The Mayan Calendar, which has been called the Long Count by archaeologists and historians of theMaya for a century now, is the large-scale version of the 260-day astrological calendar of ancientMesoamerica. It is composed of 260 katuns, each of which contain 7,200 days. The Long Count hasanchor points; the starting point is in 3114 BC and the ending point in 2012 AD. It is, however, only onefifth of a much larger cycle, the precession of the equinoxes, and its beginning and ending shouldprobably be considered transition points and not originations or terminations of any kind.For nearly a century researchers struggled with the precise location in time of the base date for the LongCount. But during the 1970s and 80s, a majority of investigators in several fields came to accept aproposal that was supported by many facts. This proposal, more exactly a correlation with the Westerncalendar, has come to be known as the Goodman-Martinez-Thompson correlation, the G.M.T. It is namedfor the three men who settled on the same Julian date number for the base date of the Long Count - Julianday #584,283. This correlation (generally given as plus or minus two days) is backed up by ancient stoneinscriptions, historical astronomical data, colonial writings, and the oral traditions of the mostconservative Maya in Guatemala and Mexico. Today, nearly all researchers have accepted Julian Day#584,283 which corresponds to August 11, 3114 B.C. (which is the same as August 11, -3113) to be thestart date for the Long Count.
Despite the widespread acceptance of this established date, a large number of people have been misled inregard to the timing of the 260-day calendar and the Long Count, The writer and charismatic new ageleader Jose Arguelles, one of the people behind the Harmonic Convergence of 1987 and the man whoinvented Dreamspell, has promoted some very questionable ideas about this aspect of Maya culture.Arguelles is a fantastic artist and master of tech-speak, but he is no astrologer and is certainly notsensitive to the facts about the Long Count. In his book "The Mayan Factor," Arguelles explains his beliefthat the "Mayan Calendar" is a kind of code that predicts contact with galactic beings. While this is anintriguing idea, it is far from factual. His calendar correlation, which has led to much confusion on thisissue, is very strange indeed and does not fit with the known facts.
Jose Arguelles and the followers of his product "Dreamspell" use a calendar correlation that ignores leapyear and thus loses one day every four years. Between 2000 and 2004 it differed from the GMT by 50days. Between 2004 and 2008 it will differ by 49 days. The fact that many people continue to use thiscorrelation and actually perform what are basically astrological readings for others is, in my opinion,testimony to the flexibility of the human mind and its capacity for self-deception. However, since no onehas done a serious study comparing psychological profiles with interpretations from the various calendarcorrelations, one must rely on common sense when choosing which one to use. In the opinion of anumber of unbiased practitioners, the GMT works much better than the Dreamspell correlation and it isbased on real data.
On a much vaster scale, the Long Count measures the precession of the equinoxes, a cycle ofapproximately 25,695 years. Western astrology divides this period into twelfths, each one being an agenamed for the constellation in which the Vernal Equinox is located. The Long Count is a 5,125-yearperiod that is one fifth of the full precession cycle, and it is a period that turns out to contain nearly all ofhuman oral and written history. In Mesoamerican myth, there are five great ages, each one ending with acollapse of some sort. According to some Mesoamerican myths, we are living today in the last years ofthe fifth and last age, the closure of a full cycle that is composed of five segments of the precession cycle.Given the simple technology available to them, the ancient Mesoamerican astrologer/astronomers didsome amazing work. Not only did they pinpoint the length of the precession cycle, but they also anchoredit with a remarkable alignment, the meeting of the winter solstice point with the plane of the Milky Way,the equator-like plane that runs through the center of our galaxy. While this plane also passes through thegalactic center, the precession of the Earths orbit will not align precisely with the galactic center itself.
The Long Count has several layers of subdivisions. The major divisions into 260 katuns (of 7,200 days)and 13 baktuns (of 144,000 days) are blocks of time that appear to have an astrological value, thoughmuch of the original understanding has been lost or destroyed. What we do know is that the cornerstoneof Mesoamerican astrology is the 260-day astrological calendar. The Long Count, with its 260 katuns,appears to be simply a large-scale, mundane version of the 260-day astrological count. With thisunderstanding we can speculate as to how these time-structures may have shaped the past and how theymay shape the future. For example, we are presently in the last katun of the entire Long Count.The so-called "end of the Mayan calendar" in 2012 is both the end point of the current fifth part of theprecessional cycle and the terminal point of the entire precession cycle itself. Like the recent Millennium,prognostications abound as to what will happen. I dont think this time passage marks the end of days.After all, December 21, 2012, only marks the beginning of a new cycle of the precession of the wintersolstice relative to the dark band in the Milky Way. For the Maya, this band was the portal to theunderworld, the region from which humanity originated. In the context of Maya mythology, this darkband has to be the most important anchor point in the entire precession cycle. Western astrologers mayprefer a more precise galactic alignment. If you are looking for the point when the winter solstice pointaligns exactly with the galactic equatorial plane itself, then look behind you this alignment occurredduring 1997-98. The nearest the winter solstice point gets to the galactic center occurs two centuries fromnow.
The Long Count appears to predict a turning point in human history. Even without this remarkable astro-calendrical system it is clear that this is the case. Humanity is at war with nature, we are over-populatingand soiling our nest, and we are fighting over increasingly scarce resources. Surely we will pay the pricefor this abuse of our Mother over the course of the next century, if not sooner in 2012.