Recently, a person living with a number of chronic diseases asked me if I thought the Mayan Prophecy was true. If you aren’t familiar with it, various groups are saying that the Mayan Calendar ends on December 21, 2012 and it will be the end of times. It became clear, that this particular “doomsday” prophecy was increasingly of more concern to this person than the seriousness of their health issues. I tried to reassure them that the world wasn’t going to end on Dec. 21, anymore than it did last year when Harold Camping predicted two different dates for a “rapture,” or in 1884 when William Miller also predicted end times. That said, there is a lot more press, and even a movie, about December 21, then there was about Camping.
Today’s post is to help debunk this myth, as a recent Reuters’ poll estimates that 10% of the world’s population believes it. While concerns about the end of the world have obsessed human thinking since day one, those living with chronic disease, who often deal with “worse case scenario, “ can be even more fearful then most.
So how did this myth start? At least one Mayan calendar, which spans about 5,125 years, ends on Dec. 21, 2012. Mayan elders as well as scholars of Mayan history, have been trying to counter the growing popular interpretation that this means the end of times. As one scholar noted, the calendar is a bit like the odometer on your car, which resets each time you’ve gone a certain number of miles. Recently, there have been reports on a Mayan calendar that goes well beyond 2012.
The Penn Museum has mounted a new exhibit Maya 2012 (it runs through 2013, so they aren’t taking the prophecy seriously). They describe the Maya Calendar as follows: The ancient Maya created several interlocking calendar systems. The Sacred Round of 260 days is the longest lasting, since it is still in use in some places today. In former times, it was often combined with another system, a 365-day Vague Year, to create a cycle called the Calendar Round, in which a date would repeat once in every 52 years.
Another system, called the Long Count, was used to record longer spans of time. It tracked the passing days from a single starting point many trillions of years in the past. If we look at a single Maya date written with all three systems, a Sacred Round, a Vague Year, and Long Count, we have a time-reckoning that is not unlike our own days, weeks, months, years, decades, and millennia.
No matter what we hear about the truth versus the myth, many will use it as an excuse to engage in behaviors they might not normally do, even if it’s a joke. As one person noted, “well just in case I’m going to eat a lot of pizza on Dec. 20 because if the end of the world happens the next day no one will care if I’m fat.” This isn’t the time to run your credit card debt up, as the judge isn’t going to accept the Mayan prophecy as a rationale explanation when you have to file bankruptcy. And yeah, if you celebrate the December holidays, you need to pick out those presents as you normally do. Of course, this year, you can do them with a Mayan theme.
Mayan Prophecy: The World Won’t End, as a Newfound Calendar Goes on and on and on
Rapture Follow Up-What Happens When Things Don’t Work Out as Planned