End of an era
December 21st 2012 is the date that is on everyone´s minds this year, not just for us folk in Guatemala, where the mystical date originates from, but across the world. An array of theories and prophesies surround the 21st, predicting everything from the apocalypse, to collective spiritual awakening, to alien invasions. But with the mind-boggling Mayan calendar (or the Mesoamerican Long Count Calendar if you want to use the fancy term) lying at the centre of all this speculation, it can be easy to get swept up in all the excitement without really understanding what it’s all about. So in this month’s XelaWho we hope to shine some light on the most important date of 2012 so our readers can enjoy the festivities without having to worry that they have no idea what they’re actually celebrating.
The Mesoamerican Long Count Calendar uses a linear method to track time forward from a mythical creation date, generally agreed to be on the 11th of August, 3114 BC. This day marked the creation of the fourth world, or age: the world in which us human beings were placed by the Gods. Each world in the Mayan calendar consists of 13 b´ak´tuns and the completion of the next thirteen b´ak´tuns falls dead on the 21st of December, 2012 – effectively bringing us into the fifth age. For those wondering what the hell a b´ak´tun is, it´s easiest to think of the Mayan calendar like a tally system that goes up in counts of 20: starting at a k´in(1 day), going to a winal (20 days), to a tun (18 winals), to a k´atun (20 tuns) and then onto a b´ak´tun (20 k´atuns, or 144,000 days). So another 220.127.116.11.19 occurs on the 20th of December, and the 21st marks the start of the 14th b´ak´tun, 18.104.22.168.0, and the beginning of the next age. Phew.
It’s now pretty widely discredited that the Mayans actually thought the world was going to end in 2012: they perceived worlds before the present one and so it’s logical to assume that they conceived of world´s after this one draws to a close this year. Indeed, numerous inscriptions mention dates far beyond the 21st of December, 2012 – one inscription even mentions a date in the future that is twenty units above the b´ak´tun, placing it 41 octillion years in the future – 3 quintillion times the determined age of the universe. So need to panic just yet.
One intriguing aspect of the Mayan calendar, and the completion of the current cycle this year, is its (speculated) correlation with astronomy. Some scholars argue that 21st of December also represents the day when the galactic equator of the Milky Way and the path of the sun will cross each other. This “precession of the equinoxes” as it’s called, also occurs in a cycle and this particular event only happens once every 26,000 years. Others have disputed this theory saying that there is little evidence that the Mayans correlated their calendar with the alignment of the galaxy and that it is impossible to measure the galactic equator accurately, and so one cannot pinpoint such an alignment to within a year, let alone a day. Still, when we´re talking about a period of 26,000 years, that’s some pretty good astrological work for people that were living centuries ago.
What this actually implies (if anything) for us here on earth remains to be seen. But the correlation has sparked a number of really rather wacky theories. Here´s a few of our favourites for your reading pleasure:
According to Terence McKenna´s theory of “timewave zero”, a numerical formula that claims to calculate the ebb and flow of the universe´s interconnectedness (what McKenna callednovelty), the universe has a “teleological attractor” at the end of time which increases novelty, resulting in a singularity of infinite complexity on the 21st of December, 2012. What on earth does that mean, you say? Well, McKenna theorised that this will result in anything and everything imaginable occurring simultaneously.
José Arguelles claims that on 13th of August, 3113 BC, the earth began a passage through a “galactic synchronisation beam” that emanates from the centre of the galaxy. This beam will cause those individuals on earth that are “plugged into the earth´s electromagnetic battery” to experience “total synchronisation” and “galactic entertainment” on the 21st of December. Sounds fun, now just to find out how to plug into earth´s electromagnetic battery…
Mount Bugarach in France has become popular with a cult-following of New Age hippies who believe that aliens reside inside the mystical “up-side down mountain”, who will spare any humans from the impending apocalypse on the 21st of December by emerging from the mountain and taking the believers away into space with them.
So we will all just have to wait and find out what happens on this mystical date. Will we all undergo collective spiritual awakening? Will everything and anything imaginable all occur simultaneously? Will we all be destroyed save for a few hippies on a mountain in France who will be taken away into space by their alien saviours? Or will we all just wake with a headache after celebrating the end of an era for one of the most inspiring civilisations of humankind?