworld realm of Usukum, who bears Kin, the sun, under the earth at night to re-appear in the East the next morning?

That the planet Venus is the god of war, and the time to attack is when Venus is rising? (Dang! Why didn’t somebody tell President Bush that …??)

That the creation of the world is described in the sacred text of the Popol Vuh, in which the Hero Twins go into the underworld to defeat the evil demons of death and disease?

That Quetzalcoatl, (The Feathered Serpent) and other gods had four tries at creating mankind and finally got satisfactory humans by modeling us out of maize dough?

That the highest devotion includes bloodletting, including various forms of self-torture such as poking a hole through your tongue and pulling a string embedded with thorns through it?

Well …  If you don’t believe all that …

Why does anyone believe the Mayan gods are going to destroy the world so they can start a new cycle on Dec. 21, 2012?

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