We're all doomed, eh?
A misinterpretation of a Mayan prophecy says that the world will end next Friday. Are we sure about that?
Doomsday scenarios have always had cultural and commercial appeal. Recent years have given us the chilling individualism of The Road, the blockbuster cheesiness of The Day After Tomorrow and the huge commercial success of Roland Emmerich’s disaster film, 2012. But while popular culture comes and goes, there’s one plot that hasn’t gone away yet: the belief that the world will end next Friday.
The village of Bugarach, in France, has been batting away publicity and assertions that it is a home of extraterrestrials who are going to reveal themselves on December 21st.
In Omutninsk, in Russia, a local newspaper article, headed “Prophecies of a Tibetan Monk”, has alarmed some people enough that they are stockpiling food.
The scenario is based on a supposed “prediction” by the ancient Maya people in Central America that the world would end on December 21st, 2012. There’s just one problem: no such prediction was ever made. The Maya’s sophisticated calendar measured a vast scope of time, far beyond their own civilisation. It divided time into baktuns, which are periods of 144,000 days or 394.26 solar years. According to the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar used by the Maya, on December 21st, 2012, the calendar shifts into a new baktun but is not ending.
Misinterpreting the Maya
Theories about the significance of the winter solstice of 2012 arise from a misinterpretation of Mayan beliefs. The more extreme offshoots of the prophecy include Earth’s collision with a mysterious planet , Nibiru, which does not exist.
David Stuart, a professor of Mesoamerican art and writing at the University of Texas in Austin, traces the doomsday theory to a 1975 book by the novelist and mystic Frank Waters, Mexico Mystique: The Coming Sixth Age of Consciousness. In 1987 José Argüelles picked up the theory in his book The Mayan Factor: Path Beyond Technology, which Stuart calls “insanely misguided but influential.”
There are other references, including a hint at Armageddon by the Maya scholar Michael D Coe in his 1996 book, The Maya. And as the date draws closer, the obsession has intensified, despite experts consistently refuting the theory.
Astrologers would say we are moving out of the age of Pisces and into the age of Aquarius. Kate Arbon, an astrologer based in west Cork, says, “Without a doubt, it seems that there’s a cycle ending. The Mayan calendar was a very precise system that tapped into thousands of years in cycles. Part of it is to do with the precession of equinoxes and that we’re moving from one age into another.
“From an astrologer’s point of view, this happens all the time. December 21st is the end in the same way that the winter solstice is the end of the year . . . that’s what this is about; it’s the end of one era and the beginning of another. There’s no catastrophic event.”