We are in the countdown moments. In just days the world will end with earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes, and asteroids colliding with the earth. The ancient Mayans foretold of the end-of-the-world through their calendar which ends abruptly on December 21, 2012. At least that is what a lot of people believe.

But what do the Mayans believe?

I have been teaching Humanities & Women’s Studies online from Belize this year. It is exciting to be at “ground zero” of the Maya Calendar, and to share some of the information first hand with my students. The month of December in this part of the world is gearing up for an onslaught of tourists excited to spend the night at Mayan temples. Many people are wondering what will transpire. Will it truly be the “last day of civilization,” or will the sun rise as always on the 22nd of December?

I took a boat ride up a jungle river into the dense rainforests of northwestern Belize to the ancient city of Lamanai. My guide, a young Maya man whose family has lived for generations near the ruins, shed light on the Maya Calendar mystery. I listened intently while standing next to one of the calendars that had been carved in stone more than two thousand years ago. He dispelled many of the myths that those outside the Maya world have come to believe. Those myths have led to lot of doomsday fear and commercial hype. The Mayas take a very different view.

The Mayans used a variety of calendars.

  • The Haab is a 365 day solar calendar.
  • The Tzolkin, a Divine calendar of 260 days with 13 day segments, is used for sacred ceremonies.
  • The Long Count calendar tracks the “universal cycle.” The “great cycle” of the Long Count consists of thirteen 144,000 day periods or just over 5000 years. This is the cycle which ends on December 21, 2012 (Time and Date). According to my guide, this is merely the end of one time cycle and the beginning of the next.

Celebrate an opportunity for new beginnings.

He said that they do not know what the ancient ancestors predicted for the next age, because many of the carvings and documents were destroyed during the Spanish invasions. He assured us, however, that the Mayans’ do not believe this is the end of the world, nor a time of doomsday destruction. Rather, he said, it is a time when many Mayans will celebrate as we enter an opportunity for new beginnings. This transition, which may include social chaos and environmental changes, can be a time to learn lessons from what did not work under the old way, and to make the next cycle a better one.

As December 21 approaches, there are excited tourists, commercial hype, preparations for Maya celebrations, and those who feel it will be just another day. Whatever happens in a matter of days from now, it is an interesting and thrilling time to be in this region of the world.

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