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2012 Mayan Calendar Prophecy: Ancient Sense or Nonsense?

Updated on February 11, 2012

Three Mayan Calendars

The Mayans used three calendars simultaneously. While the long count calendar was useful for astrological purposes, the civil and religious calendars were more applicable to daily life. The tzolkin was a 260-day religious calendar possibly inspired by the length of a human pregnancy. The haab was based on a 365-day solar year.

The year 2012 has been at the center of doomsday hype, yet ancient peoples' prophecies don't necessarily involve catastrophe. You should probably keep paying your bills.

What's it all about?

The importance of 2012 stems from Mayan astrology and its associated calendar, the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar. The calendar was started at the Birth of Venus and lasts approximately 26,000 years.

The days of the long count calendar system are divided into cycles of about 5,125 years each. Each cycle is called a b'aktun. According to some scholars' calculations, the year 2012 marks the end of one such b'aktun - the cycle of the "fifth sun" - and the beginning of a new age.

How does catastrophe figure in?

Some Christians, possibly predisposed by a literal interpretation of the Bible, liken the end of the fifth cycle to Armageddon. But even as the Mayans' religious belief may sound apocalyptic, it's only about transformation.

Transformations aren't always negative or catastrophic. Yes, we might have displeased the gods. Maybe, like the third race of people created in the Popol Vuh, we'll be obliterated by flood waters.

On the other hand, a "new world" could simply refer to a cultural shift. It could mean the dawning of new trends in international relations, another Age of Enlightenment, or a time when humankind interacts more sustainably with the natural environment.

In the video below, a modern Mayan shares his interpretation of his ancestors' beliefs.

One Mayan's Opinion

What's the verdict?

It's most likely that, like overblown Y2K predictions, dire prophecies about the year 2012 will be unmet. Still, it's hard to deny that we are poised at a transformative time in human history. The Occupy Movement is extending the Arab Spring, Kim Jong Il is out, US-Iran relations are touchy, Afghanistan remains a mess...What will 2012 bring in terms of global shifts?

According to the Mayan prophecy, we won't know until the end of 2012. Let's try to stay on the gods' good sides.


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    • viking305 profile image

      L M Reid 

      6 years ago from Ireland

      The 2012 prophecy is already coming about. Not the end of the world but the end of what we on earth have accepted as a normal way of life.

      The slavery we have have been conned into by the need for money to survive will soon collapse. Our dependence on technology is another area that will be broken.

      By the end of 2012 we will have to survive a transition of chaos and fear but those that embrace change will experience a freedom they never knew existed.

      Shared on Twitter. Voted awesome and interesting


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