First of all, every time some yahoo says something about the impending “doomsday,” I think about the DC supervillain, Doomsday, and then I think about Superman: Doomsday, the animated film (arguably not for kids) which gets me to cry every time that I see it because after watching Superman get beaten to death by a horrible monster, you then see Lois Lane and Martha Kent crying and I just can’t handle it.
ANYWAY, you guys, the world is not ending this December 21st. And I think that few people would agree with me more than the ancient Mayans. Or contemporary Mayans, really.
It’s not a doomsday prophesy. It’s not really a prophesy (the word “prophecy” is generally misused, but that is an entirely different issue). It’s a calendar marking cyclical events. In the simplest terms, the Mayan “Long Count” calendar is a very lengthy unit of time as expressed in the charting of time. Just like a decade or a century or a millennium. In this case, it was based upon (and I won’t walk you through the math that adds up to it), a period of 5,125 years.
At the end of such a period, there is a transition—to the next set of years. That is all. You celebrate it like you celebrate the dawn of a new millennium. That was the Mayan view of things. It’s an arbitrary date to celebrate the passing of time. I am writing a book. I am reasonably pleased when I finish writing a chapter; I am much more excited when I finish a chapter whose number is a multiple of ten. Why? Mostly because our numbering system is a base-ten system, and so we tend to identify milestones by multiples of ten.
Like any significant date on the calendar, you will always have crazy people who believe that doomsday is here. Not only is this not what the Mayans believed (or believe) about this upcoming Winter Solstice (that’s the 21st, you guys). It is just not a Mayan kind of belief. It is, though not uniquely so, a Judeo-Christian concept. One of the beliefs of early Judaism which set it apart from the beliefs of other northwestern Semitic peoples was that there would be a divinely ordained End Of The World in which the dead would be bodily resurrected—which was why burial in which bodies were intact until burial was important. Christianity has, from the very beginning, held a belief in the very imminent end of the world, one that has evolved with time (and, interestingly, a coded message to fellow Christians became the Book of Revelation which …
… is now viewed by some Christians as a divinely inspired vision of the End Times).
Now, there is no element of eschatology within my beliefs. This was also true of the Mayans.
There are those within Mesoamerican cultures, including the modern Maya, who do believe that there is a significance to the end of this last cycle of thousands of years—beyond a simple cause for celebration. This belief is that there will be a cultural shift throughout much of the world. It has been suggested that this shift is the transfer of power from people who, for centuries, were colonizers and oppressors—namely Europeans and their descendents—to those who had been oppressed and who, in many cases, are still oppressed and marginalized.
Remember how, right after the 2012 US Presidential Election, Fox News was freaking out about how “traditional, white America” no longer has absolute control over every election? That is basically what this belief is. It’s not some sudden power-shift, it’s just that there is a transition of power around this time. That’s a fairly reasonable belief, I would say. Have you guys ever read Almanac Of The Dead? I had to read it for a class (in college; it is not appropriate reading for high school’s to assign because our society infantalizes teenagers). It’s actually a very interesting* read, and it is on this topic.
Now, I do not believe in astrology. I do not believe that other planets or shapes formed by visible stars could have such a meaningful or structured impact upon our lives, and I do not believe in permitting calendars to tell me what to do. The Mayan calendar is certainly not astrological as we think of it, and, as you can imagine, I do not believe that there is some huge shift in progress simply because we’ve reached the end of the Mayan calendar’s playlist and it’s going back to track one.
There are people who believe that the world will end through some environmental catastrophe, or some supernatural doomsday. There are people who believe that extraterrestrials (seriously that Ancient Aliens show makes me want to destroy everything that I have ever seen or known) are going to come to the world as conquerors or destroyers (or saviors) on this date, because obviously beings from other planets love visiting, leaving cryptic warnings, and then returning much later. And it only make sense that they would visit on our Winter Solstice instead of on a night that is significant to them.
It all reminds me of the Parks And Recreation episode in which the elderly cultists who live in town keep talking about Zorp. “Zorp is gonna be here to free you from your flesh.” “When Zorp the Surveyor arrives and burns off your flesh with his volcano mouth.” “When Zorp shows up, your faces will be melted off and used as fuel.”
I don’t know about you guys, but Winter Solstice is a holiday for me, so I am going to celebrate it. If Mayan Doomsday Alien Demons show up, I will be just as surprised as the Mayans.
*Silko, the author of this book, basically says that I am safe despite being a white American male of British descent whose ancestors owned slaves in the county in which I currently live—which makes me all kinds of uncomfortable for obvious reasons. Anyway, it suggests that I am safe because I am a part of the ongoing and growing revival of the pre-Christian faiths of my ancestors and of other cultures around the world. The author of Almanac Of The Dead is not a huge fan of, um, most things. So it was kind of nice to be included in the “you will be spared” list in her version of the 2012 power-shift. Even though, you know, I still do not believe that anything is going to happen.