We’ve been hearing so much these days about December 21, 2012, the end of the calendar created centuries ago by the Maya people of Central America. What were they trying to communicate?
The Maya were not the first to develop a calendar in Central America. The Aztecs and Toltecs bequeathed their wisdom and knowledge gained from centuries of observation of the heavenly and earthly cycles. And just as we have more than one calendar (the daily calendar we use to plan events, the Moon calendar that shows the Moon’s cycles, etc.), so did the Maya. In fact, the Maya had three calendars. One was for planning rituals based on planetary cycles. Another was to keep track of the seasons so they could know when to plant crops.
The third -- the one we’re talking about in 2012 -- was called the “Long Count”. This was created to keep track of human events and how they correlated with the movements of the planets and stars. In particular, it kept track of the wobble of the Earth on its axis.
The Mayan Calendar and Earth’s Great Year
The Earth’s wobble is like a top spinning in space. As it goes around the Sun, it also wobbles like a top, giving us day and night. Just like a top sometimes does, it has a wobble in its spin, and the pointer at the top and bottom of the Earth -- the North-South Pole axis -- completes one wobble in about 26,000 years, called a “Great Year”.
We can tell where it is in its wobble by looking at which star the North Pole (or South Pole) is pointing to -- which star is the North Star. Right now, Polaris is the North Star. But if you went back many thousands of years, Vega would have been the North Star!
The Maya were clearly aware of this phenomenon. They, and the civilizations of their ancestors in the region, figured out that there was a long-term movement that ruled the cycles of human evolution.
They referred to the waves of civilization that rose and fell as “worlds”, and their stories tell of worlds born and destroyed by the gods, because they were imperfect. They see the end of the calendar as the end of such a wave of civilization, where a more perfect world -- a more perfect humanity -- is being born right now.
What Does the Maya Calendar Say?
Isn’t this what we’re seeing? In the midst of human misuse of our resources and ecosystem, a new consciousness is being born. The Maya Long Count Calendar tells us that the time of change is upon us, a transformation to a much better way of living, one more in harmony with the Earth and with each other.
They did not predict that we would die off, nor that we would destroy Earth in a big bang of destruction. Instead, the Maya saw the end of the calendar as the beginning of a new era of hope -- and time to make a new calendar disk!
The Maya believed in our ability to rise above conflict and separation, and that we can grow and be caring toward one another. The Maya Long Count calendar and its story give us hope that we can get beyond the challenges of our times and live sustainably with all other beings.
Happy Birthday, Planet Earth!
The calendar ends when the December solstice lines up with the Galactic Center of our own galaxy, the Milky Way, on December 21, 2012. This is the end of the old cycle of the Great Year, one 26,000-year wobble of Earth on her axis. They ended the current calendar there, but they also saw it as the birth of a new cycle, a new wobble and a new Great Year for Earth.
The Maya seemingly wanted to build the understanding that we can get better at being human. The new cycle opens the door for new possibilities. This is the mystery that the Maya calendar holds. We can think of it as Gaia’s birthday! Happy Birthday, Planet Earth!
Van Horn, Linea. “The Galactic Embrace”, lecture NCGR San Diego, October 2011. Scofield, Bruce and Barry C. Orr. How to Practice Mayan Astrology. Bear & Co. “2012: Aztec and Mayan Calendars”, 2012thetruth.com/MayanCalendar.php Jenkins, John Major. “Introduction to the Mayan Calendar”, alignment2012.com/fap4.html