Mayan History, an empire that gained its reputation as one of the most intelligent and artistic people to have flourished in the course of time better than the Incas and Aztec civilization. A common topic being discussed fairly recently is the subject of the Apocalypse. Did the Mayans really predict the coming of an end? Before we answer these questions, let’s take an in-depth look at it as a whole.
What stood Mayan civilization above the rest?
The Mayan people are a Meso-American civilization that lived during the Pre-Classic period 1800 B.C. to A.D. 250 and flourished into the Classic and Post-Classic period A.D. 250 to 900 up until the arrival of Spanish conquistadors. The Mayans managed to survive through post-Spanish colonial rule but began its mysterious decline during the 8th and 9th century until its whole existence faded away. Throughout Mayan History, The Mayans were a vast civilization spanning now known Mayan ruins Mexico states like Tabasco, Chiapas and the entire Yucatan Peninsula. It also extended far into the Central American region into what is now known as Guatemala, Belize, northern El Salvador and western Honduras.
Although it still remains a question today to many historians and archaeologists as to why the Mayans vanished all of a sudden, they are known for the many religious stone-temples and palaces that they have built, like Chitchen Itza in Mayan ruins Mexico, that are scattered throughout the regions of their territorial reign.
The Mayans lived in the rainforest. Because of this, they were popular in Mayan history known to have built an entire civilization within the habitat and environment of a tropical rainforest climate.
In the records of history, the Mayans stood above all the other scattered Meso-American civilizations like the Inca and the Aztec civilization because of their advancement in mathematics and astronomy such as the beginning use of Zero and creating an intricate calendar system based on what we now use today as 365 calendar days to a year.
When did they predict the Apocalypse?
The K’iche’ people, one of the Mayan history civilization’s ethnic sub-groups created a book that contained a collection of mythological and historical sacred stories that are holy to the Mayan people called the Popol Vuh. It tells of the story about the beginning of creation wherein two Hero twins, Hunahpú and Xbalanqué, outsmarted the lords of death.
This book is so important to the Mayans that it contains the key to understand the whole expanse of Mayan history culture. Their extensive knowledge in mathematics and astronomy or cosmology traces its roots to this book.
The book tells about three failed worlds that were created by early Mayan gods. It is a prelude to the successful creation of Humanity in which Mayans considered this world to be the fourth. They then calculated each world’s beginning and end with a span of 13 b’ak’tuns (pronounced bha-ahk-tuns), or roughly 5,125 years. By using their Long Count Calendar, the date that marked the end of the third world would be August 11, 3114 B.C. This “Zero” date, which was August 11, 3114 B.C., was regarded to be the beginning of another world. That world is what we live in today and was expected to end its 13 b’ak’tun cycle by Mayan date 184.108.40.206.0 or December 21, 2012.
How did the Mayans predict it?
In order for one to understand the roots of Mayan history philosophy, one must understand that the basis of their spirituality is their Calendar. The Tzolkin, or “count of days” in Yucatec Maya, is known as the Sacred Calendar comprising of 260 calendar days. Questions would perhaps rise: Why would a calendar, as to counting days and assigning specific names to months and years, be extremely important to people?
To explain, imagine for a moment that what we now know to be the names and numbers of months would be replaced with a different pattern of counting, say 13, and a different name to each month, say Reed, Jaguar, Lizard, or Night. Sounds peculiar or even funny?
How would it affect your aspect of daily living? For the Mayans, this represented a whole different way of experiencing life on a day-to-day basis.
One of the calendars used in Mayan history is The Tzolkin---it is comprised of 260 days. The Tzolkin is counted in two separate parallel ways. The first is through a thirteen day count: numbers 1 to 13. This is where Mayans assigned a number into each day. The second way, in harmony with the 1st way, is that each day is assigned a certain sign, glyph or rune. Twenty glyphs or signs cycle through the second way of day-counting and is referred to as the uinal. These two systems in Mayans History cycle together like gears that produce a unique combination everyday resulting in 260 combinations that comprise the 260 day Tzolkin calendar.
Why were Mayans interested in predicting the future?
Going back to Mayan history where the Long Calendar that was used to predict the ending of the fourth world, we see a similarity in the way the long calendar is counted in comparison with the Tzolkin. The Long Count, the system of counting used in the Long Calendar, was used by the Mayans to keep track of the long periods of time, we’re talking about millennia. It consisted of thirteen b’ak’tuns. In total, these thirteen b’ak’tuns consisted of 400 tuns or periods wherein each period consists of 360 days. The end of the thirteen b’ak’tuns is the end of one long calendar. Multiply 400 tuns by 360 and you will get 144,000 days.
It was this same Long term calendar in Mayan History that was used to predict the end of the fourth b’ak’tun which now many give meaning as a prediction of the Apocalypse or the end of the world.
For the Mayans History, everything held a spiritual value, from each deity god that ruled their land to which they referred different names like Quetzacoatl (god of light), Cinteotl (god of maize, sustenance or food) and Xiuhtecuhtli (god of fire and time) to name a few. This gave birth to the spiritual association they had for the glyphs and signs that they gave for each day. Everyday living in Mayan History meant living closely with the gods and goddesses of earth and nature. It is no wonder that it is reflected so much in their calendars.
Last but not the least to mention is the number 13, where all Meso-American civilizations regarded the number as sacred (Mayans refer the number 13 to the Thirteen Heavens). In other words, the number 13 was considered holy by the Mayans and this is where all there numerical counting systems sprung forth in Mayan history.
Obviously speaking, the end of the fourth world after those 13 b’ak’tuns would have been a significant event and turning point for the Mayans. Thus, predicting the specific date (or Mayan date in their terms) after the holy Long Calendar cycle ending the fourth world would have been something that they held as an important transition point to another Long Calendar cycle, another 13 b’ak’tuns, another new world.
Is the Apocalypse for real?
Of course you wouldn’t be reading this now if that were true, so to speak.
The Apocalypse as many people have associated with the future prediction of the Mayans is surprisingly based on an entire false notion. Many critics and scholars claim that the end of another world, or 13 b’ak’tuns, would have only meant a celebration as the end of another Sacred Long Calendar year to the Mayans.
Nowhere in Mayan literature and religious text did it say that the fourth world (aka the human world) would be the end of everything and the entire scheme of things. It did not say it would be the end of the Mayan Long Calendar once and for all, or the end of the Tzolkin or the end of anything.
Critics and scholars believe that if the Mayans were alive today, it could only mean to them the possibility of a fifth world and that “there would be another cycle” once again.
The 2012 phenomenon, as many people call it, is actually more based on a fictitious fabrication on Mayan history by people in modern times to open opportunities to create some marketing schemes.